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Sunday, Aug. 3, 2003

READERS IN COUNCIL

Poor rendering of remarks


Tokyo

Although controversial, the widely quoted statement by disaster prevention minister Yoshitada Konoike on July 11 to the effect that the parents of a 12-year-old boy held for killing a 4-year-old boy in Nagasaki should be "dragged through the streets and beheaded" was inaccurately rendered in most English-language accounts.

Konoike said, "Oya nanka shichuu hikimawashi ni no ue, kubi-uchi ni sureba ii." Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary defines hikimawashi as "paraded through the streets before execution." The term refers to pulling or leading a horse. Indeed, old woodblock prints from the period show criminals flanked by guards and with an attendant carrying a placard noting the condemned's name and crimes.

To render hikimawashi as "dragged" clearly implies that the condemned were mistreated prior to their execution. It is quite possible such abuses did, on occasion, occur; but as a general rule, Japanese judicial practices were then, and remain today, tightly controlled affairs, and did not involve anything as unpredictable as "dragging" a condemned criminal through town.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.


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