The number of death row inmates in Japan is expected to stand at 123 as of Dec. 31, continuing to surpass the threshold of 100 since 2007, Justice Ministry officials said Thursday.
In 2017, four convicts on death row were executed and four others died of illness, while two people were newly added to the list of such inmates after death sentences against them were finalized.
Of the four who were executed, three were still waiting to hear about their requests for retrials. Of the three, one was aged 19 at the time of the crime.
The hangings of inmates seeking retrials were the first since December 1999, while that of an inmate who committed a crime as a minor was the first since August 1997, both drawing flak from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and groups opposed to the death penalty.
Japan's capital punishment has drawn international criticism, while the federation has called for its abolition by 2020, demanding the introduction of lifetime imprisonment instead.
However, a majority of the Japanese public supports the death penalty. A 2014 government survey showed that 80.3 percent of Japanese people aged 20 or older favored capital punishment, down from a record 85.6 percent in the previous survey in 2009.