After wandering the streets of Tokyo for three days with her dead lover’s severed genitals in her handbag, Sada Abe was arrested for strangling her lover on this day in 1936.
The seventh of eight children born to an upper middle-class family of tatami mat makers in Tokyo, Abe grew up in a sexually troubled household. She herself was raped at 15, then sent to work as a geisha, and eventually, a prostitute, where she gained a reputation as a trouble maker. For some years, Abe then cycled through various jobs and various lovers, finally meeting Kichizo Ishida, in whose Tokyo restaurant Abe had begun working as an apprentice. Ishida, a married man and womanizer, began making advances toward Abe and she readily gave in. On 23 April 1936, the two met for a sexual encounter at a tea house. Though they had planned a short fling, they stayed for four days. They continued their marathon until 8 May, when Ishida finally returned to work. They separated for a time and Abe grew increasingly jealous that Ishida was with his wife. She began considering murdering Ishida to deprive other women of him.
The lovers again returned to the Ogu neighbourhood of Tokyo for another round of love-making. After two nights, Abe began choking Ishida and he told her to continue, as it increased his pleasure. On 16 May, Abe used her obi sash to cut off Ishida’s breathing, repeating the act for two more hours. Once Abe stopped strangulating him, however, Ishida’s face became distorted. He took medication to soothe his pain and went to sleep, murmuring to her to “put the cord around my neck and squeeze it again.” At about 2 AM on the morning of 18 May 1936, Abe wrapped her obi sash twice around Ishida’s neck as he slept and strangled him to death. She lay with his body for several hours, then severed his genitalia with a kitchen knife, wrapped them in a magazine cover and kept them in her purse. With his blood, Abe wrote “Sada, Kichi Futari-kiri” or “Sada, Kichi together,” on his left thigh and carved the Japanese character for “Sada” into his left arm. She then put on Ishida’s underwear and left the inn.
Once Ishida’s body was found, the story immediately became a national sensation and a frenzied search for Abe began. Finally, on 20 May at 4 PM police entered the inn room in which Abe was staying and she surrendered, displaying Ishida’s genitalia as proof her crime. She was arrested and interrogated. When asked why she did it, Abe answered, “I loved him so much, I wanted him all to myself… I knew that if I killed him no other woman could ever touch him again, so I killed him.” When asked why she severed his genitalia, she 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.”
On 21 December 1936 Abe was convicted of second-degree murder and mutilation of a corpse and sentenced to six years in prison. She disappeared from public life in 1970 but her story continues to captivate and has been made into books, movies, and music.