Monday, November 16, 2009

Torture Porn



Tired of the same old boring history museums filled with stone arrowheads and clay statues? The basement of Meiji University features a permanent exhibit which sheds light on the dark side of anthropology: Legalized and regulated methods of torture.

Decapitation by Saw(鋸挽き)


Legend has it that the most despicable of criminals were buried in the ground up to their neck, then decapitated with saws made of bamboo. It would take many blows to work through the bone, and the bound criminal faced excruciating pain as their flesh was slowly chipped away.





The tradition lived on in a fashion through the Edo period, though the actual execution was humanitarian by comparison. Criminals would be contained from the neck-down in a wheeled box and left in the middle of the town for two days for public mocking. On the third day they would be carted throughout the town for a final parade of jeers, followed by their subsequent crucifixion and death.

Head Spikes (獄門首台木) and Crucifixion Pillar (磔柱)

During the Edo Period there was no act more despicable than inflicting harm or death upon your parents, master, or teacher. Such heinous criminals were tied to crucifixes and stabbed to death with spears. As a warning to others, their corpse was decapitated and their head was set on display for three days at the dungeon’s front gate.










Burned at the Stake


One stray ember could raze a village, and arsonists were dealt with by ironic severity that would make Dante proud. Firebugs were tied to a wooden stake with bamboo rings and literally buried in firewood before being roasted alive.





Fumi-E (踏み絵)

The Tokugawa Shogunate were always on the lookout for hidden Christians to murder and torture, and the fumi-e became their bog standard psychological litmus test. Can you trample upon an image of Christ? If yes, you go home. If not, well, you get to join him on the cross. Interesting that practicing Christianity was once considered as vile as murder.



Stone Press Torture (石抱き責め)

Victims were forced to kneel with 50 kilogram stone blocks laid across their thighs. They would be tied up straight to a wooden beam to restrict their movement while they endured the crushing agony coupled with the sting of the jailer's club. This seems like the best method to totally wreck someone for life without actually killing them.





Iron Maiden

Something cool I never knew about iron maidens: They’re rigged for their bottom to drop out upon re-opening, dumping the gore and mutilated corpse into a pit located beneath the device. Highly practical.



Hanging Pillar (絞首柱)

The condemned were strangled using a system of two counter weights. Death was slow and painful. The system had other problems as well and was repealed just three years after its introduction in 1870.



In 1873, Japan joined the rest of civilized world with their upgrade to traditional gallows. Revised hanging laws ensured that the process became more efficient and humane. Note the face towelette, just like in Japanese beauty salons!



Chastity Belt

Purportedly fashioned to keep women faithful to their husbands, in practice it was simply another way to keep women oppressed. While theories on the belt's purpose deviate, most historians agree that the cute heart and flower designs were precursors to modern lingerie sensibilities.



If you need further motivation to visit, remember that Meiji University is a quick jaunt away from Jinbocho, the used book capital of Tokyo. Happy hunting.

Criminal torture devices

4 comments:

  1. So rad. I'm gonna go there tomorrow-

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  2. Wow this is a museum that my university own....I remember going there and feeling horrified.

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  3. Great and informative post.

    ReplyDelete