Japan’s Death Chambers Exposed


One of the execution chambers where Japanese death row inmates are hanged has been revealed to the public for the first time.

The pictures are a result of the current justice minister’s decision to grant journalists access – she is a staunch opponent of the death penalty, although she has nonetheless authorised and witnessed executions as part of her official duties. She intends to review the practice.

The Tokyo execution facility made public is one of 7 nationwide.

Prisoners are executed by hanging, with a carefully calculated drop through a trapdoor designed to break the neck of the prisoner, giving something approaching an instant death.



The execution chamber is decorated much as a conference room might be, but directly below is the drop room, a much more utilitarian area. Both areas are visible from a viewing gallery. The metal rings visible in the pictures are for securing the rope.


The trapdoor is dropped by one of 3 switches, which are pressed simultaneously by 3 guards so that no one knows who directly triggered the execution.


This is a method similar to that used in some firing squad executions (only one firer will be given a rifle with a live round) so that nobody knows who fires the fatal shot, although experienced shooters can generally distinguish between live rounds and blank rounds, so this perhaps owes more to a sense of plausible deniability than anything else.


Prisoners can say their prayers before a golden Buddha.


Executions in Japan are now solely of suspects convicted of multiple murder charges, or those who murder under particularly aggravating circumstances, and public support for the practice remains high.

Japan has almost a hundred death row inmates, many of whom have been awaiting execution for years, and they are generally executed at a rate of less than half a dozen each year. Conditions for death row inmates are said to be particularly harsh.

The circumstances surrounding the executions themselves are particularly noteworthy – each execution must be personally authorised by the minister of justice, and the approval of the executions is shrouded in secrecy, with executions often timed to ensure minimal public attention.

Prisoners themselves hear that their execution has been scheduled a few hours in advance. Families, legal counsel and the media only hear about the execution after it has occurred.

The number of executions carried out based on false convictions is not known, but a number of those sentenced to death but not actually executed have been declared innocent after a retrial, and sufficient doubts have remained about others on death row to dissuade ministers and courts from actually scheduling their execution – some in fact have died of old age waiting to be executed as a result of these doubts.

Nothing is known about the rate of botched executions in Japan, but in the unusual event that a prisoner’s neck is not broken by such a fall they can usually be relied upon to be strangled to death by the noose. A drop which is miscalculated can also cause decapitation – again there are no recent public records of this.

In other countries it is common for executioners to informally finish off prisoners who survive the initial drop by some means.

Secrecy about the practice ensures no records of botched Japanese executions exist, but there is the famous case of a 31-year-old farmer sentenced to death for committing the crime of arson during a rice riot in 1872, near the beginning of the Meiji Restoration and just after Japan had begun introducing western style hanging and criminal justice.

He was hanged, but after the corpse was claimed by his relatives moaning was heard from the coffin – he had revived, despite being declared dead in an autopsy. He was taken back to his village, and soon reported to the authorities.

Reasoning that as the execution had already been carried out, and referring to practices where sovereigns would grant clemency to those who survived executions, the court’s verdict was that “as the condemned has already been hanged once, he shall not be hanged again – he is to be restored to the family register at once.”

He is said to have lived either to 1898 or to 4 years after the execution, though perhaps as a result of injuries sustained in the hanging he was a changed man and lived his life out in solitude in a hut. Nobody was punished for botching the execution, but three officials resigned out of shame at their failure.

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    Avatar of Dia
    Comment by Dia
    00:16 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Surely only one of the firing squad members have a blank. Hoping that that one bullet would kill the condemned reliably would be foolish.

    Comment by Anonymous

    A skilled shooter can easily hit a vital organ 99% of the times from 10-20 meters. You only need a few real bullets to guarantee certain death.

    Avatar of Dia
    Comment by Dia
    06:37 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yeah. That's why they have for example, 4 guys with real bullets and one guy with wax bullets. Not 4 guys with wax bullets and 1 guy with real bullets, as Artefact claims.

    Avatar of JustSarah
    Comment by JustSarah
    11:58 15/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Also, guns malfunction like any other machine.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:20 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I don't know. Death by hanging sounds like there's way too much space for failure. I mean, it seems like most societies that still employ the death sentence want to make the actual process as quick and painless as possible.

