"Update: Death penalty in Japan"

Yesterday, the radio station, Japan Cultural Broadcasting, aired a recording of a 1955 death row inmate’s final hours, including the moment when he was hanged (see blog April 17, www.japaninc.com/node/3149).

Today, the J@pan Inc blog will take a look at the world’s media to see how Japan’s capital punishment issue is being portrayed around the globe.


Korea has just recently abolished capital punishment after ten years of disuse (abolished December 2007). English.chosun.com is largely opposed to Japan’s capital punishment. They state that 80% of Japan’s population support capital punishment and go on to say; “Some note that Japan may have less cultural antipathy toward capital punishment because of the strong Japanese tradition of suicide, in which one accounts for one’s crimes by death.”

The article then finishes with: “But I would support Japan's severe punishment policy from this standpoint alone: that the state does not avert its eyes from a consensus formed by demands for redressing grievances made by victims of those who have been killed unfairly, bereaved families' indignation and the exclamations and anguish that result at the thought of such crimes happening to one's own family.” Does this sound like a slight dig at Japan for the colonial period?



China Daily report only the bare facts of the story. China still employs capital punishment on a frequent basis, including for crimes such as tax evasion and often publicly. The report below shows China Daily’s reluctance to bring the execution debate to light, unlike other countries where all media reports talk about the morals of capital punishment.


The China Post is also tight with information, but manages to get in the line “Opinion polls show most Japanese support capital punishment although human rights groups such as Amnesty International condemn the practice.” However, that is the only mention on the wider debate about death sentences.



The UK abolished the death penalty in 1965, although certain districts such as the Isle of Man did not formally abolish it until 1993.

The left-wing newspaper The Guardian feature a lengthy article about the broadcast as well as the debate. Emotive sentences such as “[this] is the first time most Japanese have been confronted by the grim reality of their country’s use of the death penalty,” are frequently used. The article obviously condemns Japan’s use of capital punishment, haughtily announcing “[the broadcast will] strengthen Japan to fall into line with every other developed country except the US and abolish capital punishment.” The article then goes on to mention the problems of forced confessions and inmates that have been wrongly convicted.


The Times also features a highly emotive article, with words such as the inmate “is heard being silenced forever” and “mechanical thump of the opening trapdoor to the high-pitched creak of a rope strained by the dead man’s weight.”

The readers comments at the bottom of the article mention nothing about execution but instead talks of Japan’s war crimes, whaling crime, textbooks issues and the atomic bomb…



The only other industrialized nation to have the death penalty, yet the news reports on Japan’s capital punishment policy are largely criticized. Even the right-wing Fox News relays the Associated Press’ anti-capital punishment report.


ABC news largely report what everyone else is reporting but also put in a rather strange supposition: “The government began revealing names and details of those hanged from December in a new policy aimed at bolstering support for executions.” This is not backed-up by any given governmental statement and cannot also be found in any other report.



The broadcast took place on a national holiday, meaning that although everyone was home, the feeling in Japan was relaxed and buoyant and less concentrated on hard news such as this broadcast. Media coverage has so far been very little on the aftermath of the broadcast, with only one report being found online. As it is early days, we can expect to see a few more reports trickle through about the capital punishment issue.

Chunichi Sport briefly report the aftermath of the broadcast, with two opinions given from the listeners. One opinion is that “it proved a good opportunity to think about capital punishment” and the other opinion given is that “As the broadcast did not contain the victims voices, the broadcast is lacking in fairness.”


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