Like all prisoners on Japan's death row, Masao Akahori knew that his execution would come without warning. The fear made him stiffen at the sound of the guards' approaching footsteps, wondering whether the clack of boots was a countdown to death or would pass by, fading into the silence of another reprieve.
One morning in the early 1970s, the march stopped outside his cell and a key turned the lock.
"We have come to fetch you," the guards told him.
Akahori remembers his legs collapsing under him, that five guards had to drag him from his cell. He remembers the nervous whispering when the guards suddenly realized they had come to hang the wrong man.