Japanese Prison

7 Jan

I’ve never been arrested and I don’t personally know anyone who has.
So anything I know about America’s, Japan’s or any other country’s prisons or penal system is from what I’ve read.

As with most everything in America and Japan, these two countries’ prison systems are quite different.

In America, each state has it’s own unique laws governing the penal system, including capital punishment (the death penalty). The U.S. Government abolished capital punishment for the entire United States in 1972…but reinstated it in 1976. Currently, nineteen U.S. states and territories (such as Hawaii, Alaska and Guam) have laws against capital punishment…so they don’t allow the death penalty. The remainder of the U.S. states either use the electric chair or lethal injection as the means for carrying out capital punishment.
The state of Texas has the most people on death row.

In the case of Japan, the federal government makes the laws concerning things such as the penal code for the entire country. Capital punishment is used as a punishment for crimes such as murder (usually multiple murders) in Japan, and it is supported by the majority of the people.
But, unlike America, the method of carrying out the death penalty is the gallows (hanging by noose).
And, also unlike America, convicts on death row aren’t notified of their execution date until the morning of the day it’s carried out.

Regarding general prison life, the image of prisons in America is cells with bars that prisoners can see out of their cell.


And prisons in America have an image of being loud and violent with prison riots and prisoners murdering guards and other prisoners. And the prisoners in America are allowed to spend their ample free time almost as they choose…watching TV, playing games or sports, exercising. And they meal portions are quite large.

Is that inaccurate? I don’t know for sure…as I said, I’ve never seen inside a prison (except in the movies). But I recently read a newspaper article about prisons in America…and it seemed to support this image.

Prison life in Japanese prisons is quite different. In Japan, a prisoner’s daily routine is quite regimented and the slightest infraction (for example, eye contact with a guard) is often met with physical punishment and/or solitary confinement.

The cells themselves in Japanese prisons don’t allow prisoners to see out.

Japan Prison

There are no beds. Prisoners sleep on a futon on the floor…when they’re told to. During the day, they may not even sit on the bedding.
In Japan, prisoners may not speak unless asked a question. And they are given meal rations with the minimum daily calorie intact that a person needs to live.
The whole purpose of the prison system is to give the prisoners discipline and work experience to help them reform. So Japanese prisoners spend their days working…making furniture or clothes, etc.

But before prison, the whole judiciary system is different from America’s.

In Japan, the stigma of being arrested is great. Even being interrogated by the police can give you a bad image. So, the police in Japan take their time to be sure they arrest the right person. American police might bring many suspects in for questioning. That’s not how it’s done here, though.
Since Japanese police only make an arrest when they’re certain it’s the right person, 99% of the people who are arrested get convicted in Japan.

And when the police arrested someone in Japan, they’re allowed to keep the person in custody for interrogation for up to 72 hours…before that person is allowed a phone call or access to a lawyer.

Another difference is that in court trials in America, the defendants fate is left to be decided to a civilian jury. Until later this year, in Japan a judge (or in some bigger trials, more than one) makes all rulings. But starting this year, juries will be used in courts here in Japan. This is quite an unpopular idea with a large portion of the population…so we’ll see if it lasts.

Anyways, I don’t usually give this much thought. I’ve never been a victim of a crime (I certainly hope it stays that way), nor have I ever committed a crime (that will stay that way), I generally agree that capital punishment is right…but I’ve heard convincing arguments against it—so I’m not positive.
And sometimes foreign media paints a picture of Japan’s prison system and judicial system in general as being medieval…but I think it must work. Japan has a very low crime rate…and when prisoners are released here, most stay out of prison.

America, on the other hand, has more people incarcerated than any other first-world country…and a high percentage of repeat-offenders.

38 Responses to “Japanese Prison”

  1. wildinjapan July 12, 2016 at 7:04 pm #

    I believe that an execution requires the authorisation of the Minister of Justice himself (I don’t know if there has ever been a “herself”). The minister is often reluctant to actually sign for an execution (Hatoyama was the most recent exception to this), meaning that some prisoners on death row will actually die of old age.

    The longest prison term is 20 years.

    And you don’t want to get arrested in Japan – the police can hold a suspect for up to three weeks without actually pressing charges.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tokyo5 July 12, 2016 at 11:23 pm #

      >some prisoners on death row will actually die of old age.

      I’ve heard that most do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. swingtraderamos July 10, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    In America, Only three states who allow inmates to procreate while in prison. California, Texas and New York State. They are the three largest states in the union. Inmates babies! Just amazing! Ponder that one!


