NEKATA.: A story about a Japanese murderer on Death Row

A story about a Japanese

murderer on Death Row

This was an experience from

Japan, as told by a circuit


(w81 5/15 3, yb73 244-245 and

w59 637-639)

Jehovah's Witnesses were doing

street work 0
and placed some

magazines with a man.

At first, the fellow decided he

would discard them in the next

trash-can. He just thought he

was doing the Witnesses a favor

by buying the magazines. As he

walked along however, he

thought of a man he knew in

prison; he would send them to

him instead!

So these magazines got into the

hands of a man named Nekata,

serving time on death row. He

was serving time for multiple

murders, and considered

incorrigible. He was so mean and

ugly that he would spit on

anyone that came

near his cell and he would shout

out the worst obscenities at

people. He would often take his

cup and bang it against the bars

and shout, "kill me now, kill me

now". Everyone hated this man,

there were not very many that

didn't want to hang him

themselves I Nekata had been in

and out of prison all his life, and

he was only 29 years old. The

only person that ever came to

see him was his father, once a

month, feeling it was an


This was the man that got the

Watchtower and Awake and read

them. And something clicked. He

noticed it could be obtained by

subscription, so when his father

came to visit him, he asked him

for the money to get a

subscription to the magazines.

The father thought it couldn't

hurt him, and gave him the

money. Nekata read them


Eventually, the local congregation

received a follow-up notice for

the expiring subscriptions. The

slip was given to a special

pioneer, who went out looking

for the address on his bicycle. He

didn't know Nekata was in

prison. He went right past the

prison, and couldn't find the

address, so he went to a guard

station and asked if they knew

where this particular

address was. They directed him

to go past the bushes, and to the

tower down the road. "But that's

the prison" the brother says. The

guards reply, "No, you don't say!

By the way, who are you looking

for?" He says a man named


They both replied, "NEKATA!II"

"Are you sure you want to see

HIM?, they ask. This doesn't

dismay the brother, and off he

goes up to the big gate, and asks

to see the warden, and asks him

to see Nekata. Even the warden

says "What do you want with the

man Nekata?" The pioneer

explains and is allowed inside. He

has to go through heavy steel

doors and gates and comes to

this very thick door, with a small

window about two and a half

inches in size with wire mesh,

just big enough to see the

person on the other side. The

brother starts talking to Nekata,

and can tell he has been reading

the magazines and seems to

have a great deal of interest in

them, so he offers him a Bible

study. Nekata readily accepts it.

So the brother begins to have a

study with him every week. They

have to conduct it with that thick

door between them, though.

Very soon Nekata begins to

change into a different kind of

person. He even begins to

apologize to people he had

previously spit upon and

screamed rebukes at. He tells

them he is studying the Bible and

learning a new way of life, and

he asks them for forgiveness and

he would tell them a little about

the Kingdom. He would try to

write to people he could not

contact from his cell. He

continued to make great

progress each day, and this

encouraged the brother studying

with him, so much so, that he

even kept the local congregation

informed on Nekata's progress.

How would you feel if you had a

study like that and then were

sent away? That was just what

happened, the special pioneer

was sent to another part of

Japan on a new assignment. So

he went to the Fukuoka

missionary home, and asked

Percy Islop if he would continue

the study. Br. Islop was delighted

and went right over and

resumed the Bible study. Nekata

continued to read everything he

could get his hands on that

would help him learn the Truth,

and he was making application

of what he was learning.

Finally, Percy went to the warden,

and asked if they could study

face to face. The warden said

that this sort of thing is unheard

of, as this man is on death row.

But, the warden says, even

though it is against all

regulations, I'm going to let you

study in the recreation center,

next to my office. The warden

had noticed the changes in this

man, and that was why he

allowed it, however, they had to

have an armed guard go along

with them.

The first time they met face to

face. Nekata just grabbed and

hugged Percy, considering him a

real brother, and tears came to

both of them. Every week they

would study one hour, and

during that time Brother Islop

would also bring out a point

from the Watchtower, Book

Study, Service Meeting, Theocratic

Ministry School, and the Public

Talk. So that hour was always

jam- packed! The guard couldn't

believe his ears, he kept hearing

Nekata make the heartfelt

statements that a Christian would

make. The guard became so

impressed to see the changes in

this man that he began to allow

them an extra 15 minutes each

week. He began to like Nekata

and sometimes he would even

allow them a little extra time.

Percy began to look upon Nekata

as a son, and a close bond

developed between them.

