The other Japan: Two criminals executed, 38 since Abe took office

Japan executed two death row inmates Friday morning, the first executions since last December, government sources said.

The executions were ordered by Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita. Executions were carried out for Koichi Shoji, 64, at Tokyo Detention House and Yasunori Suzuki, 50, at Fukuoka Detention House. The Justice Ministry was to brief the media later.

Shoji had killed two women in Kanagawa Prefecture in 2001, while Suzuki murdered three women in Fukuoka Prefecture in 2004 and 2005.

This marks the first executions since two death row inmates who killed a company president and an employee at the firm were hanged on Dec. 27 in Osaka. Friday’s hangings brought the number of executions under the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who retook office in 2012, to 38.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has called for capital punishment to be abolished by 2020 and replaced with lifetime imprisonment.

Last December, Japanese lawmakers formed a group to discuss the future of the system. More than 50 lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties are taking part in the discussions.

Japan executed 15 death row inmates last year, including 13 former members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in July. The 2018 figure matched 2008 for the most executions in a single year since 1993, when Japan resumed the use of the death penalty.