The year marked the resumption of executions with seven inmates being put to death after none taking place in 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Monday. The newspaper said during 2012 nine additional people were sentenced to death, pushing the death row population to 133.
Those sentenced to death this year included Takayuki Otsuki, 31, convicted of killing a 23-year-old woman and her 11-month-old daughter in Yamaguchi prefecture, and Masanori Kawasaki, 66, convicted of killing his sister-in-law and her two granddaughters in Kagawa prefecture, the report said.
The Yomiuri reported that executions resumed this year after an internal panel of the Justice Ministry ended discussions on the death penalty, including whether capital punishment should be continued.
"It was difficult to continue with executions while discussions were under way in the study panel," one senior ministry official was quoted as saying.
The previous government, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, was defeated in parliamentary elections this month by the Liberal Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The LDP has named Sadakazu Tanigaki as the new justice minister.
Britain's Guardian newspaper has reported Japan is one of 58 countries, including the United States, China and Iran, where capital punishment is allowed. More than 140 countries, including all European Union members, have abolished the death penalty.