This stark, almost peaceful-looking room is actually Japan's execution room. The ring on top is for the noose, the red square outlines the trapdoor, and this is the first time Japan has ever shown these rooms off.
Much of Japan's execution process has previously been shrouded in mystery (which added to the reveal). In fact, when local news outlets were taken to these execution sites (seven exist in the country), they were transported in a bus with closed curtains to keep the location a secret. In the first viewing of these execution rooms, the New York Times describes the execution process:
The journalists were led through the chambers, one by one: a chapel with a Buddhist altar where the condemned are read their last rites; a small room, also with a Buddha statue, where a prison warden officially orders the execution; the execution room, with a pulley and rings for the rope and a trapdoor where the condemned inmate stands; and the viewing room where officials witness the hanging.
The inmate is handcuffed and blindfolded before entering the execution room, officials said. Three prison wardens push separate buttons, only one of which releases the trapdoor - but they never find out which one. Wardens are given a bonus of about $US230 every time they attend an execution.
All executions in Japan are done by hanging, and apparently out of the countries who make up the G8, the United States and Japan are the only countries who still enforce capital punishment. [NY Times]