Written by HV, a prisoner in Japan

The author of this article has had various health issues which has meant that she has been moved to a healthcare unit in Japan where she is detained. Although we appreciate that the conditions and food available are not typical of a prison experience, we thought it was interesting to read what a typical day here may be like. The food seems to be a great improvement, but the same issues of isolation and lack of stimulation clearly exist.

07:30 – Wake up to chimes, ten minutes later ‘roll-call’. In the mornings my number is ‘Ichi’ (one), evening time it’s ‘Shichi Go Zero’ (750). I’ve got no idea why. You are expected to sit on your hospital bed and face the door.

08:00 to 08:20 – Breakfast: I receive one box 200ml strawberry-flavoured supplement (200 calories) containing vitamins: A, B, C, D, B2, B1, Calcium, B6, Magnesium, potassium, B12, K2 and Sodium. I get three slices of bread sealed in separate bags, a small bowl of flavoured water soup (usually herbs, onion, or tofu), another small bowl with pieces of chicken broken up with a vegetable, and a pot of black tea which looks more red to me but tastes ok.

09:00 – Rest time: reading is permitted but no writing allowed.

11:00 – Rest time over. I make a hurried dash for pen and paper, occasionally nearly garrotting myself with the oxygen tube which is attached to me (which I need for medical reasons).

11:50 – Lunch is served: a small bowl with two ‘English’ potatoes, some minced chicken and onion... Then a huge bowl of egg noodles, a lot of finely sliced cucumber, a few pieces of white meat (chicken) and thinly sliced Japanese egg (which tastes sweet). The accompanying sauce is sharp and bitter and I have grown to really like it. Dessert is a small container of mango jelly. I’m so full I can’t move. I get a pot of cold tea to wash it down.

13:00 – Rest time (same as earlier).

15:00 – I’m still full from lunch so I do my adapted exercises.

16:00 to 16:20 – Dinner is served: three slices of bread, flavoured water soup containing chopped onion, strips of sesame seed-covered chicken with green beans, spinach and carrots. Another pot of tea (this time hot) with my supplement. I only manage a little and drink my supplement.

16:40 to 16:55 – Clean teeth and wash.

16:55 to 17:00 – Roll-call – I must not forget to say ‘750’! After this, I’m free to do as I wish (in the confines of my cell), so I usually write or read.

21:00 – This time comes too quickly and I’m not tired. Even so, lights go out so I try to get myself to sleep.
And so the saga continues, the same almost every day. Good night… I must not forget my ear plugs (the air-con is very noisy).
The best day for food is Thursday. Everyone gets bread, and we get margarine with either chocolate jam, peanut jam, strawberry jam or marmalade, but only one portion sadly. In general the food here is OK. I guess because it’s a medical centre we get better food than the regular prison. It could be a lot worse, so I’m grateful at least for that. It’s better than the previous prison where I was. We get chicken so often I’m worried I’m about to start sprouting feathers. I hope they fall out before I go home!
The medical centre is almost like a real hospital. There’s no shared wards though, so they keep us isolated. We each have our own private room which is quite large. Sometimes it’s so quiet it feels like you could hear a pin drop. I have a large window which has thick iron bars and there’s a huge steel door which is so heavy, you almost have to be a bodybuilder to open and close it.

Being offered a lifeline can change everything. 

Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health.