August 27th, 2010
10:19 AM ET

Japan reveals long-secretive execution process

Red tape marks the trap door through which an inmate falls as he or she is hanged.

Japan, one of the few industrialized countries with the death penalty, showed one of its execution chambers to the media for the first time Friday.

Reporters were shown the death chamber at the Tokyo Detention Facility, one of seven used across the country, according to a report in the Mainichi Daily News.

Pressing a button in another room releases the trap door.

The unprecedented media access was ordered by Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who after witnessing the deaths of two condemned prisoners last month, said she wanted to have a national debate on capital punishment in Japan, Mainchi reported. Chiba has previously spoken against the death penalty.

Execution in Japan is carried out by hanging.

The chamber showed to the media on Friday had no noose suspended from the ceiling but showed a trap door outlined in red. The condemned fall to a room below the execution chamber where their deaths are confirmed.

Reporters were not shown that room out of "consideration for the inmates' family and wardens," according to the Mainichi report.

A room where inmates are told they are about to be executed and can meet with a chaplain.

They did see other areas involved in the execution process, including the room where a button is pushed to release the trap door, a room where the condemned can get religious last rites or an entry room where inmates are told they are about to be executed.

In an accompanying article in Mainichi, prison officials described Japan’s execution process, long shrouded in secrecy.

The two men executed on July 28, Ogata Hidenori, 33, and Shinozawa Kazuo, 59, were the first put to death since the August 2009 elections in Japan, according to Amnesty International. The organization says 107 prisoners remain on death row in Japan.

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Filed under: Death Penalty • Japan • Justice
soundoff (610 Responses)
  1. Read this through and then make your decision

    Ghandi said, "An eye for an eye leaves us all blind."

    If we are to endorse capital punishment within a civilized society, then we must clearly define this concept of certainty so that the least intelligent of us can distinguish between highly probable and absolutely certain.

    Unfortunately, given the fallibility of humans, the imperfections of the criminal justice system and the probabilities that corrupt people can frame an innocent person, I am not certain that we will ever reach a point of absolute certainty for every case where there is a preponderance of evidence and the criminal is deserving of the death penalty. We need only make one mistake or one miscalculation and put one innocent person to death to ourselves, become murderers deserving of the same fate as those we have executed. I for one would not want to have to pull the switch given how capable any criminal justice system and the administrators of these systems are.

    Albert Einstein said, "There are two things that are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I am not so certain about the universe." which leads me to the conclusion that capital punishment should be off the table.

    Please don't misunderstand me here, I do not believe in rehabilitation for murderers. I believe that anyone capable of committing murder once is capable of doing it again. I do not buy into the insanity defense because I believe you have to lack empathy to commit murder, which makes all murderers insane by my standard. These criminals are dangers to society and deserving of a death behind bars. However, I choose not to be the one to administer that death. If the murderer pleads for death, leave him a length of rope in the cell and an eye hook on the ceiling so he can do his own dirty work.

    Regarding the feelings of the friends and loved ones surrounding the victim and the heinousness of the crime, I will tell you that I personally witnessed my friend be beat to death when I was 13 years old. The murderer attempted to capture me and I am certain I would have experienced the same fate but fortunately I was able to escape. The coroner’s report and the additional witnesses who came upon the scene after my escape confirmed that the murderer smashed my buddies head flat with a rock and then sodomized his corpse.

    I testified against the murderer in court. Based primarily on my testimony, the judge put that murderous SOB behind bars for life without the possibility of parole. For me, knowing that he will be loved by his fellow murderous inmates for the rest of his days and that he is no longer a threat to society allows me to sleep well at night. I know justice has been served as best it can.

    No matter what we could have done to the murderer, my friend is never coming back ...

    For the record, I am not a liberal, not a conservative and surely not a pacifist or radical. I am an independent and I believe that decisions need to be made based on common sense. Reasoning and common sense tell me that two wrongs don't make a right and using my common sense I can reason that taking a life is wrong. I also believe that vengefulness is not an admirable trait; it just perpetuates cycles of "righteous" hatred leading to a higher body count.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
    • dr André

      The second wrong in this case, dear Read, is that hard working law abiding citizens are now forced to clothe, feed and protect this murderer. That, also, does not bring your friend back. My condolances. Fortunately I am lucky to live in South Africa, where I have never encountered violence.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. storm

    they need to bring back that form of punishment to the states.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. Henk Yserman

    I doubt that man has much of a free will. Those people who are a danger to society should be put in a safe place and possibly "brain washed" to become a tolerable citizen. Much of man's behaviour is allowed by genetic disorder, like one is, or is not prediposed to certain diseases.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. boboh

    save a whale!

    August 30, 2010 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  5. jason

    A properly executed hanging will snap the neck and cause instant death no pain no screw ups no problems. its all about a height, weight, drop calculation and you have a efficient, effective, humane, and economic execution of someone who maliciously took one or more lives and should no longer have theirs. the death penalty should be used when called for without long waits as long as guilt is proven beyond doubt. sitting on death row for 20 years is inhumane so lets streamline the procedure when guilt is beyond question.

    August 30, 2010 at 3:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. Again and Again

    Here's a thought for all you libs/pros/cons/religious sorts...why not let the victim's or family's decide what the best punishment would be? Could be efficient, less costly. If some folks don't believe an eye for an eye is the solution, set that person free....however, I guarantee that the perp's days would be numbered. Fair play for those who are willing to gamble the livelyhood of their loved ones. Other hard liners, would play the paper, rock, scissors game...oops, loose!!!

    August 30, 2010 at 6:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. pettinato

    Whats with all theses new humane forms of execution we should just go back to using a rope its alot more cost effective and saves are tax money for other things. I mean why should I care how murderers and other criminals die? If they violently kill others then they deserve the same.

    August 30, 2010 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. doodads

    He listen guys I might be a little late for the execution this morning, so go ahead and start without me.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. Snu Snu

    There is only one way....ONE WAY to be executed....
    Death by Snu-Snu!

    August 30, 2010 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. jeff

    if they did something to deserve death than let them suffer for the twenty seconds. obviously they made someone else suffer and now your complaining that they suffer, screw em.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. Brooke

    that movie Battle Royale is how they should handle Death Row. that'd be awesome. I'd watch that on TV. Maybe I'm sick... but whatever. Bazinga!

    also, hanging is like looking up Hao2DieSUPERPainfully.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. Lou

    It's odd how people who say they don't trust the government, and fear the creation of death panels, suddently trust the grovernment to make the right decision when it actually forms a death panel.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jamie


    August 30, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ndiritu

    All this is our view but what is God's view. Man's lyfe is so precious that we do offend God a great deal in pretence of punishment. Can't there be other humane ways to correct and teach? God is the sole giver of life, lets leave him to execute such judgements. Such a chamber is even a nightmere to satan himself; resolutions are inevitable.

    August 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. CN

    I support the death penalty but I do not believe it should be used with great frequency. Terrorist, multiple murders, and those cases where there is evidence is sufficient. Otherwise life imprisonment should be the result.
    The argument that Christian should not support death penalty is flawed in the sense that the Bible illustrates death sentences being handed down in the Old Testament by God and in the New Testament where an eternal death sentence will be handed down.

    August 30, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
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