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Why Yakuza Gangsters Cut Off Their Pinky Fingers

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Aside from their intricate full-body skin art, another distinct indication that a person may be a member of Yakuza is this – a missing pinky finger. It’s an open-secret ritual of the notorious Japanese gang and we’ve seen it depicted even in pop culture, most recently in Netflix’s crime drama movie The Outsider starring Jared Leto.

The tradition, called Yubitsume, requires the amputation of a portion of the said body part as a punishment for a member’s grave wrongdoings. This is their brutal way of showing sincere apology and remorse.

Yubitsume, which literally translates to ‘finger shortening’, is seen as a method of atonement for a Yakuza member’s offenses.

Source: AFP

Although the tradition’s origins remain unclear, most historians believe that it may have begun with the bakuto, who were “itinerant gamblers” in Japan from the 18th to 20th centuries, according to LadBible. They were the predecessors of the Yakuza.

Cutting pinky fingers were done back then for those who failed to settle their gambling debts.

Why the pinky finger? There are several significant reasons.

The most obvious one, of course, is the fact that it is the finger that symbolizes making promises.

Additionally, it was also the finger used to ensure a tight grip when holding the Japanese Kendo sword which, basically, renders the gambler with a shorter finger unable to properly defend his own life using the weapon.

The offending gambler performs the ritual himself.

Source: Vimeo

This is done by laying the left hand down on a piece of cloth and cutting a portion of the pinky finger using a tantō knife. The chopped part will then be presented to the oyabun (godfather or boss) or gang leader.

A repeat offender will likely face further Yubitsume.

Source: Pinterest

Meanwhile, those who do not cease to commit mistakes eventually face ejection from the crime organization.

To learn more, you can watch this short feature:

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