    • tokyo5 July 10, 2016 at 9:30 am #

      Is that right? Who raises the babies? (Alaska, though, is the geographically largest U.S. state).


  3. swingtraderamos July 10, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    Americas prison system is really a joke! It’s school or university for inmates. It’s a pure money maker for everyone! Japanese culture basically don’t commit crimes! Very honest people! Number of actually Japanese locked up in California prisons, maybe two inmates Max. So, tiny of number. Why? Because the people of Japan have strong values.


    • tokyo5 July 10, 2016 at 9:28 am #

      Japanese culture is very different from American culture (and every other country’s, as well)… but there are Japanese criminals – that’s why there are Japanese prisons.


  4. Anonymous July 25, 2013 at 2:15 am #

    I believe the Japanese have it right on the whole,as i returned to the uk system wich is a complete joke.The idiots in there love it and it is’nt a deterant


    • tokyo5 July 25, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Were you in both the Japanese and British prison systems?

      Do you mean that British prisons aren’t considered a punishment by the inmates?


      • Chris February 23, 2014 at 9:48 am #

        I spent 3 months in a Japanese prison for importing 1/2 ounce of marijuana into Japan. Not all of the comments above are correct. The Japanese justice system is broken in my opinion. I agreed the day I was arrested to plead guilty. It took them 3 months to get to a trial, and then another 10 days to be sentenced. I was told from the very beginning that I would be given a suspended sentence and was ok with that. But I stayed in jail for 3 months while Japan went through the “process”. Part of the reason Japan is declining economically among the worlds superpowers is because they refuse to let hold of some of their fathers traditions. Holding a non violent person for 100 days on a relatively minor charge is a waste of money and resources.

        I was held at both the Nogata jail for 2 months and then the Tokyo detention center for 1 and 1/2 months. Neither place was I mis treated. I shared a cell in the Nogata jail with a rapist and a member of Yakuza. It was an interesting experience.


      • tokyo5 February 23, 2014 at 10:12 am #

        Most people in Japan wouldn’t agree that it’s a waste of money.
        Japan wants to send a strong message that contraband is strictly forbidden.
        So I don’t think they will change it and become lenient on people trying to enter Japan with drugs. Japanese people look at countries like America that are lenient and see all the drug-related problems.


  5. Anonymous July 25, 2013 at 2:11 am #

    I was in Fuchu for 2yrs!most of what you said is true eccept for the sticks i never saw anything like that,The punishment was long solitary


    • tokyo5 July 25, 2013 at 7:49 am #

      Were you in prison in Japan?

      What happened?


  6. Kim April 23, 2012 at 1:02 am #

    I am very happy to have found this much information about the Japanese prison system. I write a lot of short stories and though I only share them with friends I like it when my details are correct. So from now on I can work on making my work better. Thank you for that.
    Also, everyone that has been in a Japanese prison and lost things because of it, I am sorry.
    Japanese prisons sound like a hell. My own father has been in prison in Europe and it’s impossible to compare the two systems. I just remember that my father after two years was certain he never wanted to be in a prison again.
    Since the Japanese prisons seem to be a lot worse I feel sorry for those who have been wrongly imprisoned.


    • tokyo5 April 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

      >I am very happy to have found this…

      Thank you. Please feel free to comment anytime!

      >I feel sorry for those who have been wrongly imprisoned.

      Not only in Japan…but in any prison. But, I’d wager that few people are unfairly incarcerated in Japan—there are plenty of countries with much worse records regarding such things.


  7. ehelgersen@hotmail.com December 16, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    The Japanese ‘death row’ system minus the actual executions might be a good compromise for people like myself on one hand who are uncomfortable with the death penalty but feel that prison shouldn’t be a country club for convicted murderers and for people who on the other hand do believe in the death penalty but might be willing to waive it if they know that the guilty would never be released and would be paying paying their dues in jail. Come to think of it, this might be a good method for some of Canada’s most notorious killers.


    • tokyo5 December 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

      >‘death row’ system minus the actual executions

      But, it wouldn’t actually be “death row” then.


  8. Jacobb September 26, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    We don’t have just one method of executions in America. Some States have alternative methods the Inmates are allowed to choose. However, since the electric chair, hanging, and lethal gas have been declared Unconstitutional, lethal injection MUST be the default method for all executions. Washington allows Inmates to choose between hanging and lethal injection. In Arizona, they are allowed to pick between the gas chamber and lethal injection. Lastly, Florida has lethal injection or electrocution. There’s another state that has firing squad, but Inmates had to be sentenced to death before a certain year in order to qualify. I can’t remember the name of the state, though. Japan’s death row is inhumane and cruel. Prisoners don’t get any nutrition or exercise, except for 30 minutes day, but they are only allowed to use a jump rope and can’t exercise in their cells They are monitored by cameras in their cells 24 hours a day and are denied any kind of medical treatment. No state in America would get away with treating Inmates like that, even though the Inmates deserve it.

    You are right about notifying Inmates about their execution. In America, sometimes Inmates know their execution six months(or more) in advance. This gives them time to visit with Family, attorneys, and Chaplains. They are also granted a final meal the day before their execution. However, the state of Texas no longer allows final meal requests and the Inmate must choose a meal the other inmates eat. You are also correct about Inmates in America being able to see out of their cells and enjoy their “free time”. However, if Inmates don’t have jobs, they usually read, sleep, or write in their cells. Depending on their custody level, some Inmates are allowed Televisions and Radios. The Inmates that cause trouble are usually housed in maximum security prisons(separate facilities) or one-man cells that are located in a Prison. They aren’t allowed Televisions or Radios and stay in their cells 23 hours a day and must eat their meals in their cells. I haven’t been to Prison, but my friend Nathan went for drugs and he told me about his experience. There’s a lot of Gangs and violence in Prison, especially in California and Texas prisons. A lot of Inmates in Texas Prisons are locked up for Rape, sexual assault, drugs, and murder. If you go into a Texas Prison on a conviction of Rape or sexual assault of a minor, you will most likely get the same treatment in Prison. The guards can’t stop it. Besides, we are talking about convicted criminals who have no remorse for other people. They will murder someone if they have to.

    Lastly, and sorry my comment is long, I would like to point out that I currently live in Texas and we have the highest execution rate in the United States. We have a lower population, but we execute more Prisoners than any other state. In fact, we’ve executed 230 Inmates since 2001. I think you’re wrong about the number of States that don’t have the death penalty. Those states are; Michigan, Massachusetts, Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois(abolished in 2011), New Mexico, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont, Rhode Island, District of Columbia, and West Virginia. That’s only sixteen. You said there are nineteen.

    This is my last paragraph, I swear. I just like talking about capital punishment. It’s a very high interest of mine for some reason and I spent a lot of time researching it. If any state allowed hanging, which is obviously the method of execution in Japan and middle eastern countries, they would be going against the United States Constitution which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment”, but like I said before, they are allowed to give Inmates an option as long as lethal injection is the default method. However, from my knowledge about lethal injection, I don’t think it should be considered uncruel. The reason why is because if the first drug is not administered properly, the Inmate will feel the affects of the second and third drug. The first drug, which is an barbiturate, is supposed to render unconsciousness within a few minutes. The second drug is a paralysis that causes paralysis of the diaphragm and lungs. It’s a basically a muscle relax. The last drug is sodium chloride which causes cardiac arrest. If the first drug does not render unconsciousness, the Inmate will feel the affects of their muscles going numb, which I’m sure doesn’t feel good. Not being able to yell in pain because their diaphragm is paralyzed, they are forced to deal with the pain. The third drug causes cardiac arrest which is a sudden heart attack. Heart attacks are extremely painful but since they are not unconscious and their muscles are paralyzed, they won’t be able to scream when the third drug is administered. This is only when the first(and possibly second) drugs are not given in the right doses. If they are given in the right doses then the Inmate should simply just fall asleep without feeling any pain at all. I am against capital punishment unless if the murder of a child is involved. No grown adult should take a life of an innocent child who is not physically or mentally able to defend themselves. Obviously, the murder of anyone is cruel and sickening, but at least an adult is able to defend themselves and put up a good fight while under attack. This is my opinion on capital punishment. You make good views and I appreciate your post.


    • tokyo5 September 26, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

      Thanks for the comment.

      > Florida has lethal injection or electrocution.

      Yes, I know. I’m from Florida.

      >Japan’s death row is inhumane and cruel. Prisoners don’t get any nutrition or exercise

      I wouldn’t say it’s inhumane and/or cruel. Prisoners in Japan are fed properly and are allowed exercise…but not as much food or free-time for exercise, etc as their counterparts in America.

      >denied any kind of medical treatment

      I don’t think that’s correct.

      >you’re wrong about the number of States that don’t have the death penalty….only sixteen. You said there are nineteen.

      I said there are nineteen American states and territories.

      >hanging…would be going against the United States Constitution which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment”

      But…as you mentioned, some U.S. states have the gallows as an option. If it is really considered “cruel”, I guess it wouldn’t be an option.


  9. charlottestar11@yahoo.co.uk March 12, 2011 at 4:52 am #

    My son’s father is in a Japanese prison for drugs and he tells me that he is getting sticks swiped across him every day. River if you don’t mind me asking what prison was you in? I’ve been trying to contact him but can’t get anywhere. Some people i’m sure will say that he deserves it and yes you are right. He deserves to be in prison but it is still my sons father and i would really like for my son to get his father one day. At least for phone calls.


  10. river July 8, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    It is very interesting to have stumbled upon this site as I have recently returned from Japan. I was one of the 99% convicted. I agree with you that most people are indeed guilty, but many are also not guilty. 21 days of police custody, brutality and no access to my lawyer until the end, even then he had no idea what my charge was. Mis translated documents signed. and there you have it i lost years of my life in a japanese prison. They are not nice places. the biggest cruelty though is that the seek to break connections between you and society and family, very strictly limeted number of letters. 1 visit a month for max 15 minutes, japanese spoken only. no phones or other connection to the outside world. I lost my wife and kids during this time. there is much i can say if people are interested to know about it please ask, there are many people i know awaitin trial now in japan who could also use some friendship….


    • tokyo5 July 8, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

      How long were you in prison in Japan? What country are you from?


    • matt March 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      River do is there some way I can contact you besides here this site ? I ask this as my wifes uncle has been in a prison in japan for quite some time now and I have no idea if there is anyway of helping him.


      • tokyo5 March 12, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

        Is your uncle-in-law in a Japanese prison?

        How were you hoping to contact him? Via postal mail?


  11. Casey April 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    I am a little skeptical that the police are so diligent that 99% of the people they arrest are actually guilty. And, in fact, so are the Japanese, since this is one of the reasons for the introduction of the “lay-judge” system (I’m not quite sure how a lay judge differs from a juror, except that one is 裁判員 and one is 陪審員). Have you seen それでもボクはやっていない? It is a great film (I’ve watched it 3 or 4 times already) but it is also an advocacy piece about this issue.


    • tokyo5 April 17, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

      >I am a little skeptical that the police are so diligent that 99% of the people they arrest are actually guilty.

      I didn’t actually say that 99% of arrested people are guilty. I said above that 99% of the people who are arrested get convicted in Japan.

      But, personally, I believe that the majority of people convicted of crime are in fact guilty.
      Just my opinion.

      I know the movie you mention. It’s about a man wrongly convicted of groping a woman on a train and how that conviction ruined his life.


  12. Kurt April 17, 2010 at 4:36 am #

    I just wanted to point out a couple of factual errors in your post above. I’m not trying to provocate, only inform.

    1. While leathal injection is the most common form of capital punishment, several states have secondary methods, including hanging (Washington) and the gas chamber (Arizona).

    2. The largest death row population is in California, not Texas. Texas executes the most people, but the population is lower.

    3. In all states, defendants have the choice of a trial by jury or a trial by a judge (refered to as a bench trial). A jury trial is optional.

    4. Contrary to popular belief, inmates are not allowed to spend all their time as they choose. In most states, inmates who do not work are locked in their cells and lose the privilege to watch TV, exercise, etc. As a result, almost all inmates work.

    Hope this sheds some additional light on the US penal system.


    • tokyo5 April 17, 2010 at 11:40 am #


      As I said in this post above…anything I know about America’s, Japan’s or any other country’s prisons or penal system is from what I’ve read.


  13. Anonymous April 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

    you suck japanese dont hang prisinors you idiot


    • tokyo5 April 12, 2010 at 1:01 am #

      >you suck japanese dont hang prisinors you idiot

      I love it when I get comments from people who disagree with me, but aren’t able to express a differing opinion without resorting to personal insults.

      So you’re saying that I made an error and therefore I “suck” and I’m “an idiot”?

      But I’m not wrong.

      I know for a fact that Japan has the “death penalty” as a possible punishment for major crimes.
      And the method of execution here (in Japan) is the gallows.

      I don’t need to check online. I already know it’s a fact.

      But, just for you, I’ll show you somewhere else you can read it (since you seem unable to research it yourself).

