What's new

Detention Centers in Japan


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Posted on behalf of Debito.

Hello all.

I have just webbed the following (yesterday's "Report on Filing Complaints
to J Police" with dozens of new links and a backlog of related materials) on
the Community Issues page. See

It all matters and should be known about, just in case.
Seasons Greetings.
Arudou Debito

At the above link, it reads:

"Here is an account of what can go on in detention centers when one is
called in for questioning by the Japanese police. This is not an example of
"non-Japanese" specifically being discriminated against per se, since most
people "detained for questioning" may have to endure this regardless of
nationality. But given the fact that non-Japanese are being singled out in
recent years by Japanese police for criminal suspicion, chances are that
this kind of detention will happen to them sooner than it will happen to a
regular-looking Japanese."

www.debito.org: Case Study: The Japanese Police violate civil liberties with impunity, thanks to the Bureau of Human Rights
HOW AND WHERE TO LODGE COMPLAINTS about police treatment
www.debito.org: Case Study: The Japanese Police violate civil liberties with impunity, thanks to the Bureau of Human Rights
YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS before incarceration at
Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle's Page for Social Issues in Japan
Other useful contact details just in case


"12 Days of Detention"
(The following is written by a non-Japanese who was incarcerated for
questioning in southern Japan--because he defended self and spouse against
physical harassment by some local chinpira ("baby yakuza"). This person was
never formally (apparently orally, but never in writing) charged with a
crime, and requests anonymity because the police have threatened to dredge
this up in the person's workplace if what transpired is ever made public.)

These are what conditions can be like if you are ever held for "questioning"

1. We were allowed to shower once every 4 days during a 30 minute private
bathing period in a private ofuro room. After the shower, we could change
our dirty clothes for clean clothes. Thus, during my 13 days [2+1+10] of
detention, I learned to turn t-shirts, underwear and socks inside out in
order to "stretch" their wearability. Strings were removed from the waists
of sneakers to prevent suicides - luckily mine were also elasticized.

2. We were allowed to wash our face and brush our teeth in the morning and
the evening in a shared sink with cold water. I learned to stretch this out
to allow for quick washes of armpits and even scalp a couple of times. We
could keep two small towels to alternate using am/pm.

3. We could use a shared electric razor - unfortunately not much use on my
facial hair and obviously, extremely unhygenic. I am sure microtears on the
skin make the spread of viruses and bacteria common in prisons.

4. We were allowed 15 minutes once a day to walk 3m down a hall to a small
room where most others smoked in front of the only open and accessible
[thought barred] window on the prison floor. This was their idea of daily
exercise, and contrary to international law.

5. We ate 3 bentos a day - identical every meal: rice, small portion of
fried fish, tsukemono, boiled rice. I lost about 5kg during the 13 days
detention. I learned about half-way through my detention they allowed one to
purchase various snacks for daily evening "relax time" consumption. Of
course, I became a regular orderer.

6. We were housed in small, tatami-matted 1.6m X 3m "dog cages" with
semi-open squat toilets in the back. Our cages were raised about 40cm off
the floor, arranged in a semi-circle around the officers station, which was
also raised to allow for maximum observation. There were cameras in the
ceiling of each cell, and lights were on [although "somewhat" dimmed at
night] 24 hours/day. These conditions are contrary to international law.

7. We slept on thin futons and had two old, wool blankets to use as we
wished - e.g. one folded as a pillow, one as a cover. Aside from one's
clothing and the futon and blankets, the cells were bare. The futons were
removed by us and stored in a common storeroom during the day. Any
individuals eyeglasses and reading materials were provided in the morning
and removed in the evening.

8. Anytime we were brought out of the holding area for questioning or
visitation, we were handcuffed, anklecuffed, roped from hands to feet and
around the waist and steered around from behind by the accompanying officer.

9. The police were generally okay, although I was manhandled once and
received a bleeding wound on my head once when pushed into my cell
[apparently I was not entering it quickly enough...] I was still brought to
questioning even though dizzy from the wound, and once they saw the blood
was allowed back to my cell, but I never received any medical attention.

10.I was held in an isolation cell for all but one night of my detention,
when a violent drunk was put there. That night I was put in a cell with
convicted criminals, which is contrary to international law.

11.I was allowed visitation by my lawyer [private, expensive but effective],
my supervisor and my spouse. Only Japanese was allowed to be spoken in the
glass-divided visitation room, so if you cannot speak Japanese, it becomes
difficult to say the least. An officer was present - sitting 1m away from
me - during any visitations.

12.They [the police] seemed to understand that I was not a criminal [no
charges were eventually filed]. One or two sympathetic officers shared their
time talking with me about their hobbies or my home country, and one or two
treated me like a criminal. The only odd thing was on my release date they
had "lost" several man yen [\50,000 or 60,000] that I had had on my person
when arrested, although they did have the \10,000 or so my spouse had
provided for incidentals. It took quite a lot of protest to get them [they
seemed convinced they had no other money of mine in their possession] to
search for it.

Overall, my advice: Don't get arrested. Don't expect decent treatment, or
even legal by international standards to which Japan is a signatory in
various UN agreements if you are arrested.

Read books on Japanese law. I had read a great book on the law published by
the Japan Legal Aid Association, "101 Q&A" [I believe that is the correct
title] even before my arrest as a matter of course. As a result I knew what
to expect. Knowing before hand allowed me to get over the shock much better
than had I had no prior understanding of the Japanese legal system.
that is terrible i always thought of japans culture to be understanding but this contridicts everything i belived in. i can belive that the japanese treat humans like this...kinda makes me sad.
Originally posted by infinitijapan
that is terrible i always thought of japans culture to be understanding but this contridicts everything i belived in. i can belive that the japanese treat humans like this...kinda makes me sad.
To my knowledge, Japan is actually quite strict about law and serve harsher sentences then US.
While this article may say otherwise, Japanese culture does treat their prisoners a lot better than the American prison system.

Many sociologists believe that the reason why Japan's crime rate is so much lower than Americas is because Japan uses reintergrative shaming on its inmates as opposed to disintergrative shaming; something used much too often in America.

Reintergrative shaming involves showing inmates respect while showing them the error of their ways. Disintergrative shaming, something that has been made into a science in America, uses the method of stigmatizing and ostracizing prisoners in the hopes that it'll scare them from becoming repeat offenders.
Also the idea of "apology and pardon" which follows similiar lines of thinking that you mentioned above. The focus in Japan has never been on incarceration for the sake of "getting the offender off the streets" (which has never been a proven deterrent btw) but rather restorative justice (or as you call it, reintegrative shaming). Unfortunately, due to inherent cultural differences I think that both systems of justice could stand to learn a thing or two from the other. Interesting stuff though for sure.
Interesting topic. Much can be said about various way of dealing with crime and prisoners. I hate to see human beings suffer and I sure hope noone has to go through indignities. At the same time, most of the time something criminal must have transpired in order for someone to end up in jail. Does someone who has committed a crime have to be treated with respect and kindness? I am not so sure. In Holland, the legal system has become increasingly soft over the past few decades. And at the moment criminals seem to have more rights than for instance victims. So although I do not think that people should be mistreated, I do think that they should feel, by the actions of for instance the police and penal facilities, that what they have done is unacceptable. By being too soft this probably will not come across. Add to this the lacklustre approach of helping people reintegrate after release and I think the system fails. I like the idea of a strict, but still positively enforcing system. Not so sure what it should look like. These are just my personal thoughts and I don't have any academic background in this field ...

Hmm there are many angles to this topic I think. This is just a short and quick post. Need to channel my thoughts I think and write a better opinion ...
"boo hoo compared to america and other places this sounds like great treatment."

I hope that was a sarcastic statement. American prisons are ALOT nicer then that, Hell you get to watch TV, get around 6 hours a day to do what ever you want " walk around, lift weights, get books to read ect."

Not to mention cells are alot larger and other things.

Honestly though I think that is about the way people who do bad crimes should be treated but NOT the way people who just goto jail for 12 days should. I mean really, The guy went to a detention center for 12 days, thats like going to jail here for not showing up on a court date, Yet he got treated worse then if he was in a maximum security prison.

I would like to see what they do in REAL prison.
it deppends on what american jail. i saw at some japanese detention centers that they got meditation classes and learned other jobs like barbers and the cells looked comfy. who knows that was from like the late 80's though
Top Bottom