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. rude-fuss

    I will suggest they get a chance to run for thier life. To recoup the costs, the state has a lottery for a group of hunters to get a "hunting" license to hunt the condemned.The hunters get to track the perp down. This way, the state recoups some of the cost for trying and convicting child molesters, serial rapists and serial murderers. Just a thought to rouse the rabble.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Andrew

    As someone who weighs the death penalty punishment versus the likelihood of incorrect conviction, nine times out of ten I still come up with death penalty. However inhumane hanging or leathal injection or the electric chair may be, it's certainly more humane than if you just opened the door and let the victims' families at the guy. The debate that the death penalty deters crime is a hollow one. Most serious offenders have no concern for the consequences nor do they place any value on life (others or their own). It does serve a purpose is permanently removing repeat offenders from their ability to offend yet again. Is it possible for someone to get improperly convicted once? Yes. Twice, three times, four times? A lot less likely that the conviction and – therefore – the death penalty are improper for such an individual if, for no other reason – than to remove their scourge from this earth.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. GT

    mary and others that have posted that it's more expensive to have the death penalty than to have life in prison, could you please post the sources of your research? I've seen things to the contrary so would like to examine both.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |


    August 27, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tjg

    Personally, I was laughing until I was crying at some of the comments. (You know who you are!)

    August 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ken

    Why is it that the same people who think the government is too incompetent to distribute health services are the same people who believe the government is plenty competent enough to decide who should live or die?

    August 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean N

      Because they are stupid, thats y...

      August 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • tigerchuong

      Ken, not the government decide but the jury (you and me) decide if one should be put to death or life in prison

      August 28, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. eddo

    Here's my take on it. The death penalty is not about punishment, justice or revenge. It's about the perminant removal of a threat to others, even other incarcerated criminals. If you can garrantee the perp can never be able to harm or threaten to harm anyone ever, then don't use the death penalty. The only way to make sure of this is death. Our responsibility to our fellow man is to protect them from evil people when we have the ability to do so. Several years ago a "monster" on SC death row killed another inmate before being exacuted himself. Which one of us would refuse to drop the hammer on a violent criminal intent on harming someone in your family. The death penalty is the same thing.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patinwy

      I'd be willing to bet that that is something that many people have never thought about. It is to an extent just like applying chemo to a cancer, removing a threat to life.

      September 7, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Twim

    The financial argument is invalid unless you are willing to start putting money value on human life. If we say "well a prisoner's life is worth less" then it is a short, psycological step to say "well, a high school graduates life is worth less than a PhD's"

    People don't escape from solitary confinement. A life of solitary confinement not only prevents the murderer from murdering again, it is akin to psychological torture. Death, on the other hand, while preventing the murderer from killing again, provides them with a few moments of discomfort and fear, and then releases them. The myth of the 4-star prisons is usually perpetuated only by those who 1) have never stepped foot in a real prison and base their conclusions on what they see on TV or 2) have experience only with minimum security prisons.

    Even the above isn't very convincing to me, however, because it still supports the concept of revenge. I do not want the government teaching my children that revenge is a valid reason to take another person's life. In fact, I don't want my children to accept revenge as a justified motive for any action. When you get right down to it, we support the death penalty because it feels good. We think we have rebalanced the scales and that we have 'done' something to prevent the horror that all humans are capable of. By killing the killer, we neatly sidestep having to figure out why people are sometimes evil and quickly close the book on why we as a species can't stop doing horrific things to one another.

    And finally, the idea that we might kill one innocent person because another guilty person killed is unfathomable. We can tout our court system as proof that we never make a mistake, but court is of man, and man is fundamentally fallible. While we get it right most of the time, we are incapable of getting it right ALL the time.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. anonymous

    Dan Atlanta says" That way those who are innocent and/or repentant have time to make their peace with god and go on to a better place. Or at least believing they are going there. If not, they'll never know."

    You are an i d i o t.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. nema

    death penalty is just wrong.. awful life conditions and torture, that's the way.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MIKE

    I'm sick of the "bleeding hearts" brigade and their objections to execution. Of course, the guilt of the person to be executed must be confirmed via strict guide lines. DNA for instance. However, some of those found guilty deserve to die and hanging, electrocution, gas chamber, firing squad is, in fact, to good for them. How do you deal with a child killer who buried a 9 year old (in a recent case) while she was still alive after raping her? How do you deal with 2 sub-humans who abduct several women, held them captive and tortured them for weeks (after raping them) before killing them.

    Unfortunately, we cannot bring the victims back to pass judgement but I can guess kind of punishment they would want for their killers. I'm not a big fan of Islam but there is one part of that religion we could adapt. Sharia law when dealing with criminals who kill.

    However, it isn't going to happen. The "Bleeding Heart" brigade and idiot judges who think these animals (actually animals behave better) should be jailed for x number of years, get three square meals a day, get to work out in a gym, have their clothes laundered, get better health care than many on the outside, etc, and in a few years get paroled.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    Hanging does not stop crime. The solution to violence is not killing a man. A more sever punishment in terms of doing damages, is to work hard to repair, when possible a damage, or just work hard physically to let more money get to the family that received the damages. Moses ordered death, Jesus life. There are so few who really rehabilitate, it almost looks like we do not want a criminal to get better and live a normal life. That means too many never forgive, and God will not forgive those who refuse to give it to someone who needs it.

    August 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. abigguy2

    It says "thou shall not kill" not "thou shall not kill, unless..."

    August 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Justin

    I'm surprised no one has suggested skinning and gutting someone alive. Capital punishment is wrong no matter how you do it.

    August 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tom J

    I like Larry Niven's way: Surgically remove the brain and flash cremate it; then harvest the body's organs for transplant.

    August 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
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