Occupation: Car Mechanic
Residence: Torrance, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2012
Primary Language: Japanese
This is the ritual done by Japanese mafia called “Yakuza”. When one of members in a family failed to do the task ordered by his boss, he has to cut off his first knuckle joint of pinky finger in order to show his apology. If he fails to do his task again, he needs to cut 2nd knuckle joint of the pinky finger but usually he gets kicked out of family before cutting his 2nd joint. The finger has to be folded in a sheet of Japanese paper carefully and sent to the one whom he needs to apologize. The one who receives the finger usually disposes it if the finger belongs to lower class members. Sometimes, cutting fingers ritual is done to stop the fighting between two opposing families. In this case, the boss of the family who wants to stop fight needs to cut his finger off to show how serious the boss is. The boss’s finger is sent to opposed family and they need to make a decision whether to stop a war with them or not. According to one member of yakuza family, this ritual is not common anymore because there is not benefit of getting fingers. In the past, when yakuza people fight with others, they used Japanese swords. By cutting one of fingers, it made them grip the sword less tighten. Also lack of fingers humiliation in public, indicating he failed to do his task. However, fake fingers are sold, therefore it is no longer humiliation.
It is interesting they only cut pinky fingers not others. It surely lessens the power to grip the Japanese sword but could be index or thumb fingers to be cut. This may be because if other fingers are cut, it is really hard to live in a daily life. Japanese people use four fingers except the pinky finger to eat food with chopsticks. This is least Japanese mafia’s kindness so that mafia’s rituals do not affect individual’s personal life.
Informer is a 45 year old car mechanic who used to be a member of Japanese mafia in Fukuoka prefecture in Japan. The folklore was told in one of Japanese restaurants in Gardena.