The number of death row inmates in Japan as of Dec. 31 is expected to stand at 123, having remained above 100 since 2007, Justice Ministry officials said Thursday.
In 2017 four convicts on death row were executed and four others died of illness, while death sentences were finalized for two other people.
Of the four who were executed, three had been awaiting news about their requests for retrials. Of the three, one was aged 19 at the time of the crime.
The hangings of inmates seeking retrials were the first since December 1999, while that of an inmate who committed a crime as a minor was the first since August 1997. Both executions drew criticism from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and groups opposed to the death penalty.
Capital punishment in Japan has drawn international criticism and the federation has called for its abolition by 2020, demanding the introduction of lifetime imprisonment instead.
However, a majority of the Japanese public supports the death penalty. A 2014 government survey showed that 80.3 percent of Japanese people aged 20 or older favored capital punishment, down from a record 85.6 percent in the previous survey in 2009.