The Kozukappara Execution Grounds (it can also be read as Kozukahara) was one of Tokyo’s foremost locations for carrying out executions during the Edo Period.

Kozukaparra was the site of an estimated 200,000 deaths from its foundation in 1651 until its closure in 1873. Methods of execution included burning at the stake, crucifixion, and beheading.

The execution grounds were located near Senju Ohashi Bridge over the Sumida River, which was the northern gateway to the capital. Like its counterparts—Suzugamori Execution Grounds near the southern entrance to Edo, and Owada Execution Grounds to the west of Tokyo—Kozukappara was intended as a brutal warning to ronin samurai and enemies of the Shogunate.

After execution, bodies (and heads) were left to rot and be gnawed at by wild dogs and weasels. With the stench of rotting bodies (especially during the hot summer months), the execution grounds were described as “hell”.

Kozukappara also served an important role in medical science during the Edo Period. In 1774 a Dutch anatomy text was translated into Japanese for the first time. Japanese physicians of the era conducted disections of the corpses at Kozukappara to confirm the contents of the translated text. Other than disections, the bodies were also used to test swords.

Today, the grounds themselves are disected by the JR Joban Line and the Tsukuba Express. The site of the execution grounds is taken up by Ekoin Temple just to the north of the train lines and Enmeiji Temple to the south. A large sitting Buddha called the Kubi-kiri Jizo (literally neck-cutting Buddha) has been at the site since 1741, although it was moved slightly to next to Enmeiji, when the rail lines were constructed in 1895.

There are none of the ruins on display that you can see at the Suzugamori Execution Grounds, but some of the tools used (such as the sword for removing heads) can be viewed at the Arakawa Furusato Museum.

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