beheading at kodenmacho
cleaning up after decapitation

We’ve talked about other haunted Japanese hot spots in the past but I came across an excellent breakdown of the 3 great execution grounds of  Tokyo over at the Japan This blog.

Japan has a long history of capital punishment and thousands of people were put to death usually by beheading but they were also big proponents of death by fire and crucifixions. According to the Japan This blog the areas where the executions took place are now cheap to live because they are associated with the angry spirits of those that were killed there.

Of course Tokyo is a giant graveyard as hundreds of thousands were killed all over the city during the great American bombing campaigns of World War II. In just one night, March 9 1945, incendiary bombs caused multiple fires that killed over 100,000 people. That’s more dead than either of the two nuclear strikes.

However the execution sites are concentrated places of death as well as former established living areas for Japan’s version of the untouchable class, so if it is cheap to live there that’s probably the reason. Japan This talks about three killing grounds in Tokyo:

Japanese Name

English Name




The killing floor is extant. The area is well maintained by the nearby temple and neighbors. Well and some post holes are extant.



Cemetery is extant. The symbolic Buddha statue collapsed in the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. One of the executioner’s swords is owned by the nearby temple.



The killing floor is commemorated on the grounds of a temple, some foundations and sewage pipes still exist.

They go into great detail about each place but they don’t talk at all about locations. So here is a break down:


2-5-6 Minami-Oi Shinagawa-ku Tokyo (東京都品川区南大井2-5-6)
Suzugamori execution grounds - 鈴ヶ森刑場 Suzugamori keijō

Suzugamori Execution Grounds are very close to Ōmori-Kaigan Station which is also the station you get off to go to the Shinagawa Aquarium, fun for the whole family! Voted one of the Top Hundred sites to see in Shinagawa, it is famous for people being burned at the stake. You can still see the stone post hole where the wooden stake, the victim was tied to, was placed before being set alight.

Sign marking the post hole for burning at the stake.
Sign marking the post hole for burning at the stake.
The stone where the stake the victim would be tied to was attached.
The stone where the stake was placed


The Kozukappara execution grounds are near Minami-Senju Station (南千住駅). Most of the killing grounds are now covered by the Minami-Senju rail yards but sandwiched in between two tracks is the 延命寺 Enmei-ji Temple. Next to the Enmei-ji Temple is the 首切地蔵 Kubikiri Jizō, a Buddha statue that criminals were knelt in front of just before they were killed. For thousands it would have been the last thing they saw.

首切地蔵 kubikiri jizō Map

Kubikiri Jizo as he looked during the 19th century.
Kubikiri Jizo as he looked during the 19th century.
It was knocked down during the great March 11,  2011 earthquake
It was knocked down during the great March 11, 2011 earthquake
Since 2014 it has been repaired and still stands, watching, waiting
Since June of 2014 it has been repaired and still stands, watching … waiting


Denma-chō Prison and Execution Ground

Denma-cho execution grounds are located close to Kodemmachō Station (小伝馬町駅). Denma-cho Prison was a famous prison and execution site for the upper classes of Tokyo.

Shut down by the Meiji Government in 1871 … little remains of the site today, but the few bits and pieces that are still extant can be seen at 大安楽寺 Daianraku-ji Daianraku Temple and 十思公園 Jisshi Kōen Jisshi Park. The actual site encompassed those locations as well 十思小学校 Jisshi Shōgakkō Jisshi Elementary School.

What greeted new prisoners when entering Denmacho
What greeted new prisoners when entering Denmacho


Of course Japan still has the death penalty and ever since the end of the war they execute their death row inmates by hanging. The last time a death sentence was carried was on December 12, 2013.

Japan does not tell death row prisoners that they are to be hanged until the last possible minute. This has been condemned by the international community. The failure to give advanced notice of executions is incompatible with articles 2, 7 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Human Rights, according to the United Nations Human Rights Committee … Amnesty International says the inmates live under “a harsh regime and in solitary confinement with the ever-present fear of execution. They never know if each day will be their last.” — BBC News

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