Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I think it is the right thing to publish photographs of the Tokyo Detention House’s death chamber (“Execution chamber opened to reporters,” August 28, 2010). What a room! Most of all it’s clean, and the execution procedures sound professional, efficient and quick: better than what I experience at the airport. They also sound comfortably and impersonally antiseptic, which is not only better than the condemned gave their victims but is how the public wants it to be, and how it should be, too.
I noticed that the room has air conditioning in the ceiling, and I imagine the carpeted floor acts as a soothing sound insulator. In some ways it looks better than my apartment - definitely better lit, and more comfortable if you can tolerate gruesome comparisons. Is there affordable real estate in Tokyo like this? Of course the entire complex is unadorned to contribute to an appropriate air of moral simplicity and focus during executions. Everyone needs to focus at critical moments like what the room entertains. There ought to be a niche for a scroll of calligraphy.
I hope that publication of death chamber photographs raises the level of public debate on the death penalty here above the “no better choice” or “it can’t be helped” arguments. Those are not really arguments at all, are they? More data and information should follow, and while I understand the prison system’s reserve about disclosing information out of consideration for the condemned’s feelings and privacy, I also think that by committing heinous crimes they have forfeited the right to some of that, as well.
I liked the room.