Japan executed four convicted murderers on Thursday, the second group to be hanged this year, the government said, in line with Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama's policy of cutting the number of prisoners on death row.
Numbers awaiting execution swelled to over 100 after a previous justice minister declined to sign execution orders because of his religious beliefs.
Those hanged included 42-year-old Masahito Sakamoto, convicted of kidnapping and killing a 16-year-old girl in 2002, among other offences, the Jusice Ministry said in a statement.
The executions bring to 10 the number of hangings under Hatoyama and come only two months after the last round of executions, an unusually short period in Japan.
"I have not paid any attention to the interval," Hatoyama told reporters. "As justice minister, I am simply carrying out the demands of the law."
Japan executed nine people last year, the highest number since 1976, but well behind the United States, which executed 40 in the same period.