Yubitsume, also referred to as "yubi o tobasu" (meaning "finger flying"), is a ritual from yakuza
tradition that is performed when grovelling in apology just isn't enough. If a yakuza
were to dishonor himself or his superiors, he is required to cut off the tip of his left pinky finger and offer it up as an apology to the offended party. And if a yakuza continues to screw up, it might not stop at one pinky tip, continuing in losing more joints and more fingers.
Yubitsume usually involves a specific ritual. The offending yakuza
spreads out a clean cloth and lays his hand palm-down on it. With a short sharp knife (often a tanto), he then cuts off his pinky tip at the first knuckle. The knuckle is then wrapped in the cloth like a nice "package" and delivered to his superior.
Keep in mind though; that within the Yakuza, many higher level members of the gang would bypass the punishment. If they screwed up, they never got their fingers cut off. It's all a fake show to keep the lower ranked members in line. Ain't fair, but that's life.
The practice originates in feudal Japan, where conventional sword grips rely on use of the pinky finger for control; after yubitsume, the offender becomes weaker and more dependent on his superiors. These days however it is not as widely practiced anymore, and replaced with simply giving the offended party loads of cash.
Sometimes in fiction the exact ritual isn't followed, but the idea is the same: self-mutilation for the sake of honor or an apology.
A yubitsume scene is a must for any work prominently featuring yakuza
See also: Honor Before Reason
, and Fingore
. May invoke Major Injury Underreaction
This is the reason that Four-Fingered Hands
are a rarity in Japan
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Anime & Manga
- The picture above is from Bucho Shima Kousaku.
- In the seinen manga Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest, Haguro Dou, the son of a yakuza boss, punishes a mook who seriously failed him by taking away his finger in a horribly bloody Fingore scene; rather than using something sharp, Haguro uses a metal ring he is wearing, grinding the poor mook's finger against the floor until it comes off.
- In Change 123, a Yakuza attacks one of Motoko's three badass fathers with a folding knife, but the blade folds down onto his thumb. The father calmly tells a horrified boy not to worry, because these guys cut their own fingers all the time.
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, instead of having to cut her finger off, Shion Sonozaki has to rip her own fingernails off, one for each of her sins, to earn repentance from her family, who are the Hinamizawa equivalent of the Yakuza. After that, her twin sister Mion was so shocked and depressed that she willingly ripped her own fingernails off.
- This is actually a standard punishment inside the Sonozaki family. Shion and Mion's mother Akane had to do the same after confronting Granny Oryuu on her love life (ironically, her future husband was also a Yakuza boss), and Oryuu herself did it too for something we don't know of.
- Referenced in Gokusen after the Family lawyer, a close friend of the Yakuza Princess heroine is shot by a member of an opposing group. Two of the Yakuza who are her friends/subordiantes comment that it wouldn't be enough for the rival group to make amends by sending her the shooter's pinkies and little toes; she'd demand his life.
- A Yakuza boss in the seinen manga Homunculus did this almost constantly. Most of his gang members were missing pinkies because he would remove them for insignificant reasons like interrupting a meeting. Turns out he has a Freudian Excuse from accidentally slicing his brother's finger off as a child. When the main character helps him realize his problem, the boss slices his own pinky off.
- A variant of this is s performed in Rurouni Kenshin by Houji as an apology to the other members of the Ten Swords for deceiving them Ina previous mission (which had actually been Shishio's strategy, but he told them it was Houji's idea). This is subverted as It's actually a Secret Test of Character by Shishio to gauge Houji's devotion to their cause. In the manga, the form is somewhat different as instead of cutting off a finger, Houji tears off all ten of his fingernails. It's played more straight in the anime, where one fingernail's removed and then Houji stabs the finger it came from.
- The titular character in Kabuki is made to do this after killing the Big Bad against her bosses' orders.
- This being Kabuki, she does it in a rather unique way: she bites the tip of the finger off, chews and swallows the flesh, then spits out the cleaned bone. Then, since her bosses are staring at the piece of bone and completely distracted, she goes ahead and kills them all.
- An aversion in Green Arrow - the assassin Shado had all of her fingers intact, which Ollie's informant was a little surprised at hearing. He then warned Ollie it wasn't a good sign - Shado would have to be particularly Badass as to never need to make that sort of apology to her betters.
- In the last story-arc of the short-lived Manhunter series that stars Mark Shaw, Shaw's enemy Dumas has Shaw's friend Kazuo commit this ritual.
- Black Rain: The villain performs it near the end.
- Ichi the Killer (film) has an interesting variant. Kakihara cuts off the tip of his tongue instead of his finger. He's also doing it more because he's a masochist taken Up to Eleven than because he really wants to atone for his mistake.
