130 posts tagged tokyo
Issei Sagawa (佐川 一政 Sagawa Issei, born April 26, 1949) is a Japanese man who in 1981 murdered and cannibalized a Dutch woman named Renée Hartevelt. After his release, he became a minor celebrity in Japan and made a living through the public’s interest in his crime.
He was a short man, just under five feet tall. His hands and feet were small and even his voice was more like that of a girl. He had mentioned in some interviews that he wasn’t the kind of man most women would find attractive, and he surmised that being acutely self-conscious of his shortcomings might have fueled his obsession with “the perfect woman.”
In Cannibal Killers, Moira Martingale describes how Issei Sagawa, a brilliant Japanese student, obsessed over tall women with Occidental features. Eventually fantasy was not enough, so while studying for his degree in English literature at Wako University in Tokyo, he became attracted to a German woman who was teaching him the language.
“When I met this woman in the street,” he later said to British reporter Peter McGill, “I wondered if I could eat her.”
One summer day, he crawled through the window of her apartment, intent on killing her. To his delight, she was asleep. Even better, she was wearing hardly anything at all. He looked for something to use to knock her out or stab her and he spotted an umbrella. However, before he could do anything, the woman woke up and saw him there. She screamed, scaring him, and he fled from her apartment.
But he did not forget what he most desired. It had been almost too easy to get close to a woman, and if he prepared himself better, he felt sure he could indulge in his fantasy. He just had to plan it more effectively, so he began to look around for his next victim—one that would not get away. It wasn’t until he went to Paris a few years later that he found the woman that he could not get off his mind. Her white skin, the fleshy shape of her buttocks, and her beautiful features both repulsed and drew him. He started to insinuate himself into her life.
Sagawa served time in a French jail for the murder of the Dutch student Renée Hartevelt, a classmate at the Sorbonne Academy in Paris, France. On June 11, 1981, Sagawa, a 32 year old student of Comparative literature, invited Hartevelt to dinner at his 10 Rue Erlanger apartment under the pretense of translating German poetry for a class he was taking. Upon her arrival, he got her to begin reading the poetry and then shot her in the neck with a rifle while she sat with her back to him at a desk. He then began to carry out his plan of eating her. He first tried to bite into her buttocks with merely his teeth but immediately realized this to be impossible and so went out to buy a butchers knife. She was selected because of her health and beauty, those characteristics Sagawa believed he lacked. Sagawa describes himself as a “weak, ugly, and small man” (he is just under 5 ft (1.52 m) tall) and claims that he wanted to “absorb her energy”.
Sagawa said he fainted after the shock of shooting her, but awoke with the realization that he had to carry out his desire to eat her. He did so, beginning with her hips and legs, after having sex with the corpse. In interviews, he noted his surprise at the “corn-colored” nature of human fat. For two days, Sagawa ate various parts of her body. He described the meat as “soft” and “odorless”, like tuna. He then attempted to dump the mutilated body in a remote lake, but was seen in the act and later arrested by the French police who found parts of the deceased still in his fridge.
His wealthy father provided a top lawyer for his defense, and after being held for two years without trial the French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière found him “obviously” legally insane and unfit to stand trial and ordered Sagawa to be held indefinitely in a mental institution. Following a visit by the author Inuhiko Yomota, Sagawa’s account of the murder was published in Japan with the title In the Fog. The subsequent publicity and macabre celebrity of Sagawa likely contributed to the French authorities’ decision to have him extradited to Japan. Upon arrival in Japan, he was immediately taken to Matsuzawa hospital, where examining psychologists all found him to be sane but “evil”. However, Japanese authorities found it to be legally impossible to hold him, because the French court refused to hand pertinent paper to Japan, claiming that the case was already dropped in France. As a result, Sagawa checked himself out of the mental institution on August 12, 1986, and has been a free man ever since.