Episode 411 – If You Can’t Do the Time…

This week, we’re taking a quick detour into Isaac trolling fans of Michel Foucault-er, the Edo period criminal justice system. How did this system operate, and what considerations are responsible for its approach to justice?


Botsman, Daniel. Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan.

King, Peter and Richard Ward. “Rethinking the Bloody Code in Eighteenth-Century Britain: Capital Punishment at the Centre and on the Periphery.” Past & Present 228, Issue 1 (August, 2015).


A replica inside of Hakodate’s Goryokaku fortress of an Edo period magistrate’s office. The original was destroyed in 1871.
Buildings like this one would have been the venue for ‘trials’, such as they were; essentially interviews by a presiding magistrate and his staff.
A detail of a model of the old Kodenmacho jail, from the Kodenmacho Jailhouse Museum.
Hachijojima today. Kidding aside, I can see why tourists choose to go now!
The Kotsukappara execution grounds in north Tokyo. Note the statue of Jizo (Ksitigarbha); Buddhist imagery as a comfort to the condemned is a common feature of the Japanese prison system even to this day.
A memorial at the site of the Suzugamori execution grounds in what’s now Shinagawa.
A depiction of haritsuke (crucifixion) from the Meiji University Museum. Images like this one from the Meiji period were used to sensationalize the criminal justice system of the Edo era and point out the ‘enlightened’ reforms of the new Japan.




1 thought on “Episode 411 – If You Can’t Do the Time…”

  1. The haritsuke picture that you have is very interesting. It’s imagery is very Christian in nature, reminding me of depictions of Jesus being pierced by the Roman soldier on the cross with a lance.

    Did the people who studied “Dutch Learning” have any commentaries on Dutch or other European laws? If so, what did they think of the European systems?

    One of the major points in the unequal treaties was the perception that the Japanese criminal justice system was “barbaric” hence the desire for extraterritoriality. Similar to the above question how much did they want to bring the criminal justice system into line with what they saw in Europe and was there pushback to that?

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