The Japanese have begun taking fate into their own hands recently, as the latest craze around the country has people getting love lines, fortune lines, and luck lines surgically etched into the palms of their hands.

The new palm surgery only 37 documented cases, but the trend is growing as word gets around and testimonials flood in praising the surgery's success in changing patients' fate. At $1,000, the procedure lasts 10-15 minutes and produces a smell of burnt hot dogs as the doctor's electric scalpel sears the palm's flesh into the desired lines.

And unlike most surgeries, leaving the scar is what counts the most. A laser just won't do the trick, one doctor says.

"If you try to create a palm line with a laser, it heals, and it won't leave a clear mark," said Takaaki Matsuoka, a plastic surgeon at the Shonan Beauty Clinic's Shinjuku branch. "You have to use the electric scalpel and make a shaky incision on purpose, because palm lines are never completely straight. If you don't burn the skin and just use a plain scalpel, the lines don't form. It's not a difficult surgery, but it has to be done right."

Matsuoka has completed 20 of the 37 documented surgeries from January 2011 to May 2013. The Shonan Beauty Clinic is not the only clinic to offer the service, but it's indeed the most popular. Few other places advertise the service, relying mostly on word-of-mouth referrals. Following an overwhelming demand from their advertising, Shonan Beauty Clinic relies on them as well.

From left, before and after photos of a patient who underwent palm surgery to engrave an “emperor’s line,” heralding great success and good fortune. (Shonan Beauty Clinic)

When Changing Fate First Began

The palm surgeries first began when a female patient came to Matsuoka asking him to reformat her palm so that she would have better luck. Matsuoka couldn't believe it, but he wanted to find out if it was possible.

He scoured medical journals and pored over various texts that eventually led him to Korean data on the surgery. He studied the methods and confirmed the patient's request. For ¥100,000 ($1,000), Matsuoka agreed to the procedure.

The success of that first surgery has spawned a slew of other requests. So much demand poured in eventually, the doctor realized he needed to learn the art of palmistry — palm-reading — to understand his client base.

"Well, if you're a single guy trying to pick up a date, knowing palm reading is probably good. It's a great excuse to hold a lovely woman's hands," he said, laughing, also adding that men typically go for business-related success lines, such as fate lines and money-luck lines, while women often want their marriage lines altered.

"The money-luck line is for making profits. And the financial line is the one that allows you to save what you make. It's good to have both," said Matsuoka, as he explains the details of the triumvirate known as the emperor's line. "Because sometimes people make a lot of money, but they quickly lose it as well. A strong fate line helps ensure you make money and keep it. These three lines, when they come together just right, create the emperor's line. Most men want this."

Changing And Making Fate

The logic behind palmistry surgeries is quite intriguing, as it reorders traditional notions of fate. Where people typically assume their love lines and money-luck lines mark a path set from birth, those who receive the surgeries seem to suggest their lines cause their fates to change.

Whether it's a placebo effect or simply a self-fulfilling prophecy at work appears to be of little importance to those who report success from the surgery. Matsuoka says he's seen people tell him they won the lottery or got married soon after the procedure.

"If people think they'll be lucky, sometimes they become lucky. And it's not like the palm lines are really written in stone-they're basically wrinkles. They do change with time. Even the way you use your hands can change the lines," Matsuoka explained. "Some palmisters will even suggest that their clients draw the lines on their hands to change their luck. And this was before palm plastic surgery existed. However, anecdotally I've had some success."

So maybe the line changes should be more equated to a new haircut than changing our birthday just for, say, the astrological benefits. They're more of a confidence booster — a symbolic reminder to the patients of who they would like to be.

Matsuoka says the medical science behind the surgeries remains mostly silent. But as he notes, medical science isn't a person's only motivator in life.

"Of course, I can't say there is a cause-and-effect relationship, but if there was, the guy who won the lottery made an excellent investment: a 2.9 million-yen ($29,000) profit. Maybe changing your palm won't change your fate, but if you have that much determination to try to change it-and are willing to endure a little pain for that chance-maybe you can change your life."