previous next

Execution in Kanagawa, (Japan.)

The correspondent of a New York paper, writing from the above place, gives the following description of a poor fellow who was executed for arson:

The criminal, dressed in a loose white cotton robe, and bound hand and foot, was placed on horseback and paraded through the principal streets of the native quarter. He was escorted by a large posse of police, soldiers and officials. Inscribed on a banner, carried directly in front of him, were particulars of his history, his crime and its punishment.--The poor fellow, reduced to a skeleton by long confinement, and bearing the marks of harsh treatment, was as object an object as one might see. Passing out of the town, he was conducted to a hill in the open country, a lovely spot overlooking fair fields, gardens in-numerable, and the placid bay, where a space of a half acre's extent was enclosed by ropes, within which the stake, the faggots and the fire awaited their victim. Shortly before reaching this spot the procession halted in a shady lane by an old deserted temple, where, with mock humanity, the prisoner was fed with better viands than he had tasted for many a day, and plied bountifully with rice whiskey.

On reaching the enclosed space of the execution ground — in sight of thousands of spectators, who trampled down roods of ripening grain in their eagerness — the criminal was lashed to the state with straw cords, which, in turn, were plastered with mud to prevent their burning prematurely. While his head was thus being secured by cords passed around his neck, it was evident that the little life remaining in his emaciated form was mercifully strangled into near insensibility. During all these preparations the victim exhibited no emotion, no interest in what was going on. The officials appointed to superintend the execution sat looking on in true Japanese stoicism.

‘"We are very short, let us stand in front,"’ said two black-teethed women to the pressing crowd, who, however, yielded not. Yet the demeanor of the throng was free from rudeness; there seemed to be no levity or jibes at the poor prisoner's fate. ‘"It is an ugly sight "’ they said, and looked on in silence.

Bundies of a long, well-dried rush were now heaped about and above the man till he was covered out of sight; and then fire was applied simultaneously in several places, and in a moment the flames leaped hot and fierce into the air, and death must have been as instantaneous as under the headsman's axe --more so than in the hangsman's rope.--Within two minutes the rushes had burned away, and the scorched, lifeless form of the man alone remained. Lighted faggots were then applied to mouth and nostrils, to make assurance sure. The head executioner, kneeling before the seated officials, reported the deed accomplished and while executioners, officers and spectators filed away, the blackened corpse was left standing three days a public spectacle and warning.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Kanagawa (Japan) (1)
Japan (Japan) (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: