The hunt for Japan’s civilization

Tokyo

The perennial debate on the death penalty again reared its head with Cesar Chelala’s excellent April 11 article. But I fear that his exhortations will once again fall on the deaf ears of those who kill in the name of the state, both in Japan and in the United States.

Chelala tells us that, in a 2009 survey in Japan, 86 percent of the population supported the death penalty. Yet, no one apparently asked these people the obvious followup question: why?

I believe I have the answer. Japan is way out of step with most other “civilized” countries (and I exclude the United States from this list because of Americans’ stance on the death penalty as well as gun ownership) that have long abolished the death penalty. Most, if not all, of these countries heeded the advice of criminologists (perhaps Amnesty International and other humanitarian bodies) who clearly stated that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent to murder. In the United Kingdom, Parliament regularly debates this issue and always votes in favor of the abolition.

Despite the efforts and raised voices against the death penalty by a very few here in Japan, criminologists, lawmakers and others are silent on the point, and the population and the mass media, as a whole, seem steeped in a culture of revenge for crimes that probably have no direct relevance to them personally but that offend them as members of “group Japan”.

So, the perpetrator must atone for his unforgivable act and pay with his life. Where is Japan’s civilization in this belief? And does this show to the watching world Japan’s true nature as an unforgiving, revengeful people? I hope not.

I strongly urge Japan to take the necessary steps to cease, once and for all, its barbaric willingness to kill humans and, yes, other sentient beings. But I won’t hold my breath, especially while a conservative justice minister is “only following orders.”

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

paul gaysford