The magazine shows a softer side to inmates in their daily work

FUKUOKA – The cover of a new the magazine shows a woman sitting on an “engawa” veranda with a cup of green tea in her hand, nothing out of the ordinary.

The Lutone magazine article …, titled “Nihon no Natsu, Nihoncha no Natsu” (Summer in Japan – Summer of Japanese tea), features on the front page a vast tea plantation under a blue sky.

But unlike other magazines, a man featured in the story covers his face with a balaclava. He is a 50-year-old inmate who grows tea on the plantation.

The story was published in an unusual magazine which portrays detainees who work hard to be rehabilitated and those around them.

It was launched in September by the Justice Ministry’s Fukuoka Regional Correctional Headquarters in the Higashi Ward of Fukuoka, which oversees prisons and detention centers in the Kyushu region and Okinawa Prefecture.

The first issue is dedicated to Kagoshima Prison in Yusui, Kagoshima Prefecture.

The prison has been growing its inmates and brewing Japanese tea since 1952. The man pictured with the balaclava said he was assigned the task in September of last year.

“I worked hard when I was 20, but I ruined myself playing and lost everything, including my family,” the man said in the article. “I just want to avoid the pain and take the easy road. … Here we do not use any agricultural chemicals and we pull the weeds by hand. It’s hard work, but I think I’m no longer tempted to take the easy route.

The magazine also features interviews with prison officers and a married couple who sell tea grown by inmates at a nearby onsen hot spring.

“I knew they (the inmates) were growing the tea, but I didn’t expect it to taste so good,” the woman said. “I have mixed feelings when I think of the victims (of crimes committed by inmates), but I want inmates to do their best for the rest of their lives. “


The magazine was produced by officials from the Second Division of the Headquarters responsible for overseeing the work and education of inmates.

A team led by Koji Kayahara, 47, who became head of the division in April, planned the magazine. The team also conducted interviews, wrote articles and designed the magazine. A total of 3,000 copies were printed at the beginning of September.

The magazine’s name, Lutone, is derived from the suffix “surutone”, a dialect used in Fukuoka and other parts of the Kyushu region.

The magazine was inspired by on-board magazines and those displayed in fancy cafes. Many PR magazines featuring prisons are nothing more than a catalog of products made by inmates and rarely spotlight inmates and those around them.

“We wanted to make a magazine that didn’t match the image of prisons,” Kayahara said.

He came to think of this in Asahikawa Prison in Hokkaido, where he was first posted about 20 years ago. An elderly woman had visited the prison for many years to purchase shoes made by inmates.

He said the woman told him that her husband liked these shoes because they were comfortable to wear and that even after her husband passed away, she continued to buy the shoes to offer them on the family Buddhist altar at home. it in his memory.

While working in Yokohama, Kayahara filmed inmates making medical gowns, which were rare at the time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as doctors and nurses wearing handmade gowns.

When he showed the videos to inmates and medical staff, they expressed their gratitude and encouraged each other.


Kayahara said he hopes raising awareness that inmates make things that are precious for people will help prevent them from becoming repeat offenders and make others more willing to give them a second chance.

Fukuoka Regional Prison Headquarters plans to continue interviewing other prisons within its jurisdiction and to publish Lutone Magazine … quarterly.

Copies of the magazine are available at JR Chihaya Station on the Kagoshima Line and at Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co. stations in the Higashi district of Fukuoka. Headquarters also distributes copies to penitentiaries and business operators.

Videos shot during interviews for the magazine are also posted on the Justice Department’s Corrections Office Twitter account and the department’s YouTube channel.

Clifton L. Boyd