Ikebukuro 'I was in prison and you visited me.'

The story of Okashita-san

Jin-san introduced us to Okashita-san. He too was on death row and was executed in April of this year. He was born into a very poor family in Hiroshima in 1946. In 1989, while living in Tokyo, he committed his crime and fled with Junko-san (who became his wife). He eluded capture till 1995. At first he was sentenced to 20-30 years, but the police intervened and he eventually received the death penalty.

Okashita-san began writing during his confinement. He read about a pastor and professor of poetry named Mitsumoto-san. He wrote to her, and she agreed to work with him. His reading of the Bible and his own poetry became a path of purification for him. We watched as he grew, and prepared himself for death.

Junko-san, his girlfriend and the mother of their children, had always remained close to him. She had petitioned for the right to marry Okashita-san, despite her fear that it could cause her to lose her job. Their eldest son began visiting his father whenever he passed through Tokyo. Up until that time he had been telling his own son that his grandfather was dead. But as this grandson prepared to enter high school, the father thought about telling him the truth, and spoke to Okashita-san about it. Okashita-san thought maybe it was better to leave things as they were. But the son decided that, since Okashita-san had known how to raise him, he would know how to speak to his grandson. A short time later Okashito-san received a letter from his grandson, "Grandfather, I thought you were dead and I am glad to know that you are alive. I will come to see you."

With the mother of one of our friendsWith the mother of one of our friends

In 2006, thanks to his teacher, Okashita-san's poems were published in a volume entitled "The Beginning of the End." He began to write about his life, so that his children would know who he really was in his own words, and not just from the media reports about him. Sensing that the end was near, he made copies of this unfinished work and sent them to a few friends. He sent a copy to Clara Choko and also asked us to deliver a letter to his friend Jin-san.

On April 10th they came for him. A friend called us when she saw it on the news, and we called his wife at work. She already knew, but couldn't speak to any of her co-workers about it. They next day we went with her and several of their children and the lawyer to claim his body and his personal effects. We went from the prison directly to a Protestant church for a small funeral service with about 30 people. Then we accompanied his body to the hospital, since Okashita-san had asked that his body be used for medical science. The doctor was very kind and said that, while they generally keep bodies 2-3 years, they would do what they could to return his remains as quickly as possible.

We finished the day at a friend's farm, sharing memories and comforting one another. Junko-san asked that we help her prepare the urn for her husband's ashes in a Christian style.

It has taken us a while to get back on our feet after these days of sadness and anger. We think of Jesus' words along the way of the cross, "Do not weep for me but for your own sins." And we would add, "and for the sins of our society." The rhythm of executions does not look like it is will slow down.