Japanese courts convict with a vengeance: a defendant brought before a court of law has less than a one in one thousandth of a chance of being acquitted.
Listen: once arrested in Japan, the odds are stacked heavily against the suspect. In a typical year such as 2006, when 153,000 unlucky souls—including the protagonist of this novel—were taken into police custody, only 3% were released within the first seventy-two hours of their arrest. The remaining were detained, often incommunicado, for the next ten days where most were brow-beaten and some tortured into signing written confessions. In 54% of those cases, prosecutors requested an extension of detention in order to continue with their investigation, while another 28% who had already cracked were prosecuted outright, their confessions becoming the most damning piece of evidence used against them in a court of law.
Judges in Japan, far from being impartial adjudicators, rubber-stamp the paperwork of prosecutors, rejecting in 2006 a mere 70 out of more than 74,000 requests for extensions of detention, or less than one-tenth of one percent. The vast majority of those kept behind bars while their cases are investigated—that is, have their confessions coerced out of them—end up being charged with crimes. Again, over 99% of these are then found guilty.
Surely, some of them are innocent.
While the Gospel according to John may state that the truth will set you free, in the courts of Japan, truth can be the very slipknot they hang you with. So, what can you do if you are brought before the juggernaut that is Japan’s Ministry of Justice?
Lie, lie, lie.
Rokuban (No.6), a fast-paced novel about how an American expat beats the formidable odds, offers not only a satirical look into Japan’s Kafkaesque system of justice and the bizarre, sometimes humorous life behind bars, but also gives a fresh perspective on drug-use and subculture in today’s Japan.
In the parlance of Hollywood, it is Midnight Express meets The Usual Suspects meets Lost in Translations.