Japan locks up about 63 people per 100,000 inhabitants (2008 figures) up from 36 people per 100,000 inhabitants in 1992. In 2010 63,845 people were doing time in Japan.
This is a low number compared with the USA and the UK, where 760 people per 100,000 inhabitants (2008) and 153 per 100,000 inhabitants (2009) respectively are in jail.
Japan's prisons are strictly regimented with military-style discipline and aim to reform and rehabilitate offenders. Prisoners in Japan wear prison-issue uniforms. There are rules on the correct way to walk, talk, eat, sit and sleep. Punishments are handed out to prisoners who do not follow the rules.
The number of foreigners in the Japanese penal system is on the rise, with Fuchu Prison near Tokyo, the largest prison in Japan, holding around 500 foreigners from over 40 countries, according to the US Embassy in Tokyo. Tochigi Prison is the main prison in Japan holding foreign inmates.
Visitors can get an idea of Japanese prison life at the Abashiri Prison Museum in northern Hokkaido. At Meiji Mura, just outside Inuyama, there is part of the preserved Meiji-era Maebashi Prison, made completely of wood and resembling a bird cage. The main gate of Kanazawa Prison, dating from 1907 is also here.
Japanese prisoners spend part of their time working producing goods which are then sold, the prisoners themselves receiving a small sum in return.
Prisons mainly specialized in heavy wooden furniture but are now producing other items even cute Hello Kitty toys. The goods produced in Japanese prisons can be seen here and if you are interested in purchasing an item please let us know.
There were also reports of prisoners being forced to make goods for commercial producers - such as automobile and cell phone parts. Stars & Stripes carried an article in 2004 on what could have amounted to forced labor.
刑務所 (keimusho), prison.
留置場 (ryuchijyo), a prison for holding people for as long as 23 days until they are charged with, or cleared of a offence.
US Embassy Information on Fuchu & Tochigi Prisons
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Rough Guide To Japan