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On May 18, 1936, Sada Abe strangled her lover, Kichizo Ishida, to death. After laying with the body for several hours, she took a kitchen knife and severed his genitals. Wrapping them in a magazine cover, she used his blood to write Sada, Kichi Futari-kiri ("Sada, Kichi together") on his left thigh and on a bed sheet. She then carved her name on his left arm, got dressed, and walked out of the room in the Tokyo inn where they had been staying. Sada instructed the staff not to disturb Ishida and left the inn. Shortly afterward, she went to see a politically prominent former lover, Goro Amiya, and apologized to him repeatedly. He had no idea what she was talking about but she was well aware that this career was about to be ruined by the adverse publicity due to her involvement with him. She was right.
Born to a well-off Tokyo family in 1905, Sada Abe (or Abe Sada depending on the naming tradition used) was doted on by her mother who encouraged her to be free-spirited and independent. At the age of fifteen, she was raped by an acquaintance. While her parents supported her through the investigation that followed, Sada was never the same afterward.
As she became more uncontrollable, her father sold her to a geisha house in Yokohama although family members would later disagree as to why. While Sada maintained that she was being punished for her promiscuous behaviour, her sister would state that she had been perfectly willing. Becoming an accomplished geisha was a mark of distinction for Japanese women of the time and Sada had often expressed her wish to pursue this lifestyle.
Whatever ideas Sada about the glamorous life of a geisha, the reality was very different. After contracting syphilis from a client, she turned to prostitution and began working in Osaka's brothel district. Working as a licensed prostitute posed more problems than she was prepared to deal with and she eventually drifted towards unlicensed prostitution (with all the usual dangers). After both her parents died, she became even more unrestrained. A raid on the brothel where she was working in 1934 led to her becoming the mistress of a well-connected friend of the brothel owner. A string of other lovers followed as she tried to get out of prostitution entirely. In 1936, Sada became an apprentice in a restaurant in an attempt at starting a new life. This was how she met Kichizo Ishida.
Despite being the owner of the Yoshidaya restaurant where Sada worked, it was really his wife who ran the business. The 42-year old Ishida was a frequent womanizer who was bored with his marriage and it didn't take long from him to notice his free-spirited apprentice. Sada in turn, despite already being involved with Omiya at the time, didn't hesitate when the handsome Ishida approached her (she would later say that "I never met such a sexy man"). Their lovemaking bouts were legendary and often lasted for days. Whatever Ishida's plans, Sada found herself falling in love with him (possibly for the first time in her life). Just being his mistress wasn't enough for her, she wanted to be his wife and the idea of sharing him another woman infuriated her.
Sada grew more despondent as Ishida drew away from her and she began drinking heavily. Inspired by a play that she had seen featuring a geisha threatening a lover with a knife, Sada bought a large kitchen knife and threatened Ishida with it at their next meeting. Ishida was amused by her threats and took her off to an inn in the Ogu red light district for their next lovemaking marathon. What happened next is mainly based on Sada's testimony. After two days of lovemaking, she took the obi off her kimono and began strangling him. He found the erotic asphyxia enjoyable and told he to do it while he was sleeping. On the morning of May 18th, she strangled him to death (whether intentionally or not is open to debate) and would later say that she felt a "sense of clarity" on realizing that he was dead. After cutting off her lover's genitals, she put on his underwear and left the inn at 8:00 am. The mutilated body was found by a maid some time later and the hunt for Sada Abe began.
There was a nationwide panic over the lurid media accounts describing the deranged Sada being at large. Reported sightings came in from all over Japan. Goro Omiya got swept up in the media frenzy and his involvement with Sada thoroughly destroyed his political career. As for Sada herself, she stayed at a nearby inn and reportedly made plans to commit suicide. Acting on a tip, police tracked her down to her hotel room on May 20 and she gave up immediately. Ishida's severed genitals, still wrapped in the magazine cover, were found in her handbag.
News of Sada's capture was reported nationwide and even announced in Japan's National Diet. Given the political upheavals of the time, the bizarre sex scandal made for a welcome diversion and the public ate up every detail of the testimony that she provided during her interrogation.
And the media frenzy was only just beginning...
Continue to Part Two.
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