When in Abashiri … go to Prison
With his 1965 movie “Abashiri Prison” (also known under the original Japanese title “網走番外地” / “Abashiri Bangaichi” or as “A Man from Abashiri Prison”) director Teruo Ishii kickstarted in 1965 an extensive series of prison movies. It was the beginning of what is now known as the yakuza movie decade; the film also established Ken Takakura (高倉 健, Takakura Ken) finally as one of the most significant stars of the Japanese cinema, whose fame is in full blossom till today, even tho he died in 2014.
But who would have guessed that the movie was scripted around the real prison of Abashiri (a city with the reputation of the the coldest place in Japan – so guess how prison life was up there). And that´s only the start – because when in Abashiri, one finds today a new prison as well as the Abashiri Prison Museum, which opened in 1965 and presents 25 historical buildings from the original prison going back to the late 19 century.
So why not stroll by and inspect past and presence of the Japanese Judicial System. Spoiler: it was like often all about having cheap labour to do hard work like street and train tracks building… but one also gets insides in the production of soy sauce and miso as the prisons manufactured these products themselves to be self-sufficient.
Let´s start with a walk on the wild side of the current Abashiri Prison:
And now a little time travel via the Abashiri Prison Museum to the era when prison was most likely the last place a detained saw –unless you had a good escape plan up your sleeve: