Japan: Memories of an outlaw – Part Two

Following from the first part, here is the anonymous blogger's description of his life in jail and his transition back into society.

By Mrhayata, CC License.

The quotes below are excerpts from various posts originally written in Japanese and are published with the author's consent.

Life at the detention center

After 3 months in the police cells I was moved to the detention centre…
The atmosphere was completely different from the Police station, more like a prison. All around us there was a high fence. They immediately checked my belongings and did a body-check. That was really horrible. I was completely naked and they checked my genitals and anus. They didn't stick anything into my butt but it was inspected in all its details and anybody could see my asshole. It was really humiliating as I have never done such things, not even in private…
Here for the first time they made me wear the same uniform as the other prisoners. I remember I thought “Have I finally come so low?!”
They gave me a number which was used by the Police, the detention centre and later in the prison then they took me to my cell. From that moment on I stopped having a name and was called only by my number, just like cattle…

There were ten people in my cell which was meant for seven; it is one of the consequences of prison overcrowding.
I immediately became anxious as the people here looked like they could be more difficult than those in the police cells.. Will I be able to make it here? Well..I guess I have no choice…
Since it's a communal life, there are many rules and each cell has its own character. There is a fixed order for cleaning and chores, and the toilet cleaning is done by the latest arrival. Depending on when a new prisoner would come you could have to do the toilet cleaning only once but I had to do it for one week…

I had heard it before but it's really true that those who get arrested for rape or indecent assault are bullied in prison. There were a bunch of them and at worst they had their stuff stolen or they were kicked or had their nose broken…A detention center is really a scary place.
The first impression matters and if you become someone to make fun of then you'll be bullied.
In other words, since they have nothing else to do, it’s usual that things go in that way. What people say or do is not that much different from the way primary school kids behave. I also said a lot of stupid things, but similar to my primary school days, I didn't bully anyone and wasn't bullied myself.
As far as I remember these were the crimes of the people in my cell: injurious assault, robbery, drug related crimes, DVD black market, rape, indecent assault, public nuisance (stalker), arson, illegal gambling, use of underage prostitutes, falsification of official documents, fraud, counterfeiting, burglary, blackmail, threats, forcible obstruction of business, trespassing and violation of the gun control law…

Exercise time was once every 2 days though it’s not compulsory to have to go out. Even though it is called exercise it means about 50 people walking in circle for about 20 minutes in a 20 square-meter narrow space of the building where almost no sunshine gets through.
No running. No talking. In this every center is different but during these 20 minutes we were allowed to cut our nails. Since there were only a few nail cutters, as soon as the ‘exercise time – start’ was announced those who wanted to be first would run as fast as they could to the guy in charge of keeping the nail-cutters.
As the nail cuttings were then left in the corner of the exercise-ground it was really disgusting.
Those in confinement cells would have their exercise time up on the roof in a fenced space called ‘the bird cage’. I preferred that as a nail-cutter is not something worth fighting for and, I particularly liked the view which was really nice. I could only see a small piece of the landscape but seeing the town I knew and the trains running made me feel the freedom beyond the walls…

This is what I learnt during my time in prison. The real yakuza don't touch the honest people and take care of the others. The henchmen and the thugs act dishonestly and are arrogant and childish. Surprisingly, there are many North Korean yakuza. In the Tokyo prison there were many such thugs, and I hated it.
I heard a lot of underground stories and they were really interesting. Having only experienced life as a salaryman, there were so many things that I didn't know.
Until that time I had thought that my life was normal but I got to learn that there is no such a thing as a ‘normal’ life. Everyone's daily life is normal…

One year after I entered the prison, I was given a sentence of four years and six months and it was a shock for me. The guy of the center tried to comfort me by saying: “Considering your crime, you muddled through”, but even with good behavior it would only have been three years and ten months so it seemed like a very long time….
I was torn between appealing or not but given that my parents strongly wished me to, I decided to appeal. At this point, my transfer to the Tokyo penitentiary was decided.
The first trial is usually held at the local court of each prefecture or district but since the appeal court of the area where I was is the Tokyo High Court, the jurisdiction was Tokyo.
So my pleasant life in a single cell was over. At the new place I made a request to have a single cell, like in the previous detention center, but it was denied.
Where they put me was once again a community cell…
The Tokyo detention center was different from the other one as the structure was new and it was in a multistory building equipped with air-conditioning and heating…

The most difficult thing for me during my life in prison was living together with complete strangers.
Fellow criminals meeting for the first time means trouble and for someone like me who's uncomfortable with groups of people, there was nothing more painful than that. Even without realizing it, I accumulated a lot of stress by constantly living with other people.
I almost became depressed. I told myself that also this is part of the punishment and I lived with it but so many times I was very close to being driven mad by those selfish people. From a normal person's point of view though, I'm probably the same as them.
During a visit when I saw my mother pleading with the officer on guard saying “Can't you please let him have a single cell?”, a tear dropped from my eyes.
It's undeniable that my family was also a ‘victim’..
For the rest of my life, I will never be able to raise my head to my parents again….

Outside the walls

After four years and three months of life in custody, I went back to life. But the first two months, my mind was a blank when I was out in town. Even in a city I know by heart, I felt as my mind couldn't process the information perceived by my eyes.
Maybe because for a long time I had been in a place were I could only see a little portion of the landscape from a prison that never changes…
Often they say that “Because in prison you are told what to do and you are allowed to do only a certain number of things, you'll lose independence” but I don't think this was so in my case… though compared to the past maybe I am less proactive…

I also thought that as soon as I was outside I would have eaten this and that but this wasn’t the case. Even now, I end up buying the same snacks or cup-noodles I used to eat in prison. Even those that for a normal person are just snacks, for me they have the taste of prison…

A Stain

When I think on what I have lost in becoming a criminal, I realize it's a lot.
My friends, my lover, my job, my social status, trust, money, time. If I had to count them all there would be almost no limit.
I am really grateful to my family and those of my friends who are still with a person like me who has soiled his hands. What can I do for them?


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.