      Go to this link:

      or how about here:
      http://www.nutzworld.com/amerikaarticles/methods_of_execution_by_country.htm (scroll down to “Japan” on that page).


      So by your logic, I must be “a genius” now. 😉


  14. inmate search April 8, 2010 at 5:00 am #

    What a well thought and presented look at corrections in America. The comparisons with Japan’s institutions was enlightening to say the least. US jails are getting better in that many are instituting mandatory work release or some sort of labor to defray the cost of housing them, to the degree that they are releasing prisoners with a bill for what’s owed.


    • tokyo5 April 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words.

      And that’s interesting about U.S. prisons.
      The only I know about prisons is what I see in movies and TV shows, such as “Prison Break”.


  15. tokyo5 January 10, 2009 at 12:03 am #


    >at least 15 years before they are executed

    Maybe that’s good…in case someone is actually innocent. There have been cases when someone on death row is released before his execution because he was found (by DNA or some other evidence) to be actually innocent of the crime.


  16. Dad January 9, 2009 at 8:40 am #

    I think the Japanese have the right idea as to how to handle criminals. In this country if someone does get the death penalty it will be at least 15 years before they are executed, I think that is ridiculous. Also prisoners are allowed to sue the government over anything they can think of, and of course the taxpayers are footing both sides of the bill, so of course some prisoners enjoy that so they continue to do it over and over.


    • Not Sure January 2, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      Well, as a professional engineer, who found himself sent to prison, I can say to you Sir, you have no idea what you are talking about.

      If you treat people like animals, they become animals.

      Have you read the UN Human Rights Charter, with regards to detained persons?

      Anyway, what about innocent people held on remand? Should they be subject to your dark-ages prison mentality too?

      And what about waiting 15yrs to execute an inmate? You don’t think they should have a fair chance to plead their innocence? I mean, its only a LIFE we are talking about here…

      ***One innocent person put to death is too many***

      And prison, I can tell you, has innocent people within its walls.

      And when you see the merciless beating of a 45kg heroin addict, by four ex-army guards, you should be thankful inmates can sue the system when needed.

      I truly hope you find yourself incarcerated someday, and I don’t mean for a night…


      • tokyo5 January 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

        >as a professional engineer, who found himself sent to prison

        In which country were you sent to prison?

        >you have no idea what you are talking about

        You’re addressing my father who wrote the comment above yours, right?

        You can’t say that he’s wrong because he started the comment with “I think …”; therefore he’s stating his opinion.

        >If you treat people like animals, they become animals.

        I agree with that.

        >Have you read the UN Human Rights Charter, with regards to detained persons?

        As for me … I haven’t read that.
        Could you summarize the parts that relate to your point?

        >Should they (wrongly convicted) be subject to your dark-ages prison mentality too?

        Noone thinks that.

        >You don’t think they should have a fair chance to plead their innocence?

        I think it was obvious that my father was referring to prisoners purposely abusing the system.

        >I truly hope you find yourself incarcerated someday, and I don’t mean for a night…

        What an unkind thing to say just because someone holds an opinion different to yours!

        Were you wrongfully convicted?
        You have to admlt that most people in prison are truly guilty of the crime that they were convicted of. The odds of the opposite are too slim.

        And as long as there are people in society that infringe on the rights and safety of others, then, unfortunately, prisons are necessary.


  17. tokyo5 January 9, 2009 at 12:41 am #

    Speaking of Japanese prisons…it reminded me…

    on a lighter note, Japan has many theme bars and restaurants.

    You can eat or drink in a “hospital”, “Dracula’s Castle”, with “maids”…and in a “prison”, etc.

    The most famous “prison” theme restaurant is 「ロック・アップ」 (“Lock Up“).
    They have four locations in Japan now.

    I actually went to the one in 渋谷 (Shibuya, Tokyo) with my friends.

    Their website is at this URL:


  18. tokyo5 January 8, 2009 at 11:30 pm #


    In Japanese prisons, prisoners aren’t allowed to talk freely together unless given permission.
    So there is no chance to prison violence or gangs to form…not even by incarcerated mafia members.


  19. Tornadoes28 January 8, 2009 at 3:20 am #

    I also have never been in prison. However, it is well known that American prisons are fairly violent. The inmates generally organize along racial lines. White inmates stay with white inmates, blacks with blacks, latino inmates with latinos. They form these racial gangs in order to defend each other. Violence between the black and latino prison gangs has been increasing. Especially in California prisons.


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