Judicial Hanging with Decapitation in Japan

  • The Yomiuri Newspaper on July 7, 1883
      As reported in a previous issue of this newspaper, the crime that Otowa ONOZAWA (female, age 37 years and 3 months, at Komagome-Fuji Machi) committed was that she had strangled Orika Fujisawa, the mother of Risshin Fujisawa, with a mosquito net strap, on July 25, 1882. Risshin Fujisawa was the chief priest of Enshoji Temple at Nakazato Mura in Minamitoshima County.
      For this crime, Otowa was sentenced to death by hanging under Penal Code §296 on December 16 of the same year at Tokyo Felony Court (the court of first instance). She appealed the sentence to the court of last resort, the former Supreme Court (Daishinin). After the proceedings, the Supreme Court reversed the sentence, changed the applicable article of law, and sentenced her to death by hanging again, under Penal Code §380, robbery resulting in death. The death penalty was thereby finalized. Therefore, by order of Minister of Justice Ohki, Otowa was executed at 8:30am yesterday, at the gallows of Ichigaya Prison. The execution event was said to be as follows.
      Prosecutor Nakagawa and secretary Ichikawa came from Tokyo Felony Court. The deputy warden and other prison officers also presented themselves at the execution site. In the execution holding cell next to the execution site, officers made Otowa take off her prison uniform and put on the Awase (kimono with lining) which she had worn when she was first arrested.
      Officers took Otowa into the execution site with her wrists bound behind her back and her eyes covered with a sheet of Asakusagami (recycled Japanese paper). She was made to go up the ladder of gallows and stand on the platform. Soon an officer said all was ready. As soon as the trap door of the platform was released, Otowa, with the noose around her neck, fell with a thud from higher than 3 meters. Probably because she was heavy owing to her obesity, her neck was half severed, and blood spurted in all directions from her neck. Her death was confirmed after about five minutes. Officers unfastened the noose. According to a Supplementary Provision of Penal Code §6, since Otowa's elder brother wished to receive the body, officers gave it to him without burying it themselves.

    Translator's note
      In those days, the given name of common Japanese women was often stated with an 'O' added at the start of it, as in this article. The Tokyo Eiri Newspaper stated the name of Otowa ONOZAWA as 'Towa ONOZAWA,' and described 'Orika Fujisawa' as 'Rika Fujisawa.'
      In this story, the height of the platform was reported as 'more than 3 meters.' But Decree No.65 in 1873 prescribed that it should be 2.7 meters. The height in this story might be inaccurate.

  • The Tokyo Eiri Newspaper on July 7, 1883
      On December 16, 1882, Towa ONOZAWA (female, age 38), of 25 Komagome-Fujimae Machi, was sentenced to death by the court of first instance. She was convicted of strangling to death Rika Fujisawa, the mother of Rissin Fujisawa. Rissin was Towa's common-law husband and the chief priest of Enshoji Temple at Nakazato Mura. Towa was dissatisfied with the sentence, and appealed to the court of last resort, the former Supreme Court (Daishinin), but that court rejected her appeal.
      At 8:30 yesterday morning, Towa was executed at Ichigaya Prison in accordance with that judgment.
      At the execution cite, prosecutor Tadazumi Nakagawa and secretary Shigetane Ichikawa attended, and other officers of the Prison also stood in line. As usual they positioned her on the scaffold. When the trap door was released and Towa dropped down, it looked like the noose cut deeply into her throat, probably because she was overweight. Blood also spurted from her nose, mouth and throat. She died instantaneously. She was a pitiful figure. After a while, officers took down the body, but the noose bit so firmly into Towa's throat that they could not unfasten it. Therefore, officers cut the noose with a knife and coffined the corpse immediately.
      It is said that the corpse was given to Shinsuke Sekiya, Towa's elder brother, who wished to take it.

    Translator's note
      In those days, the given name of common Japanese women often had an 'O' added at the start of it. On the same day as this report, The Yomiuri Newspaper stated the name of Towa ONOZAWA as 'Otowa ONOZAWA,' and Rika Fujisawa was described as 'Orika Fujisawa.'