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THE NAGAYAMA CASE - Reflections on the Death Penalty in Japan

EU News 393/2013

10 September 2013

10 October is the Day against the Death Penalty. On that occasion, the EU is organizing an exhibition and a symposium to offer perspectives into the issue of the death penalty, and promote debate within Japanese society.


In 1968, 19 year-old Norio Nagayama stole a gun at a US military base and used it to kill four strangers. His first sentence, death, was commuted to life in prison by the Tokyo High Court, on the grounds that the failure of the State to save him from poverty was partly responsible for his behaviour. That sentence was however reversed again after the Supreme Court of Japan ordered a retrial, a landmark decision for the Japanese justice system. This decision set a precedent known as the "Nagayama doctrine" which outlines the cases in which prosecutors should seek the Death Penalty.

While in prison, Nagayama had time to self-reflect and starting read and write. He went on to write numerous autobiographical books, which were great commercial successes, deeply impacting the views on the Death penalty.

He was executed in 1997.


The Nagayama case is not only significant historically, but also serves as a testimony that highlights the reality of capital punishment in Japan. What is the Nagayama standard, and what is the EU stand on the Death penalty? Answering these questions is the goal of this exhibition.

Symposium: Thursday, 10 October, 13:30 - 15:30 (registration starts at 13:00)


Exhibition: 10 - 17 October, 10:00 – 17:00

Place: Europa House (Delegation of the European Union to Japan) 4-6-28 Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo (Map link)

Programme: (PDF)


Updated 2013.10.16