Shichu-hikimawashi (市中引き回し)

Shichu-hikimawashi was a kind of punishment in the Edo period, whereby a criminal was brought through the streets in public on horseback to the execution ground, together with 'sutefuda' (official notice board stating the details about the criminal and the crime). Shichu-hikimawashi is written in Kanji as "市中引き回し" or "市中引廻し."

Discussed here is shichu-hikimawashi which was conducted in Edo.

Outline of shichu-hikimawashi

Shichu-hikimawashi was not an independent penalty itself but was a supplementary penalty imposed on those criminals who were sentenced to beheading or graver.

A criminal whose sentence was finalized, after being brought out of Tenma-cho prison, was bound with rope and put on the back of a horse. The criminal was paraded through the streets of Edo, surrounded by zoshiki (town officials), whose social status was hinin (the people who belonged to none of the four 'classes' of the Edo period and were therefore considered outcasts), who carried such articles as a wooden 'sutefuda' on which the details about the crime were written, paper banners, two-pronged weapons and spears, with a group of coroners consisting of yoriki (police sergeants) and doshin (police constables) of South or North town magistrate's office of Edo who guarded the rear part of the procession sandwiching the criminal.

In a period film and the like, often a criminals is put on a bareback horse, but in reality a horse used for shichu-hikimawashi was saddled with a straw mat on top.

Route of shichu-hikimawashi

There were two routes for shichu-hikimawashi parading.

One was called 'Edo-ju-hikimawashi' (江戸中引廻), which was to start from Tenma-cho prison, go round the Edo-jo castle and return to the prison, and then the execution was carried out there.

The other route was called 'Gokasho-hikimawashi' (五ヶ所引廻), whereby the parade started from Tenma-cho prison, went past Nihonbashi bridge, Akasaka Gomon, Yotsuya Gomon, Sujikaibashi bridge and Ryogokubashi bridge, which were all located in the outer block of the Edo-jo castle, and then reached one of the then execution sites such as Kozukahara and Suzugamori. A 'Sutefuda' stating the details of the criminal such as name and age and of the crime itself was put up in each of the five places mentioned earlier and in the execution site (which meant 6 sutefuda were erected).

It appears that the decision on the route depended on the relative gravity of guiltiness as 'gokasho hikimawashi' involved a graver punishment (the severest punishment to be carried out in the prison being beheading, and the gravest type of execution in those days such as burning at the stake and crucifixion being conducted in the execution sites).

Episodes concerning shichu-hikimawashi
Shichu-hikimawashi was a long journey taking a day (gokasho-hikimawashi covered a distance of as long as 20 km), for which the criminal was given some money to buy things such as a drink and tobacco as wished by the criminal in consideration of the criminal's last journey. At one time, however, when one of such shichu-hikimawashi parades went past a merchant's store in Koishikawa, the criminal spied a woman suckling a baby among the onlookers on the street and said, "I like to suckle at her breast." One of the coroners told the woman to grant the criminal's wish, but this practice of 'special consideration' for the criminals was discontinued after this incident.

A shichu-hikimawashi parade involving a criminal who was a well known figure became quite like a major event. And, fearing that parading a poorly clad criminal might offend the people of the city, the Edo government ordered that the criminals be dressed neatly at the time of shichu-hikimawasi. It is said that Nezumi kozo (a benevolent robber of the later Edo period) wore beautiful kimono with light makeup and even some lipsticks on his lips.

When there is room for pity on the part of a criminal, a kind of disciplinary action called 'nobori-azuke'' was carried out based on an unwritten law of the time, whereby 'nobori' (banner) used in the criminal's hikimawashi was given to the criminal's employer. It was not allowed to dump such 'nobori', and a yoriki visited the store which held such 'nobori' on the anniversary of the criminal's death each year to conduct 'nobori-shirabe', in other words, to check if 'nobori' in question was still kept by the store. Most of the stores subject to this 'nobori-shirabe' are said to have failed, for people would keep away from such stores.