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Monday, February 22, 2016

Nabari Wine Case


Walking down the steps at Ueda subway station in Nagoya one day last week, a man thrust a packet of paper handkerchiefs at me at the top of the stairs. The insert wasn't advertising the usual soapland or other new fuzoku (風俗) establishment so I tried my luck at deciphering the yellow piece of paper.

Nabari Wine Case.

I could understand the basics of the story but not the finer details: a mass murder in the town of Nabari in Mie Prefecture involving poisoned wine in 1961, a man called Masaru Okunishi had confessed and later retracted his confession, he was a initially found innocent at his first trail at the District Court in Tsu in 1964, but this verdict was overturned by the Nagoya High Court in 1969 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 1972. Furthermore Okunishi was sentenced to death.

Intrigued by a case I had never heard of I got off the subway at Hirabari and sat down on a seat on the platform and searched online. The Wikipedia page in Japanese has extensive coverage of the case but in English the most interesting and informative source is at the Japan Innocence & Death Penalty Information Center (jiadep.org).

At the village meeting in rural Nabari on March 28, 1961, 17 women had become ill after drinking wine laced with pesticide. 5 of them died including Okunishi's wife and his lover. The source relates the evidence presented at the various court cases. After the verdict of the Nagoya High Court in 1972 Okunishi spent the rest of his life in solitary confinement on death row finally dying in a hospital in Hachioji, Tokyo in late 2015.

Okunishi's supporters are still trying to clear his name. Just one of the many cases where justice seems not to have been done in Japan's brutal penal justice system and especially cruel on a man who was at first found not guilty.

The case has also been featured in a Japanese TV drama.

The leaflet was distributed by Aichi Kyuenki and more details of the case and their actions is on their website.

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