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Making a Killing in Fake Body Parts

REUTERS

Kazushige Okazaki was once proud he had hacked two fingers off his left hand. Now he wants them back.

The stubs where his pinkie and ring finger used to be identify him to most Japanese as a member of the yakuza, or local crime syndicate. And even though he left the yakuza 20 years ago, the stigma haunts him.

“I can try hiding it but people notice immediately,” he said.

Members of the yakuza commonly cut off one or two fingers as a sign of loyalty to the gang boss or as an offering in atonement for an infraction of the syndicate’s house rules. The only choice Okazaki had previously to rectify his past mistake was time-consuming medical operations, far beyond the meager income he earns from the small mah-jongg parlor he owns.

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But thanks to the New Body Institute, a pioneering prosthesis manufacturer, his dream is now within reach. Company president Maria Niino has thousands of silicone fingers, ears and other body parts for sale at cut-rate prices, most of which were rejected during fitting sessions with other clients.

Once she finds a finger of the right size and shape, she uses pigment to match the artificial digit with the customer’s skin tone. In Okazaki’s case, a dab of blue around the knuckles put the finishing touch to his fingers.

The whole process took less than two hours and will cost Okazaki about 100,000 yen ($840) per appendage. A proper surgical operation would have cost him 10 to 20 times as much.

“My life is going to change,” he said. “Rather, I will change because now I will be able to relate to people without reserve.”

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Niino said the obvious advantage over surgery is that clients are assured a painless, stress-free alternative. She started the business in 1988 when she had a mastectomy and found the breast prostheses on the market were too “fake.”

That prompted her to take intensive training in Britain, where she learned about silicone manufacturing processes and medical adhesives. She returned to Japan and now has a backlog of more than 200 orders for custom-made body parts, mostly breasts.

In fact, business is so good that her partner, Tony Yoshizaki, plans to spin off an express home delivery service to be called Every Body Rentals. “If you order [a custom-made body part], it can take up to three months,” he said. “But for those that can’t wait, it’ll be like fast food--instant.”

In one such emergency, a young woman lost a fingertip in an accident just before her wedding. The bride and groom wanted something that would tide them over for the wedding day.

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Yoshizaki provided the bride with a temporary silicone fingertip for about $85. It may not have been a perfect fit, but it served in a pinch. The woman later placed an order for a custom-made model.


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