Behind the camera: Published in the Mainichi Newspaper
Where: Leaving the Takanawa Police stn in Tokyo
Photo Summary: Sada Abe with policemen after her arrest
Picture Taken: May 20, 1936
This image is in the public domain because of its age
In 1930s Japan a Japanese woman became infatuated with and strangled her lover to death. After his death, she cut off his penis and carried it around with her while being chased by the police. When news of the crime broke that a “sexually and criminally dangerous woman was on the loose,” the nation was gripped with what was called “Abe Sada panic.” On the run for a few days, she was caught and spent six years in prison. She later became a sensation in Japanese culture for many decades. At the time of her arrest police were struck with her calm demeanor.
Sada Abe’s life
Born in 1905 Sada Abe was the youngest child of four. An independent girl at a young age she was sexually assaulted and perhaps due to this assault became difficult for her ageing parents to control. Abe was always fascinated with the Geisha lifestyle and so her father sold her to a Geisha House although there is some debate on whether she wanted to go or not. Abe found living the life of a Geisha extremely frustrating and quickly fell out with the house and turned to prostitution. She spent years working in the brothels until becoming the mistress of Kichizo Ishida.
The two became incredibly infatuated with each other spending days in hotels with marathon sex sessions that didn’t stop even when maids cleaned the rooms. When Ishida would return to his wife Abe became incredibly jealous and flirted with the idea of murdering him. Buying a knife she even threatened him during the next visit to the hotel but Ishida thought she was just role-playing and didn’t take her seriously. While making love she tried to strangle him with a cord but he actually enjoyed the restriction of his breath and told her to continue which threw her off. Later in the night, he passed out and Abe wrapped the cord again around his throat and strangled his sleeping body to death. Using the knife she removed his genitals with a knife, using the blood from the wound she wrote “Sada and Kitchi together” on the sheets, and carved her name on his arm with a knife. Later when the police asked about why she took Ishida’s genitalia, Abe replied, “Because I couldn’t take his head or body with me. I wanted to take the part of him that brought back to me the most vivid memories.”
“Abe Sada panic” and arrest
When the body was discovered the police released a media alert that sparked a public panic over a crazed woman running around Japan chopping of genitalia. Police were swamped with sightings from around the country. After the murder, she drifted around Tokyo eventually ending up in a hotel in southern Tokyo. After a massage and beers at the Inn, she fell asleep.
Police who were visiting all hotels, trying to find her, became suspicious of the alias she used to sign in. After apologetically entering her hotel room Abe Sada supposedly told the police, “Don’t be so formal, You’re looking for Sada Abe, right? Well that’s me. I am Sada Abe.” The police didn’t actually believe her but were finally convinced when she displayed Ishida’s genitalia. While interrogating Abe officers were struck by Abe’s demeanour. When they asked why she had killed Ishida. “Immediately she became excited and her eyes sparkled in a strange way [and she said] ‘I loved him so much, I wanted him all to myself. But since we were not husband and wife, as long as he lived he could be embraced by other women. I knew that if I killed him no other woman could ever touch him again, so I killed him…..’ William Johnston who wrote the book, Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star: A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan suggests that what made Abe so fascinating to the Japanese public was that “she had killed not out of jealousy but out of love.”
Abe was sentenced to six years in prison which she served and was released. She tried to live her life in obscurity but the nature of her crime brought her back into the limelight. She wrote a book about her life and there were many other unofficial bios published.
The Abe craze started a little cottage industry in Japan. The hotels they stayed at saw a huge jump in business as young couples wanted to stay in the same room. Shinagawaka, the Inn where she was arrested, kept the room in the same condition as when the police caught her. In addition to the books published there are even some movies about her life, including a number of A/V films or Porn Movies.