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Albumen print, with hand coloring
7 5/8 x 6 1/4 in (19.3675 x 15.875 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 (49)
DECAPITATION by means of a sword is the most common form of capital punishment in Japan. The criminal is made to kneel on a little mat placed in front of a small rectangular pit, about 2 or 3 feet deep, dug in the ground. He is usually blindfolded, and is made to stretch his head, with his neck uncovered, over the pit. On the signal being given, the executioner whisks off the wretched man's head at one blow. à
The view represents the execution ground, about a couple of miles from Yokohama, where the murderer of Major Baldwin and Lieut. Bird, the notorious Shimidzu Seiji was executed in December 1864. The executioner is a well known old practitioner, who, by his own account, has in a year when business is brisk, a very tolerable income. He receives some 7 ichiboos (about $2.30) per head, and has taken off as many as 350 heads in a twelvemonth. His office, however, is a despised one.