The appointment of Keiko Chiba as Japan's new justice minister has the effect of imposing a moratorium on the death penalty. She has been an active opponent of capital punishment for many years. See: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6840248.ece. Under Japan's system of secret executions, prisoners wait on death row, usually for many years, and are only told that they are to be executed on the day of the hanging. Families are informed after the execution. See the Amnesty International report on the subject issued last week: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_19662.pdf. Aside from the United States, Japan is the only developed country to retain the death penalty. For many years it has only been rarely imposed, but in the last few years there has been a real spike in executions. The recent political developments in Japan change all that.
Thanks to Eadaoin O'Brien.