Japan is the only industrial democracy other than the U.S. that still regularly executes convicted murderers, says the Washington Post. Last year, the Japanese conducted two executions by hanging, the sole method employed there. In some years, the number is double or triple that. This is nowhere near the U.S. total, where 59 convicted murderers were put to death in 2004. But there are many more murders in the United States than in Japan, and the U.S. population is 295 million people compared to Japan’s 127 million. Adjusting for those facts, Japan has recently been about as likely as Texas and Virginia to sentence killers to death.
Japan’s leaders are giving their people what they want. Not even capital punishment’s opponents in Japan question the basic validity of a survey conducted by the government in 1999, which found that 79.3 percent of the public backs the death penalty. In 34 polls taken between 1953 and 1999, abolition of capital punishment has never garnered a majority. Japanese frequently invoke culture to account for these sentiments. One theory is that the Japanese, group-oriented and with ancestral roots in village life, have a long tradition of isolating and eliminating evildoers. Also, street crime increased in the mid-1990s. Japan is still much safer than America, but Japanese notice is that it is less safe than it used to be. Reported crimes registered a postwar high for six consecutive years between 1996 and 2002 before leveling off in 2003.