aka: The Yakuza Pinky Finger Thing
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, Seppuku, 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.
- 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.
- In the 2014 Halloween comic for Team Fortress 2, Merasmus the magician has a bandaged pinkie finger, due to dealing with the yakuza in order to gain funds for his Carnival of Carnage.
- Ashes of the Past: Part of Annie and Oakley's punishment for the events of Heroes at Altomare, which, according to Giovanni, nearly undid the two years of PR work the main trio of Rockets have done. This was on top of a demotion to grunt work and a Pokémon ban.
- 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.
- In Jack Reacher, one of the Zek's underlings fails him. The Zek wants him to prove that he has the will to do what is necessary to survive, pointing to his own missing fingers, which he himself chewed off in a Siberian gulag. The underlings asks for a knife only to be told to use his own teeth. Ultimately, he is unable to chew off his own fingers and is shot.
- In one Discworld novel it's mentioned that Harry King, who is definitely not a mob boss, has a missing pinky on one of his hands.
- Also, in Reaper Man, Miss Renata Flitwick's father is identified by Death as missing the tip of his left pinky finger. Understandable, given the former had been a smuggler in life.
- In William Gibson's Neuromancer, when Case is trying to score drugs under the alias "Lupus", his ditzy companion asks if he's Yakuza:
Cath: How come you got all your fingers, then? I thought you had to chop one off every time you screwed up.
"Lupus": I never screw up.
- Michael Slade's novel Kamikaze has multiple examples as a punishment for failing the kumicho (Godfather) of the local Yakuza.
- One Judge Dee story is about a rich old man who's fallen in love with a young street girl, and to prove his love, he goes as far as to have his finger cut off to join her gang. Unfortunately it goes downhill, which is why the judge is called in.
- In The Devil's Arithmetic, the woman in charge of the prisoners at the concentration camp gets a finger shot off every time someone escapes or things get out of hand.
- Referenced as kind of a joke in the Layer Cake novel. Villain with Good Publicity Eddie Ryder is telling the protagonist about his business dealings with Japanese businessmen. The Villain Protagonist, knowing Eddie is a London Gangster, and that the business deal involves drugs assumes (likely correctly) the "businessmen" are Yakuza, angering Eddie. While the protagonist apologizes for the assumption, he makes a sarcastic reference in his narration about (paraphrased) "perfectly legitimate businessmen covered in tattoos and missing their pinkies".
- Referenced when Phoenix Force go to Japan and find themselves up against the Yakuza. A Japanese detective says that the sight of missing fingers is so common among gangsters that he suspects their bosses set them up to fail just to test their willingness to chop a finger off.
- In Charles de Lint's cyberpunk novel Svaha, yakuza attorney Fumiko Hirose does this shortly before setting out to avenge the murder of her lover.
- In Kamikaze Girls, Momoko's father is an incompetent low-ranking yakuza member who was supposed to get his finger cut off after a screw-up, but cried and begged so much that the boss let him off the hook. (Momoko has nothing but disdain for his cowardice.)
- Parodied in Janwillem van de Wetering's Amsterdam Cop novel The Japanese Corpse: the Comissaris is taken prisoner by a yakuza who tries to force him to do this. The Comissaris pretends to be clumsy and fumbles around with the knife until the yakuza leans over him to do it for him, at which point he spikes the guy's hand to the table with the knife.
- Jay Mc Inerney's second-but-really-first novel Ransom, about an American teaching English in Japan, has a scene at a nightclub where one character discreetly points out the missing finger sections on the, uh, security.
- The practice is brought up in The Man with the Red Tattoo after James Bond notices a youth who is missing a digit in one of his fingers, and his partner Reiko explains the practice of Yakuza members making amends for failures by cutting them off. Earlier, they had come across an informant whose all fingers were cut off for talking too much.
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.
- Referenced in Lupe Fiasco's song "Popular Demand"
"Young Yakuza, but none of my fingers cut,/So I can still sip Red Zinger with my pinkies up"
- In Hamell On Trial's song "Joe Brush", the title character is a great guitar player who cheats on his girlfriend, and as penance he cuts off his finger and mails it to her. He then moves away before she has a chance to get back to him "and now plays a mean slide guitar."
- 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: one of the tasks a Serial Killer gives the protagonist is to cut one of his own fingers off in exchange for more information about where his son is.
- This is found repeatedly in the Yakuza series, naturally.
- Saints Row 2 has a variation of this, but not, surprisingly, with the Yakuza/Bosozoku gang "The Ronin". Instead, it's the Haitian gang that does this, with the gang's leader cutting off his enforcer's ear with a machete for failing to destroy the Saints once, which the guy willingly accepts.
- 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.
- As the War against the European Imperialist Aggressors ground to its bloody close, many fathers of Japanese soldiers, sailors, and airmen in the Tokubetsu Kogekinote units cut off the top bits of their pinky fingers and sent them to the Emperor in protest against the war. The Army and Navy intercepted said packages, of course, and the Emperor neither heard of nor saw them.
- The Trip-hop artist and ex Yazuka member DJ Krush once found a yubitsume-severed pinky on his desk, belonging to his best friend. He soon left the group.