People have always had boundless creativity when it comes to doing harm to their fellow man – and a certain morbid appetite for watching them suffer.
Nowadays, we get our (considerably tamer) kicks from hazing freshers and watching reality TV shows. Fear Factor, anyone? Another, slightly older example but summarized quite nicely in the following video, is the Japanese classic Za Gaman:
Now if you think all that looked painful, you ain’t seen nothing yet. People back in the day were Hard. Core.
There was no fancy-schmancy CSI stuff during the Edo period, so confessions were absolutely essential in criminal investigations. Naturally, methods to loosen the tongue and aid the extraction of said confessions also became essential… and in 1742, the Four Tortures were officialized in the Kujikata Osadamegaki (公事方御定書), or the Government Officials’ Guide. I think. Official names, why you so complicated?
Anyway, why these four among so many others? Were they particularly heinous?
Thankfully, a self-sacrificing reporter and his ever-so-obliging colleagues at The Detective Files (探偵ファイル) have taken it upon themselves to put these tortures to the test. I’ll be rating these tortures based on the videos they made using this handy-dandy pain-o-meter:
So, without further ado:
1. Whipping or Muchiuchi (笞打ち)
The name says it all, really. What, you need some visual aids? Okay, then…
The normal practice was much worse than the video indicates, though.
The topless suspect is bound with rope, made to kneel, and then had the living daylights beaten out of him. Usually, a houkijiri (箒尻) was used: a bamboo pole partway split into two lengthwise and reinforced with hemp string. As if that wasn’t bad enough, during breathers the official would sprinkle salt onto the suspect’s wounds to stop the bleeding. Yikes.
I rate this one a 7 on the pain-o-meter.
2. The Kneeling Torture or Ishidaki (石炊き)
Ishidaki is next in line if whipping proves ineffective. You might have come across toned-down versions of this in manga and anime.
The suspect is made to kneel seiza-style on triangular pieces of wood, with his arms tied behind him, and up to four heavy stones are placed on his lap. But that’s not all. To encourage him to confess, the stones may also be rocked from side to side, so the wood cuts into his shins even more.
But really, I’d be amazed if anyone needed that much encouragement to spill the beans. Considering all the screaming from the poor guy in the video, I rate this a 10 on the pain-o-meter.
3. The Shrimp-Tie or Ebiseme (エビ責め)
If the suspect still won’t confess, he’s stripped to his underwear and made to sit cross-legged. His hands are tied behind his back, and then he is bound bent over forward – basically curled up like a shrimp.
Then the officials wait… until the suspect confesses, or until the suspect’s legs turn blue. Hey, they just want a confession, not to kill him. Plus they can always repeat the torture again the next day.
Ebiseme doesn’t seem to be too gory or exceptionally painful. Maybe a 6 on the pain-o-meter.
4. The Hanging Torture or Tsurizeme (釣攻め)
The first three tortures are themselves collectively known as roumon (牢問), the, er, Three Tortures. Goodness knows how tsurizeme sneaked in. Almost like an afterthought.
Anyway, tsurizeme proper involves tying the suspect’s wrists behind his back, and then suspending him face down. If he was being particularly reticent, or if the official was being particularly sadistic, heavy stones might be added to his back or shoulders to make it more painful.
Although, judging by the following video, tsurizeme is plenty painful as it is.
I give this one an 8 on the pain-o-meter.
Incidentally, if this reminds you of kinbaku (緊縛), the erotic art of Japanese bondage, you’re not far off the mark! But that’s a whole other post altogether. Probably NSFW either (cough) moving on…
So, how would you rate the Four Tortures? Which do you think would have been most “effective”? And why do you think torture is not only allowed but hilarious when it is done in the name of TV?
DISCLAIMER: I should spell out that I don’t condone torture. And please don’t try this at home, even if you’ve got an annoying little brother just asking for it.