| || |
Albumen print, with hand-coloring
9 1/4 x 10 7/8 in (23.495 x 27.6225 cm) (image)
Smith College Museum of Art
Purchased with the Hillyer-Tryon-Mather Fund, with funds given in memory of Nancy Newhall (Nancy Parker, class of 1930) and in honor of Beaumont Newhall, and with funds given in honor of Ruth Wedgwood Kennedy, SC 1982:38-2 (50)
THERE are several forms of Capital punishment in Japan. The most lenient of these is simple decapitation; the next in order of severity is decapitation with the disgraceful exposure of the head after death; then comes crucifixion, the punishment awarded to those guilty of such crimes as come under the head of parricide; and finally, the burning alive of incendiaries.
Two of these punishments, crucifixion and the exposure of the head, are illustrated in the picture.
The victim to be crucified is tied hand and foot to a stout pillar with two horizontal bars across it, and transfixed with spears by persons belonging to the Eta or pariah class, a group of whom are seen sitting in the hut on the right of the picture, watching the remains which it will be their next duty to inter.
The Japanese criminal usually meets his fate, however cruel it may be, with calm fortitude. He kneels with unmoved features before a hole filled with saw-dust and destined to receive his head; he neither flinches nor quails before the sword of the executioner, to whom he often himself gives the signal to strike. Rarely does the headsman, unless he be a raw novice, need to strike a second blow. The keen blade falls true to its mark, and in the twinkling of an eye the head is separated from the body.
When persons belonging to the military class are sentenced to die, they may, except in cases of great atrocity, claim the privilege of performing the "hara-kiri" or suicide by disemboweling. In such cases, the self-inflicted stab not being mortal, a friend or relation performs the office of headsman. Often, however, the criminal prefers to finish the deed which he has began, by cutting his own throat.
The lax and arbitrary nature of Japanese legal procedure, renders it difficult to give an accurate account of the crimes subject to the penalty of death.