- In the film Johnny Mnemonic, the yakuza killer had his thumb replaced with reel of monofilament wire. It is implied by his immediate superior that he had cut off his thumb in the past due to dishonor and had since turned this disability into an asset (though that's not the case in the short story original.)
- Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: There are no yakuza in the film, but Geum-ja wants to get the point across that she's sorry...
- The Yakuza has two yubitsume incidents. Ken promised his brother he would ensure his nephew (a Yakuza goon) came to no harm, but after he's forced to kill him in self defense he tries to commit seppuku. His brother stops him, so Ken cuts off his finger instead. And in a surprise twist, the American protagonist Harry Kilmer is about to leave Japan when he suddenly returns to Ken's place and asks to speak to him formally. While Ken is fetching tea, he cuts off a finger and presents it to Ken, apologising for the pain he's brought to Ken's life (sleeping with his wife in the past and indirectly causing the death of Ken's daughter in the present). The act enables Ken to finally forgive Kilmer.
- Dirty Sanchez: The Movie. In Japan, a character has the end of his little finger on his right hand cut off with a cigar cutter.
- The first Battles Without Honor and Humanity movie has a yubitsume scene. Since the film is a ruthless subversion of Yakuza movies, they lose the finger. In the chicken coop.
- Predators features a Yakuza enforcer, Hanzo, who is voiceless for most of the film. At a certain point, Hanzo reveals he speaks English and is immediately asked why he hasn't talked more throughout the film. He shows two missing fingers on his left hand and replies "Because I speak too much."
- In Showdown in Little Tokyo one of the Big Bad's subordinates does this because he fails to prevent the heroes from rescuing the girl his boss had kidnapped and molested. Too pissed off, his master just drives his katana through the lackey's chest afterwards.
- Averted in The Streetfighter. "Assassination or suicide, that's the penalty!"
- A Yakuza man who seems to have undergone this serves as the race starter for the final race in The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift. The actor playing the Yakuza man actually still had his fingers. They were digitally (excuse the Pun) removed. This was one thing the Japanese ratings board disapproved of, so the fingers had to be digitally put back in for release there.
Live Action TV
- Parodied in a Saturday Night Live skit. Chris Farley went on a Japanese game show and saw two other contestants get a finger chopped off after missing a question.
- Referenced in one of the early episodes of the fifth season of Burn Notice. Michael is trying to intimidate a wounded Yakuza member into revealing where the group has stashed a group of abducted women being smuggled into the US and forced into prostitution. The Yakuza guy laughs in Mike's face, then holds up his hand, which is missing half of his ring finger, and explains that he did that to himself as a punishment for falling asleep on guard duty. He says that Michael can't scare him, and that there is no way he'll betray his own people. Sure enough, he proves to be a tough nut to crack.
- Sorta used in 1000 Ways to Die. A high-ranked Yakuza boss gets pissed with a karaoke singer and has the dude's finger cut off... and then swallows it whole. As he chokes, one of his mooks attempts the Heimlich maneuver... but does it incorrectly and kills his boss,
- An episode of Time Trax has Darien square off again the Yakuza. He foils the plans of one Yakuza member, who then cuts off his own pinky to please his boss.
- One episode of The Pretender has the Centre doing business with the Yakuza. One of their men is missing a finger and it's explained that he messed up and was forced to cut off his finger as punishment. Miss Parker cynically asks "What do you have to do to lose a thumb?" You could make a deal with the Yakuza and have Jarod screw it up, as Mr. Lyle finds out at the end.
- Shadowrun. This has been mentioned in products that deal with the Yakuza's activities in the Awakened World.
- In one of the BattleTech "Blood of Kerensky" novels, the oyabun of a yakuza organization loyal to the Coordinator (ruler) of the Draconis Combine on the planet Edo orders an underling to do this after he takes the 'initiative' to blow up a bar that the invading Clan Warriors frequent, kills far more civilians than invaders, and in the end, allows a Buddhist monk to take the blame and sacrifice himself in order to prevent further lives lost in retaliation.
- Happens at least twice more in the course of the Black Dragon trilogy written by Victor Milan, which takes place largely on Draconis Combine worlds. One instance is unusual in that its detriments to the pilot of a Humongous Mecha are made clear (unable to grip the controls or work certain triggers), and that the ritual is later reversed by microsurgery.
- In The Dark Eye, priests of the god of wars and slaughter, Kor, cut off their left pinky finger as part of their initiation into priesthood. This is the ninth and final deep ritual cut during this initiation, all because the number nine is this gods holy number.
- A variant of this is done in Heavy Rain
- This is found repeatedly in the Yakuza series, naturally.
- Reiko's father in Contemplating Reiko is missing the tips of the last two fingers on one hand. His character page explicitly links this to his membership in a Yakuza gang.