Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Prosthetics fingers help ex-yakuza lead lawful life

AFP, TOKYO

That is where prosthetics specialist Shintaro Hayashi came in, crafting three silicone fingers, complete with the creases and lines of a natural digit.

His works are so delicate that he even implants individual hairs taken from his subjects’ hands and arms to give each finger a really lifelike look.

“I think of myself as being like Geppetto,” he said, referring to the woodcarver who created Pinocchio.

“My job requires not only knowing the person well, but also injecting his or her personality into the parts,” he said, adding that he keeps a photo of his client on his desk as he works.

The bulk of Hayashi’s clients are people who have lost hands, feet or ears in accidents, or are born with something missing, but about 5 percent are former yakuza.

Making a mould for the silicone casting is expensive — about ¥300,000 (about US$3,000) for one finger — but it means the prosthetics are easy, and relatively cheap, to replace when they look tatty or worn.

“For me, these fingers are consumable items,” Toru said. “I have to renew them every three months.”

And they have been well worth the initial outlay, allowing him to build a house renovation company that does legitimate work.

“I now run two outlets for my business, making about ¥300 million a year,” he said.

Asked why he granted the interview, Toru has a quick and easy answer — he wants to show yakuza stuck in a life of crime that there is another way.

“They could do well if they work hard, even if they have lost some of their fingers. Life is much easier this way,” he said.

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