The world’s worst false accusation: “Hakamada case” in Japan


The tragedy of an innocent person being arrested, coerced into a false confession, receiving a death penalty, and ultimately being killed by state authority is not something distant for you, the one reading this.

In this article, I will discuss the Hakamada case, which vividly illustrates the medieval nature of Japan’s judicial system.

Overview of the Hakamada Case:

The Hakamada case refers to a robbery, murder, and arson incident that occurred on June 30, 1966, in Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan.

Mr.Iwao Hakamada (born on March 10, 1936), falsely accused, was merely an ordinary citizen who should not have been subjected to public naming.

Under prolonged police torture, Mr.Hakamada was coerced into a false confession, leading to a death penalty confirmation by the Supreme Court.

Mr.Hakamada, protesting his innocence, filed numerous retrial requests.

On March 27, 2014, a judgment was handed down ordering the suspension of the execution of the death penalty and detention, as well as a retrial of the case.

Having spent 42 years on death row, Mr.Hakamada’s imprisonment was recognized by the Guinness World Records.

Due to the excessively long incarceration, Mr.Hakamada’s mental health deteriorated, rendering him incapable of leading a normal social life independently.

The retrial request to officially establish innocence was rejected by the High Court on June 11, 2018.

Misconduct, Malice of Police and Prosecution:

It is a common practice for the police to conduct interrogations for extended periods without the presence of a lawyer, causing the individual to become disoriented.

As Mr.Hakamada’s detention deadline approached, it is reported that multiple individuals used batons to violently assault him.

Even Mr.Hakamada, a former boxer, found it impossible to maintain sanity in a state where sleep was elusive.

The detective involved in this interrogation was notorious for fabricating numerous false confessions.

The police and prosecution coerced confessions according to their predetermined script, and the verdict proceeded as planned, resulting in a death sentence.

In the process, evidence fabrication took place, leaving one speechless with astonishment.

However, as it was a false accusation, the real culprit remained at large, and the essential task of punishing the person responsible for the crime was left unfulfilled.

The police and prosecution deserve severe condemnation.

Judge’s Guilt:

Despite the lack of clear evidence and the obvious miscarriage of justice, the execution of the death penalty was halted, and Mr.Hakamada was released.

Nevertheless, the High Court refused to retry the case.

The refusal was due to the inevitability of issuing an innocent verdict in a retrial.

To do so would tarnish the reputations of senior judges who had originally handed down death sentences.

If an unprecedented reversal of a famous case with widespread media coverage resulted in an acquittal, the judge would attract unwanted attention.

The judge chose to evade the retrial because he didn’t want to face disapproval from superiors, prospect of a mundane position,and endure an unfortunate period in obscurity.

However, failing to deliver an innocent verdict in a public setting would not restore Mr.Hakamada’s honor, leaving him branded as guilty.

Allowing a person who was not only found guilty but also sentenced to death to remain free is clearly absurd.

To resolve this contradiction, the court resorted to a cunning tactic of buying time.

The judge seems content to maintain a wishy-washy, ambiguous state during his tenure, with the expectation that a successor will inherit the issue.

In this way, as the years pass, the judge may hope that the elderly suspect will pass away, considering it a profitable outcome.

This individual, lacking the qualifications for a job in the judiciary, could be described as a coward.

Media’s Guilt:

Despite the initial arrest of a suspect announced by the police, the media’s grave offense lies in continuously reporting the individual by his real name.

Imparting the image of a criminal to the public can lead the police to prioritize their reputation, possibly ignoring inconvenient facts.

Where is the real perpetrator of the robbery, murder, and arson incident that occurred in Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan on June 30, 1966 ?

The media, by aiding in letting the real culprit go free, bears responsibility.

Rather than unquestioningly accepting police announcements and disseminating information, journalists should have critiqued investigative methods and performed their duty to the public.

Apathy of Viewers and the General Public:

The awareness of human rights among the Japanese is extremely low.

The ingrained mentality that serving superiors without questioning is natural has permeated to the core.

Those indifferent to their own human rights are also indifferent to the rights of others.

Even if an innocent person receives the death penalty, they may feel nothing.

Many citizens, lacking empathy and imagination, are apathetic towards politics and turn a blind eye to illegal activities.

Despite more than 70 years passing since the end of World War II, the consciousness of the Japanese remains as it was before the war.

This is a contributing factor to the countless “Hakamada” incidents.


Mr.Hakamada has been burdened with the stigma of being a criminal for over 50 years since his arrest at the age of 30.

His life was taken away by the authority of the state.

The authorities refuse to admit their mistake, provide compensation, or offer an apology.

Instead, they patiently await Mr.Hakamada’s death.

On March 13, 2023, the Tokyo High Court made a decision of the retrial, but the prosecution plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Without addressing the root causes of the mistakes, without implementing preventive measures, the authorities continue to generate new miscarriages of justice at this very moment.

As citizens, we should strongly express our commitment to the spirit of the Japanese Constitution: “We will never tolerate the violation of human rights.”