Kozukappara Execution Grounds
Clearly one of the places of the city's darker past. Under the hands of the Shoguns Edo, as Tokyo was called before, grew rapidly. In the seventeenth century the city had grown out to probably the most populated city in the world with about 1.000.000 citizens. Since Edo was created on military rule strict control was asserted. Criminals and adversaries were dealt with harshly, swiftly and publicly. For this purpose this area was established. It is said that during the more than 260 years of the Tokugawa Bakufu between 100.000 and 200.000 people were executed here alone. Some would say that this highly contributed to the stability and safety during the Edo era. Others who make a mathematical calculation would contend that one or two executions every day during this period was very harsh, keeping in mind that there was a similar execution ground in Shinagawa to the southeast of Edo.
The people who went to meet their fate had to walk there. A few hundred meters before the grounds there was a small bridge, where they were permitted to say their last farewell to their loved ones. Although the bridge does no long exist the intersection is still marked by a sign that says "Namida-bashi", or the crying bridge.
The last thing the convicted saw was the Buddha statue called the Kubikiri Jizo, or Neck-chop-Jizo. There was no priest available nor anybody of the clergy to give any form of spiritual guidance for the afterlife. The only glimmer of enlightenment may have been provided by a large stone engrave with the prayer of Nichiren: "Namu myoho renge kyo", which means "Hail, book of lotus of the good law".
After the execution the bodies were often dumped behind the statue in swallow graves, covered with some dirt or sand, and left for the birds and other animals to feed on. The total area of the burial ground was then about half a hectare.
Samurai, the highest class in Shogunate Japan, never performed these executions. These acts and dealing with the dead was left up to the lowest, or rather classless, the Eta, a group that was forced to live near the execution grounds, northeast of Edo. During the long time of peace and therefore lack of real practice, samurai tested their swords on the corpses. The remains were also sometimes used for anatomical studies. In fact the one of the first scientific autopsies was performed on these remains in 1771 by Sugita Gempakku, a physician, using the then available medical science taught by the Dutch.
Some of the convicted met with a slightly better fate, that is they were properly buried in the Eko'in temple to the right of the grounds. Some of the famous people that were buried there was Nezumi Kozo, a notorious burglar, executed in 1832. Yoshida Shoin, a teacher whose nationalist view were not really appreciated. He met his fate in 1859. Last but not least was Takahashi Oden, who was found guilty of murder, and made history by being the last woman
Executions here stopped when the Tokugawa Shogunate collapsed in 1868. Nowadays it is just a small area crammed between the railroad tracks of Minami-Senju Station. It still has an unforgiving character; maybe for that reason people decided to put up a shrine under the watchful eye of the Buddha Statue for the remembrance of their pets.