Unrecognized artificial hands and fingers by Hiraoka


The future of the prosthetics is still evolving


What Keigo Hiraoka, a prosthetist, makes is a cosmetic glove that doesn’t move. The wearers of such a glove cannot move its five fingers freely. Actually the same happens to myoelectric upper limb prosthesis too. Even an electric hand with moving fingers can’t be in simple motion, such as grasping, pinching, or opening, without working fingers in parallel. For example, two fingers plus a thumb or four fingers plus a thumb can activate the movement of hand. An artificial hand that can move five fingers freely responding to wearer’s intention, as appeared in Star Wars, is still under development. An artificial hand with which the brain can feel the sense of a touch is still under development too, such as adjustment of grip strength or feedback of sense. Still no artificial hand enables you to play the piano keyboard as he or she wishes.


Holding an artificial hand finished


The products close to the ideal artificial hand are nearly being made, but they cost several million to several ten million yen. The United States is one of the advanced countries for movable prosthetics, and Germany and other European nations also have a large share. Hiraoka says, “If Japan’s Honda or Sony becomes serious about it, they may be able to create more elaborate, lighter and cheaper movable prostheses.”


Apply an agent to writer’s fingertip for molding

What is lacking is the need. Even though there are people who seek for such an ideal artificial hand, the numbers are limited and small compared to the population of the world. In Europe and the United States, they don’t have a culture to hide the movable artificial hand or the artificial legs as machine itself. They rather show their unnatural body parts without hesitation as those prostheses are sign of individuality representing themselves.


Japan wouldn’t be counted as an advanced nation in the field of movable prostheses, I mean the development of exposed prostheses like machine. However, in the field of cosmetic gloves, there are Japanese prosthetist or orthotists we can proudly introduce to the world including Hironori Hiraoka. Fine and delicate handworks could be uniquely applying to Japanese and quite a few people from Europe and Asia come to visit Hiraoka’s works in Japan relying on his craftsmanship.


Plaster model of writer’s index finger


Of course, most of the customers are Japanese who knock the door of Hiraoka’s atelier. Japan has a culture of shyness (“Hajirai”) whose original meaning is being modest, attractive, and loving to others. Hajirai is the thoughtfulness of people; “I care about you, so I would like you to feel comfortable.”


Fingerprints are reproduced on the artificial fingers / hands.


“Actually the most customers visiting me don’t wear prosthetic hands or fingers for themselves but for the others.” According to Hiraoka, one customer said “When I walk on a virgin road at my daughter’s wedding, I want to show my ‘both’ hands as if they looked like real ones in front of guests and make my daughter feel proud—Yes, this is my father.” In other cases, a man confessed his desire, “I wanted to attend a funeral for my friend and put my hands together there, With my beautiful hands clasped I want to pray for my friend.” Or “I’m serving customers and when I show products to my customers, I don’t want them to be embarrassed with my lost finger.” These client words represent Japanese culture of hajirai.


Trying to fit an artificial right toe to a plaster model


Just haji literally means disgrace in Japanese, but when the word comes to hajirai that turns its meaning to kindness and modesty. Because of this thoughtfulness, the artificial hands and fingers made by Hironori will become part of his client’s body.


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