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Friday, 18 October 2013

Issei Sagawa: The Japanese Cannibal

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He is a polite, soft-spoken and intelligent man, if a little too shy.

He is an ordinary person just like you and me - except that he has an almost insatiable desire to eat human flesh.

Meet Issei Sagawa, the Japanese man who, while studying in Paris, murdered his fellow female student and consumed her flesh.  Due to loopholes in the law, he was never tried for his crime, and to this day he still lives as a free man.

WARNING: This video deals with a highly disturbing subject, and contains images of extreme graphic content (such as black-and-white photos of a half-eaten corpse, and Sagawa's own verbal and pictorial description of the murder.)


More info about Sagawa and the summary of the murder below (all taken from Wikipedia) ↓↓↓


Murder of Hartevelt

Sagawa served time in French prison for the murder of Dutch student Renée Hartevelt, a classmate of Sagawa's at the Sorbonne. On June 11, 1981, Sagawa, then 32, invited Hartevelt to dinner at his 10 Rue Erlanger apartment under the pretext of translating German poetry for a class he was taking. Upon her arrival, after convincing her to begin reading the poetry, he shot her in the neck with a rifle while she sat with her back to him at a desk. At that point he began to carry out his plan to eat her. His first attempt to bite into her buttocks met with failure so he went out to buy a butcher knife.[ Sagawa has stated he chose Hartevelt for her health and beauty, characteristics Sagawa believed he lacked. Sagawa describes himself as a "weak, ugly, and inadequate little 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 plan. He did so, beginning with her buttocks and thighs, 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 the body. He described the meat as tasting like raw tuna. He then attempted to dump the mutilated body in a remote lake, but was seen in the act and later arrested by French police, who found parts of the deceased still in his refrigerator.

Sagawa's wealthy father provided a top lawyer for his defense, and after being held for two years without trial Sagawa was found legally insane and unfit to stand trial by the French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, who ordered him held indefinitely in a mental institution. After a visit by the author Inuhiko Yomota, Sagawa's account of the murder was published in Japan under the title In the Fog.

 Sagawa's subsequent publicity and macabre celebrity 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, stating that sexual perversion was the sole motivation for the murder. Japanese authorities found it legally impossible to detain him because the French government refused to release court documents (which remain secret) to Japan, claiming that the case had already been 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. Sagawa's freedom has been questioned and criticized by many.


Sagawa now lives in Tokyo and is a minor celebrity in Japan. He was often invited as a guest speaker and commentator between 1986 and 1997. He has also written restaurant reviews for the Japanese magazine Spa. In 1992, he appeared in Hisayasu Sato's exploitation film Uwakizuma: Chijokuzeme (Unfaithful Wife: Shameful Torture) as a sadosexual voyeur.

Along with books about the murder he committed, Sagawa has written Shonen A, a book on the Kobe child murders of 1997, in which a 14-year-old the media called "Seito Sakakibara" and "Boy A" ("Shōnen A") killed and decapitated a child and attacked several others.

Despite this early freelance work, Sagawa can no longer find publishers for his writing and has been rejected from over 500 different places of employment. Each job application requires writing his résumé out in longhand. He was nearly accepted by a French-language school because the manager was impressed by his courage in using his real name, but employees protested and he was rejected. In 2005, Sagawa's parents died. He was prevented from attending their funeral, but he repaid their creditors and moved into public housing. He received welfare for some time but no longer does. In an interview with Vice magazine in 2009, he expressed suicidal thoughts and said that being forced to make a living while being known as a murderer and cannibal was a terrible punishment.


A Saying by Sagawa:
"Love between a man and a woman is fantasy and this fact can be the cause of every error that exists. People feel, think, and act according to illusions. If these illusions are begetting the multitudinous fantasises which human alone can create, the error by love is a wonderful gift to the human race. If love itself is a fantasy, then perhaps it can be said that I am living the true form of love in its typical, and most extreme manner."

Food for Thought:
When criminals bask in the media spotlight (The Japan Times)


  1. So I actually watched this documentary like half a year ago, so I only vaguely remember the content, but it's pretty thought-provoking. I hope you guys enjoy it!

  2. Me too. I've read about him before. Gruesome and compelling. The comic was creepy.

  3. I read about Sagawa on Wikipedia and on All-time10s when he was mentioned on cannibalism. That book, Shonen A, isn't it about the murders of Jun Hase and Ayaka Yamashita? I'm pretty sure our morbid teacher made us read that book in history class.

  4. That was a very...ah, different post Saya chan! I must admit that it was really intriguing and interesting to view such a taboo matter from a first person prespective. So basically as i have understood the urge of cannibalism first popped up because of the supression of his sexuality during his puberty? Please guys and gals correct me if i'm wrong... Anyways, it wasn't scary, but it certainly had a chilling effect, plus the comics were pretty gruesome as well. The atmosphere of this video was really heavy in general and left me with a kind of depressing feeling, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good post! Bottom line, it is nice to make food for thought even out of taboos, cause like it or not, they are part of life in the end of the day. Even though cannibalism is controversial and taboo, i'll still say it was a good post, Saya chan. Food for thought is better than any scare! :) I hope you are well, take care!

