IntroductionLesson 1Lesson 2Movie GuideUseful Words

Lesson 1: Yubi-tsume 指詰め

Culture NoteVocabularyDialogue 1Dialogue 2Dialogue 3Grammar

Culture Note:

Yubi-tsume (指詰め lit. finger-cutting) is an atonement ritual in yakuza culture.  Gangsters who fail to properly carry out their duty, embarrass their gang, or get their coworkers killed or arrested must make amends to their Godfather (oyabun).  The traditional method of apologizing for mistakes and reaffirming loyalty to the gang is through yubi-tsume.  This can be done voluntarily, or as a proper response to the demand: ケジメつけろ (make amends).  The offender slices off a knuckle from the pinky for each offense.  It is not unusual for yakuza to lose both pinkies. 

  This ritual has the additional effect of further removing gangsters from mainstream society, as ordinary citizens, the police, and potential employers look upon missing pinkies quite unfavorably.  In this manner it serves a symbolic function like irezumi (tattoos), demonstrating one’s deviance from society.

These days, yakuza who quit their gang or need to travel abroad for work obtain prosthetic fingers.  Unfortunately, many are of poor quality and do not stand close scrutiny, or even stay on the hand.  A yakuza traveling to the Philippines a few years ago was stopped by customs in the airport.  During the questioning, the fake pinky fell onto the officer’s desk.  The yakuza smiled, offered the finger to the officer as a souvenir, and was promptly deported back to Japan. 

Yubi-tsume is not unique to Japan.  Korean criminal gangs also practice this ritual, and ordinary Koreans have used yubi-tsume as a form of protest.  In 2001 there were massive protests in South Korea over Japan ’s approval of an ultranationalist school textbook which glossed over Japan’s brutal colonial rule in Asia.  A group of young men ceremoniously chopped off their pinkies in downtown Seoul in protest of Japan’s policies.  In Korea, the symbolism of this act is slightly different from Japan.  The permanent nature of this act makes it an extreme way of saying "We will never forget."

  For those in need of a prosthetic finger, the best manufacturers are rumored to be in London, but they charge dearly for their services.  Discount shoppers go to Hong Kong.

Key Vocabulary:
New words will be highlighted in yellow in the dialogue.  Key grammar points will be highlighted green.

おちょくる(Kansai)=からかう, or "to tease"
どないする(Kansai) = どうする or "what are you going to do?"
捕まえる=to catch
女房= wife
でしゃばる= to intrude, butt in

If you need more help with kanji, click on the picture below.  I recommend you use Rikai as little as possible so that you actually learn new words!

Dialogue 1: In the film Postman Blues, a kobun is supposed to present his severed finger to his oyabun, but he misplaced it.  In the following dialogue, he tries to explain this to his incredulous boss and figure out where his finger went.
Listen to the audio clip




子分: いえ、違います






子分:... さわき(沢木)です!

親分:沢木?だれやそれ ?


親分:お前の指 盗んで、どないすんのや



Dialogue 2:
In this scene from Beat Takeshi's brutal gang film, Brother, members of a gang decide what to do with a pusher who betrayed them.
Listen to the audio clip

Gang member 1: 逃げてた売人に捕まえてきたみたいですよ。どうします?

Gang member 2: 指詰めろう、この野郎!

Gang member 2: てめえ、こうやってやぁんだ!ばかやろう!

Dialogue 3: In this scene from Brother, Aniki's lieutenant severs his finger and asks to be allowed to join a rival gang in order to seal a truce.  Aniki's not too excited about this idea.
Listen to the audio clip

あにき: 女房こどもがいるし, かわいい子分もいるし, 指詰めたから、親分殺した組  に「入れてくれ」ってか?はぁん?
「頼むよ兄弟」? だれが兄弟だこのやろう!こんなものいるかぁ、このやろう!



Grammar Notes:
As the pronunciation is challenging enough, there is no yakuza-specific grammar in this lesson.  As some aspects of Kansai dialect may cause difficulty, there are some hints below.

せんかい: しません or しない  (don't) becomes せん in Kansai-ben.

どないすんのや: Here するん is shortened to すん
In Kansai-ben, (shortened form of です)becomes

Ready for Lesson 2?