What did Nekata do with this

new -found information? Well, he

would watch the clock in his cell,

and every time the hour came

when the meeting would start in

the local congregation, Nekata

would stand at attention in his

very best that he could get on

death row, and would have his

hair all combed back neatly. Then

he would begin the meeting with

the brothers, and he tried to

imagine what songs they might

sing, the prayers they might say,

and all the different parts of the

program. This was his pattern,

and it didn't take long to realize

that Nekata had dedicated his life

to Jehovah. He was also

preaching to everyone on every

occasion he could.

So Brother Islop went to see the

warden and asked if he could

baptize Nekata. The warden said

he didn't see why not, they

would just get some water and

sprinkle it on his head. Then Br.

Islop explained that was not the

proper way to be baptized and

explained that Nekata would

have to be completely covered by

the water, and then come up out

of the water, symbolizing how he

would in effect, die to his old

way of life and come out of the

water to a new way of life, like

Jesus when he was baptized in

the Jordan. The warden said that

was a bit of a problem, but that

they would have to find a way,

because he had never seen

anyone change so much as


So, they had the baptism on

death row, and they were able to

have a number of the brothers

come in and witness it. There

was this little ceremony and then

they baptized him, and when he

came up out of the water, he

was so happy, he cried for joy.

They didn't know if there was

more water coming from the

eyes of Nekata and the-brothers

than the water he was baptized

in. It was a touching moment,

and he hugged all the brothers.

Now he was a baptized Witness!

And you might think that was the

end. But it wasn't, because

Nekata wanted to be much more.

Now he was a full-fledged

brother and he proceeded to

thank Jehovah right there on that

occasion. He wanted to do so

much more but was limited in

prison. So he wrote a poem,

about the New Order, Jehovah

God, and the Kingdom. He then

entered it into a contest, and it

won first prize. It was a beautiful

poem. The winner was to go to

the governor's mansion and

accept the award from the

governor himself. So they had to

make a change in the

arrangements; guess who went

to death row? The governor! But

this only made more publicity for

the poem. It was published, and

many more received a witness

from death row by means of that

beautiful poem. Nekata also

began to study Braille and

mastered it, then he took the

Kingdom book and translated

every bit of it into Braille. He

worked night and day on it. And

he made copies of it, which the

brothers distributed, and people

that were blind were able to

learn of the Kingdom from death

row. The books even went to

Korea by means of a district

overseer, and blind people in that

land were able to learn as well.

Nekata would write letters to the

congregation, letters expressing

his appreciation for the

brotherhood, and he would ask

the brothers not to take the

Truth for granted. He said if you

could see it from my situation, I

would even crawl several miles to

the meetings and crawl back if I

could. He wrote also that they

should never take the meeting

for granted, and never miss one

unless they had a scriptural

reason. He said they would never

know how much he wanted to

be there with them. Then he

would say he wondered what it

would be like to preach regularly

on the outside, to visit and

associate with other families in

the Truth. He said do not ever

take the Truth for granted, and

he encouraged them to endure.

One night, they got a call at the

missionary home while they

were all sitting at the table. It

was the warden and he told

Brother Islop that Nekata would

be put to death the following

morning at 9am. He said there

was no way they could stop the

execution, because the

government had set the date.

Three witnesses hired by the

government, three government

officials, and a doctor

pronounced him guilty for his

crimes, so he had been tried and

nothing could change the

decision. What a night the

missionaries had, tears in their

eyes as they prayed for their

brother. Nekata's father wasn't

even informed until the day after

the execution. But the warden

had called Brother Islop because

he knew of the bond that had

developed between them.

The warden had made another

concession, and in the morning

he arranged for a limousine to

pick up Percy Islop, so that he

could be with Nekata at death.

They drove into the large

complex with the guards and

way down the field were the

gallows. A group of officials were

there along with the warden.

They brought Percy in, and about

20 minutes later they brought

Nekata out in chains. The news

had spread all over the prison,

about the study and about the

changes, and they just hated to

see this day coming down. Then

everyone there saw Percy take

Nekata by the hand and Nekata

just hugged Percy. Here Percy

had come to encourage Nekata,

but Percy just broke down and

cried, and the tears were


Nekata said to Percy, "be strong,

I'm going to be strong. Percy. I'm

only going to sleep a little while,

and then I'll be able to serve my

God again. I believe in the

resurrection. And I'm ready to

pay the debt I owe to Jehovah

God and the debt I owe to

society for the crimes I have

committed." Then he encouraged

Br. Islop and told him to be


Then Nekata bowed to the

warden in typical Japanese

fashion and said, "I want to

thank this man, I want to thank

the warden of this prison for

allowing me to study the Bible in

the recreation hall. He will never

know what that meant to me."

