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    Items from Japan

    Another Mitsubishi Fuso vehicle has had clutch failure–though this time there was no accident. The shaft detached and caused the dumptruck involved to stop in the middle of the highway, though. It was a 1984 model and, thankfully, I suppose, had a clutch that was already under recall (thankfully because it means they haven’t discovered yet another defective part).

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    For obvious reasons, Hitomi Soga and her family have gotten much of the attention. But there are other touching stories among the repatriated abductees from North Korea. Kaoru Hasuike will be allowed by the law department of Chuo University to return to his studies. Hasuike is 46; he was abducted while a junior home in Niigata Prefecture on vacation in 1978. He hasn’t decided whether to go back to classes or do distance learning–understandably, there are significant readjustments he’s still making.

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    More darkly, two death row inmates were executed today; one was Mamoru Takuma, who went on a stabbing rampage in an elementary school near Osaka in 2001, killing 8 children. As they always do when Japan carries out an execution, human rights groups (and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations) are understandably protesting the lack of transparency in Japanese capital punishment. This Reuters story outlines things pretty well. Japanese executions take place when they’re least likely to dominate the news cycle, and there’s no prior warning. I’m not familiar enough with the way it all works to know whether the ability to appeal is really significantly curtailed; the part about not letting the families of those to be executed know until the same day does seem pretty harsh.

    Of course, the reporter can’t resist ending this way:

    Capital punishment has aroused little debate among Japanese, who are shown by polls to strongly support the death penalty, and occasional efforts to suspend or abolish it have made little headway.

    But with Japan and the United States among a handful of advanced nations where the death penalty is carried out, questions are being raised and international pressure increased.

    Unless I’m remembering wrong, a woman Minister of Justice, Ritsuko Nagao, was the one who signed the highest number of execution orders in a single year in recent history. I think it was six inmates in 1996, but I’m not finding confirmation. This was after a long stretch in which executions had been few and far between in Japan. Lately, I think two or three a year has been the norm.

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