    I don't like the death sentence at all. Sure, there are people out there who'd definitely deserve to be put to death but still, there are way too many falsely accused prisoners out there. I always imagine being framed for something i didn't do and would end up in such a crazy situation. It's horrifying. Most criminal cases aren't crystal clear and many times there's still a lot of doubt.
    It just takes one biased judge or prejudiced jury to screw an innocent persons life.

    I'm all for indefinite lock-up for severe cases. That still leaves room for rolling up certain cases again.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:49 29/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Killing someone is not "Justice".

    Avatar of ArKlone01
    Comment by ArKlone01
    03:08 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Kira thought it was, but look at how he ended.

    Comment by Anonymous

    As with any work of fiction, you should take the conclusions with a grain of salt. The ending in DN represented it's author's opinion and like all opinions, it's subjective.

    Comment by Anonymous

    I have a bad news for you: there is no "Justice" at all.

    Avatar of i like pandas
    Comment by i like pandas
    23:07 29/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Somebody call Amnesty International because that taste is walls is cruel and unusual punishment.

    Comment by Anonymous

    Oh no you dinn't!

    For real though not even 100? The Great Nation of Texas has over 300 folks on death row. The Japanese are such amateurs at government sanctioned murder.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:06 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    looks like you'll have a swinging time visiting that joint, pun intended

    Avatar of ArKlone01
    Comment by ArKlone01
    03:05 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Coming from a country where the death penalty and the army were banned ages ago, I digress from the death penalty. But I must admit that they had the taste to make those chambers actually look like a good place to die in.

    Avatar of Bowen
    Comment by Bowen
    22:45 29/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Taking in the information that Japan's leading cause of death is suicide, I don't think that I'm all that surprised that it's death penalty method is how many suicides are performed.

    Comment by Anonymous

    Hah, so true... I wonder if the review into the practice will decide to change the method of execution to suffocation inside of a parked car...

    Comment by Anonymous

    @ Bowen 22:45:


    Comment by Anonymous
    02:31 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I'd rather die than get ass-raped in prison for the rest of my life.

    Avatar of No Longer an Active Account
    13:09 28/09/2010 # ! Neutral (-0.2)

    If you got to prison, that's what you deserve.

    Avatar of No Longer an Active Account
    11:57 06/10/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    My views on this have changed. I have been enlightened. You shouldn't be killed for your crimes. You should be sent to the deepest part of the Pit of Tartarus and get ass raped by its Demons. Suffer for your crimes!

    Avatar of JustSarah
    Comment by JustSarah
    12:03 15/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Lets see you say that when your framed.:3 I'll plant the evidence.

    Avatar of softbanker
    Comment by softbanker
    23:43 29/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I see there fetish for ropes are still there.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:03 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    There are much better times and places for it though. *browses cinemagic.co.jp [http://ch.cinemagic.co.jp/st_en/index.php?main_page=products_all] site*

    Avatar of SnooSnoo
    Comment by SnooSnoo
    23:20 29/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Watching people get hanged. Wonder how many times these people have to visit the shrink every week.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:05 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)


    Comment by Anonymous
    05:00 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    that's horrible. the prisoner should at least get a jerk off right before he suffocates to death so he gets that "high".

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:36 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    All these stupid ways of executing people...hanging, electrocution, poison gas, complex three-stage lethal injections. Vets quietly, gently, and effectively put to sleep thousands of animals every day with a massive overdose of barbiturates. It's simple, it works, and it's (except for the prick of the needle) painless. Of course the usual suspects claim being jabbed with a needle is "cruel and unusual punishment." You know, like you suffer through every time you get a blood test.

    BTW, a proper hanging does not kill instantly by "breaking the neck." Weight going onto the spinal cord pulls the brainstem and medualla oblongata down into the foramen magnum, crushing them.

    Avatar of Ota-Kool
    Comment by Ota-Kool
    06:47 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The case of a school girl found in a concrete filled drum whose body where burn was also bore torture wound. I think there's movie but I didn't watch it because of the description it's too much horrifying I thinks the suspect didn't get death because they were minor at that time.(or maybe they're family are influential) instead they get a life imprisonment, what a useless law that Japan has that time.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:27 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    where's the seppuku chamber?

