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. Jamie

    The best way to execute a convicted felon is as follows: 1) Tell them you forgive them, 2) Tell them you are going to release them and 3) Shoot them in the back of the head as they are walking away.

    August 27, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Aaron

    Hanging!?! I was hoping for a lethal version of the Unbeatable Banzuke.

    August 27, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Inky

    Guns don't kill people, ropes kill people.

    August 27, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. FrankTheTank

    Was it just me or did you also expect a room with a Samurai in it sharpening his sword??

    August 27, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      I was hoping for ninjas.

      August 27, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. hasc

    I am generally very conservative in my political views, yet I am ambivalent toward capital punishment. It seems keeping somebody alive could be a harsher punishment than executing them. Life in solitary confinement could be a tortuous existence leading ultimately to insanity. At the same time, one can imagine watching the clock knowing when the exact moment of your demise is coming. Then again, there are some monsters who we simply are compelled to eliminate from existence. Capital punishment, if it must be upheld, should be restricted to these cases.

    August 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brian Johnson

    Capital Punishment. In Favor of if the crime was deemed 1st degree (mental capabilities or not).

    Anything else they should get a guaranteed 'life' and we (USA) need to bring back chain-gangs. We need some ditches dug, fields cleared of rocks, garbage picked up, vandalised painted building cleaned,....and on and on.

    August 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Don

    Capital punishment is both "cruel" and "unusual" punishment, per se. It is pre-meditated murder conducted under the name of the people, and has no legitimacy, just b/c it is carried out by a disinterested third party, under the guise of anonymity. This alone suggests that it is a supreme act of cowardice on the part of "the state," i.e., the political leaders at any given time. They know it is wrong, but do it anyway. For many people it is a gladiator sport, like the heathens used to do with their feeding their enemies to beasts of prey. It is most certainly condemned in Christainity, Catholocism, and the State of Israel does not practice it. For those who relish it, well, it's your Karma, and your blood-thirstyness will ultimately be quenched by your own blood.

    August 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Just a thought...

    My logical issue with the death penalty is this: if the state executes one, and I mean one, innocent individual, then the state has committed murder. Should the state then be tried for its crimes? If we accept that death is the fitting punishment for those who kill innocents, wouldn't we have to do the same when an innocent was executed? What of the suffering of the family of the innocent who was unjustly executed? It seems to be a bit of a logical morass.
    I do have one mildly faith-based reservation about executions, which is simply this: for the life of me, I can't seem to recall Jesus ever killing anyone. Of course, this simply reveals my bias towards Judeo-Christian mythology.
    In sum, it seems to be a fairly complex issue with no easy answers. Thus, I would lean towards life imprisonment, as that would provide the best chance of rectifying any wrongful convictions–you can't commute the death penalty once it's performed.
    Personally, I feel as though many crimes are horrific enough to warrant such a penalty–but if one innocent is wrongly executed, the state, and by extension, the citizens of that state, are guilty of murder. I'd prefer not to be a part of that.

    August 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. IdahoMark

    We really aren't that concerned with the guilt or innocence of the recipient of state sanctioned killing. If there happens to be innocents killed erroneously, many times that's acceptable collateral damage – it's for the greater good.

    It seems hypocritical to be anti capital punishment yet be for ANY type of war, including WWII, or an act of violence that prevents a violent crime from being committed (police sniper shoots killer on a bus that's already killed several passengers and is about to squeeze the trigger again).

    August 27, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dddddddddddddd

    what happened to the good old fashioned samurai sword. hanging is so western of them, lame!

    August 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cujosmom

    As a grad student in applied behavioral science concentrating in criminal justice and social problems, I have heard many liberal professors argue that the death penalty doesn't deter murder and it is more expensive than supporting someone for life in prison. My question to them and others is... How do you know that the death penalty doesn't deter murder? That is, how can we account for all those people whose only reason not to kill is fear of the consequence like the death penalty? There is no way to prove that murder hasn't been contemplated by many but only carried out by those that get caught.

    August 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jasta

      I'll take up the question. First I'd like to agree there is ambiguity about how many people would commit murder/violent crimes if the death penalty did not exist. But the premise of your questions assumes that people necessarily think of the negative consequences of committing a crime before doing so. I don't feel that's always the case. We'd also have to exclude those with varying levels of psychosis from those who would change their actions based on change in punishment.

      I'd actually also like to bring in 2 or 3 strike laws in many states, which actually has had negligible impacts in the states in which it's been enacted on recidivism rates. Instead there's actually some evidence that criminals on the last strike are most desperate and are willing to conduct more desperate acts in their final crime. Likewise I don't think that it's an unfair leap to state that those knowing they'd be facing life in prison and/or death would feel they had 'nothing to lose' in a crime instead of fear of retribution.

      One has to look at the REASONS why crimes are committed instead of just focusing on how to punish those who do so. Deterrent or not, does the death penalty seem to be reducing violent crimes since its reinstatement in 1976? We should be focusing on the front end instead of the back end as our prisons are becoming more and more crowded with mandatory minimums and tougher sentencing with all the expense it incurs for taxpayers yet our crime rate is effectively the same now as it was in 1970.

      August 27, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave

    Eye for an Eye. If someone is guilty with unfalliable evidence of committing a brutal murder they should also be brutally murdered. If someone goes to jail for selling pot, they should have someone sell pot to them 🙂

    August 27, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. EvidenceBase

    I've never understood why we don't have anesthesiologsts anesthetize the prisoner first prior to lethal injection, electrocution or hanging...

    August 27, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Eric of Reseda

    You know, in journalism, it's sometimes nice to include the WHY, as in, WHY were these two men executed? I would think that would be pretty significant in any debate on the death penalty.

    August 27, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Neal

    You can never justify killing of another person. Kill the crime , not the criminal.

    August 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
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