Prison Psychosis and Japanese War Criminals after WWII

After World War II, about eight thousand war criminals from the Japanese Empire were brought to trials. Some became mentally unstable or sick during their detention at prisons and serious cases were sent to Matsuzawa Hospital, which was the teaching and research hospital of the Department of Psychiatry at University of Tokyo. This paper is based on the observation of the eleven cases of prison psychosis during their stay at Matsuzawa and the follow-up surveys made after they left the hospital.


Denial, confusion and desperation were manifest. Many were tried for abuses they had committed against the captives of the Allied Forces. They did not recognize their deeds as “crimes”, insisting that they just followed the orders or rules when they punish the prisoners. The American style of the trials exacerbated their sense of alienation. Several cases were perhaps those of simulation, and one even bragged about his “cheating” after he was released and met the family. Attempts at suicide were frequent and three patients did commit suicide.


Utena Hiroshi and Ichiba Kazuo, “Cases of Prison Psychosis among War Criminals of B&C Classes at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo”, Seishin Igaku, 37(5), 527-537, 1995. [In Japanese].


臺弘・市場和男「スガモ・プリズンにおけるB,C級戦犯者の拘禁性精神病」『精神医学』37(5): 527-537, 1995.