    Avatar of PirateKing
    Comment by PirateKing
    04:27 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The death penalty is a sure sign the country using it is uncivilized and barbaric.

    There is nothing else to say to that...

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:37 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Circular logic.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:23 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Y'know, If it wasn't for the possibility of being killed/arressed by the police, I wouldn't mind tying you up then skinning your family infront of you.

    Slowly removing the eyes and brain and heart and force feeding you them.

    The slowly cutting pieces of your body off and feeding that to you.

    The at the end cooking you in a massive oven alive and then eating you.

    And I don't even have to worry about a death penlty, becuase as we know, they don't work do they.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:46 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Don't forget to eat his/her (whoever you are writing to) liver with some soybeans.


    Comment by Anonymous
    03:56 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I've always wondered why murderous criminals don't get put to death,instead they spend life in prison being taken care of by taxpayer money with free health care to boot.Being in prison is still bad,but it seems more like an inconvenience rather than a punishment when you consider the crime they did.A really expensive one.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:02 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "Death Room".
    Sakujo, sakujo, sakujo, sakujo, sakujo, sakujo, sakujo, sakujo, sakujo, sakujo, sakujo, sakujo...


    Comment by Anonymous
    Comment by Anonymous
    19:47 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Do you mean Paul Sack (a Jew)?

    Avatar of TehBoringOne
    Comment by TehBoringOne
    03:34 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Look at the first picture! It's the ghost of a hanged convict! Oh, wait... It's just the reflection of the photographer... =P

    Anyhow, I didn't even know they had executions in Japan.

    Avatar of JustSarah
    Comment by JustSarah
    12:09 15/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Most of the world, other than china, isnt like Texas.:P

    Avatar of PrinceHeir
    Comment by PrinceHeir
    12:51 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    hmm i just watch the 2nd episode of Mr. Brain and this was this guy(Gackt) who got executed with a trap door same as this. hmm scary O_O

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:59 03/09/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    That's a little freaky...


    It is a lor better than the Ones we had in the UK!

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:40 31/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The chance of executing an innocent person is one of the main reasons why I am for getting rid of the death penalty.

    Another one is that no group of people is better than any one person when it comes down to it, and they do NOT have the right to say that someone 'deserves to die' unless they are going to cede that same right to that person.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:30 01/06/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Look as horrid as this sounds, if your gonna do excutions it needs to be more open. or its room for imperial governments to exploit it. If it was fair thered be fair court cases. if were told we need to be more open. why must there be a double standard knowing when a criminal dies for there crime doesnt harm "national security" and usually the media would take pride in announceing a crimals punishment.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:53 31/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hmm they should make the lower room a kareoke room and rent it out for halloween party's and mid way through when they least expect it activate the hatch with a sex doll on the end of the noose.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:59 31/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Err what happen to Nanase Ren in Night Shift Nurse since she killed the doctor due to protecting her soon-to-be-born child.Will she get death sentence too?

    Avatar of Castronaut
    Comment by Castronaut
    11:11 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Look at the wood paneling in that execution chamber. That room looks nicer than most of the apartments I've lived in.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:53 25/03/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Isn't it simply to die for?

    Comment by KHANblog
    09:56 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It seems to me people these days like to defend and care more about the criminals than the victims.

    Avatar of Castronaut
    Comment by Castronaut
    11:12 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It seems that way only because it facilitates complaining.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:42 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    されている。 以前は、職員には前日に通知されていた
    職員が 相次いだため。




    Avatar of Elc
    Comment by Elc
    22:22 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    really... paid in cash to oversee an execution because you dont want your family to know? sounds like a suspicious under the table drug deal or something...
    and to think that in the USA, its more expensive to execute a criminal than to keep them locked up for life...

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:52 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Holly crap! The Matrix code!


    Avatar of wiredhuman
    Comment by wiredhuman
    14:11 30/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    50 bucks for killing someone?
    life sure is cheap on the Island

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