JAPAN: EXECUTION CHAMBER OPENED TO REPORTERS
August 27, 2010: The Tokyo Detention House opened its execution chamber to the media, giving the public its first peek at the place where death-row inmates are hanged.
The Justice Ministry organized the tour at the instructions of Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who is trying to generate public debate on the death penalty.
Officials of the detention house and the ministry escorted some 20 reporters to the execution chamber, which is part of a larger structure consisting of a chaplain chamber, front chamber, button chamber and attendant chamber.
Reporters were first briefed in a conference room and then loaded onto a small, curtained bus for the trip to the execution chamber. Reporters were banned from speaking and from bringing anything other than pen and notebook.
In the chaplain chamber, inmates can receive services from a chaplain appointed by the detention house. The room has a Buddhist altar, but Christian and Shinto arrangements can also be made upon request. Tea, fruit or sweets are also offered in the room, he said.
Then they are escorted to the front chamber, where they are given a last chance to speak with the chaplain.
It is in the front chamber where the chief of the detention house formally announces the execution. Inmates are then blindfolded, handcuffed in front and escorted to the execution chamber.
A curtain is the only thing that separates the front and execution chambers, but it is usually closed, and inmates are unable to see the execution chamber and the rope dangling from the ceiling pulley and hooked to the floor.
There was no rope visible in the execution chamber because "it is installed only when execution is carried out," officials said.
In the execution chamber, the inmate's legs are tied, the noose is tightened and the condemned stands on a trap door.
The 30-minute tour showed the red square on the floor where a convict stands with a noose around their neck before the trapdoor opens beneath them.
Then three officials enter a side room where there are three buttons. They push them at the same time so they don't know which one actually springs the trapdoor.
In the attendant chamber, officials view the execution chamber and the room below.
In five minutes after a doctor confirms death, the corpse is lowered and put in a coffin. (Sources: The Japan Times, Bbc, 27/08/2010)