Then he thanked the warden for

allowing him to be baptized and

for allowing his brothers to be

there on that day. And for

allowing Br. Islop to be there this

day. "He made these concessions,

and may he see that it has

brought me such joy, the Truth

of God's word." Then the warden

jumped up and held his hand

and said, "I, I want to thank you

for being such a model prisoner,

ever since your contact with

Jehovah's Witnesses. We thank

you!! And none of us want to see

you die, this is the saddest day in

our lives. You, Mr. Nekata, are a

credit to your God, Jehovah."

What a witness that was!

Now it was time for them to go

to the gallows, Percy in a car,

Nekata in a truck. They go and

pull up by the gallows and all the

people come down, the officials,

etc. The gallows had a rope with

a noose on it and a long flight of

stairs leading up to it, with ten

armed guards along the way.

Now the people are becoming

emotional and some fainting, but

Nekata is

unusually calm. He gets off the

truck and walks right up those

stairs, and Percy is right behind

him. Nobody had to push him

along. Percy has his book-bag,

because he is going to share the

Bible with Nekata when they get

up there. At the top there is a

table and two chairs, with some

cake and tea on the table. You

may wonder what this is all for, it

is the typical Last Meal. They sit

down and Nekata offers Percy

some, but he is so upset, he can't

eat or drink. So Nekata has his

portion also and says, "Percy, you

will have a lot more time." Percy

begins to talk to Nekata, and

Nekata starts to talk about the

high points of the magazines,

from the first Watchtower he

read down till the present time,

and how the Truth has put his

mind and heart on the way to

life. They talk of a number of

highlights and Percy has tears in

his eyes.

Then Nekata suddenly says

"Percy, you know I've never

heard a Kingdom Song." Percy

says, "You don't want me to sing,

do you?" Nekata says "Yes", so

Percy gets out his songbook and

tries singing, but he's crying all

the way through. Soon Nekata

says, "That's O.K., I'll hear you in

the new order" and lets him off

the hook. They talk a little more

and Nekata says, ' I've often

thought of being free like a little

bird to go out and preach the

good news. But if I had been free

Percy, I may never have listened

to the truth. And although I'm on

my way to death, I'm on my way

to life, because I know Jehovah

and I wouldn't trade it for the

world." He encourages the

brotherhood and tells Percy what

to tell the brothers. Then they

have a prayer and say good-bye

with a big bear hug.

Percy then has to go down,

Nekata takes his slippers off and

starts walking right over to the

trap door and then he turns

around and says, "Percy, what's

that verse, the one about the

heart?, that is, the one they had

been talking about. Percy replies

that it is about the circumcision

of the heart and he says, "You

don't have to worry, your heart is

circumcised, you can die clean."

Nekata says, "I want to

remember that when I die. Percy,

just a few steps to the noose and

I've fought the fine fight, I've run

the race to the finish and soon it

will all be over for me. My reward

is ahead. Percy, you and my

brothers are the ones that have

the hard fight ahead of you,

you're the ones that have to

endure, you're the ones that will

have to stay faithful, and not take

the truth for granted. And, if you

stay faithful I'll see you in a little

while. Then I'll be resurrected

and restored to life, and I'll see

you there if you are faithful and

my brothers if they are faithful.


Then he walked over to the trap

door and they put the noose

around his neck, and they

dropped the trap door. And he

was heard to say "Oh, Jehovah

help." The rope came tight, and

they pronounced him dead 11

minutes later.

A further development in this

story came to light a little while

later. One of the government

witnesses to the hanging

worked in a government office

with one of Jehovah's Witnesses

and he revealed something to

that Witness. Right away the

Witness got in touch with Br.

Islop and asked him, "Do you

know what Nekata said at

death?" Percy said yes, he was

there. He said "Oh, Jehovah help."

The Witness said that his final

words were "Oh, Jehovah help

Brother Islop!"

Who was he thinking about

when he drew his last breath? He

was praying for Brother Islop,

and if he had enough breath left

he'd be praying for the other

brothers too! He was a Christian.

He really appreciated the

brotherhood and unity; he loved

the brothers. What a fabulous

Witness he turned out to be.

The warden told the father the

next day about the execution,

and the father went to the

morgue. He had kept up to a

degree on the progress that his

son had been making in the

Truth. At the morgue he

demanded to see the face of his

son as accorded by law. They

took him in, along with Br. Islop,

and he saw the face of his dead

son. He saw the changes Nekata

had made and what he stood for

and he said he must have had

the truth!

The father came into the truth

and became an elder in a

congregation, and Nekata's

invalid mother also came in the

truth as well as many others. All

because of this man and what he


The circuit overseer closes these

remarks to the congregation by

saying, that before today you

probably never heard of this

brother, but Jehovah knew about

him. In the new order we will

meet brothers like that, but we

have to endure and highly

esteem the Truth as something

wonderful in our lives and not let

the Truth take a back seat to


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