  5. ahhh... ive seen this. i didnt know whenever to pity him or to feel disgusted. i think it was a mixture of both

  6. I remember watching this with my sister...

    Oh god, I have such a weird past-time. (-___-)

  7. I am currently studying psychology. Obviously this man have some mental problem. But since NOT every mental problem should be stated insane (as long as it is not schizophrenic) it is possible to arrest people like him for their crime. I wonder why French court stated him as insane while in Japan he didn't receive same statement. However i believe this man is still sane enough to feel the social punishment he has now. Well that is his karma, though...

  8. does- .. doesn't anyone feel bad for this man a little?

    I really pity him, how he is right now.. It must be painful.
    Living his life like that, I can understand why he wants to die.

    Great post as always Ms.Saya, I'm a silent reader but I HAD to reply to this post, what a sad man.

  9. It takes a lot to creep me out, but watching him so calmly describe his crime did the trick! Thanks for sharing Saya :)

  10. Hi Saya,greetings from Vietnam. This is my first time leaving a comment on your post. Thank you for such amazing updates always give me good read :). After watching the video I still can't figure it out why would people keeping him alive, making him do weird stuff? I can't imagine living in complete solitude and being hated by surrounding people. Been having mixed feelings for this one, both feel disgusted and sorry for him. ( I apologize for my bad english )

  11. So scary to have such dangerous person walking around free in public.
    At least he's well known and people will be extra careful around him.

  12. oh also got this one things at Malaysia before ~.~

  13. I've seen this story saya chan,, and to be honest, I still confused how the hell did he make it as a minor celebrity... geez, what a messed up world we lived in! anyway, he admitted that make a living while being known as a murderer and cannibal was a terrible punishment is pretty okay i guess.

    i saw a lot of people in the past who ate a lot of living person, even torture them first before killing them,, and it was nothing compared to what Sagawa did,, but still, to think he might still live in Japan somehow makes me shivers... O_o

  14. Dear Saya,

    I friend of mine wrote a book on real ghostly incidents in India. I read and liked this,you may like them too ( the stories are partially fictional though)

  15. Damn, for some reason it made me think about the story I once thought to tell you, about a murder in my grandmother's weird village where weird things like to happen (or that she just loved to tell us, small kids back then, really small.. really creepy stories).

    But it was indeed interesting. There's nothing like people. People can be really interesting.

  16. They normally base an "insanity" defense on the perpetrators ability to tell whether they did something "wrong". He obviously knew he was doing a wrong thing, because he tried to hide the evidence. I find it fascinating but also severely disheartening that he was made into a celebrity of sorts. It must be so painful for the poor woman's surviving relatives.

  17. I have a lot of controversial feelings about him, yep.

    On the one hand, he is a murderer, the murder has been performed not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of of his vile desires satisfaction. It doesn't seem to be quite OK that he has never been punished for his deed. Usually I would say that it is the society that turns a man into a murderer, but in his case it is really questionable. Of course, the suppressed sexuality, as well as being born prematurely, left their traces in his personality, but his family, which is the one of the main aspects of one's socialization, seemed to be a loving and a caring one.

    He also stated several times that his cannibalistic desires never ceased to exist. There is actually nothing that can prevent him from going berserk once again.

    On the other hand, now he really seems to suffer from the consequences of his deed, having such a miserable lonely existence, being despised by so many people.

    Moreover, I really don't like him to become a part of the mass culture to earn for living. All these people exploiting him by filming him doing that stuff - it is not right at all. Nobody thinks about his victim as a person. Renee is depersonalized, she is like some abstract notion, nobody realizes what were the sufferings of hers and her family. Nobody cares about it. Suffering is just a product of consumption now. Everyone wants to watch those videos with Sagawa where he performs some strange things not because of their content, but because there is a former murderer in the videos. It really shouldn't be this way.

    Does the murderer has to suffer like that for his lifetime? What is the relevant punishment for the one who has taken the life of the other? Depriving him of his life? Should the murderer be punished at all? It is not possible to ressurect the girl by making him that miserable.

    I don't know the answers to these questions.

    Btw, as far as I remember, a criminal can be sentenced to a capital punishment according to Japanese laws. Do you support this method of punishment, Saya? And what do you think about Sagawa's case yourself?

    P.S. There are so many comments on YouTube where they say that it is typical for Japanese people to perform such sick things. People are so pathetic when they try to troll like this, lol.

  18. I felt no pity on the man :O It was disqusting that he made friends who had no idea about his past. And the sex tape thing was so wrong. I felt so sorry for the girl and when he said they became friends I was like "WHYYYYY?" He got to do all sorts of things and get paid for it just because hes crime interested people. No matter how lonely he feels, he took someones life and mutilated the corpse.

  19. Saya-Sama~

    I have to say, this was very intriguing. I think he was troubled from the start. Obviously he has some issues, along with being weak-minded. Everyone gets impulses, and if they're bad like his, then he should've taken action. He just went along with whatever he wanted and that's what got him where he is now. What I don't understand is HOW someone could eat someone else, then chat about it as if it's natural to eat people. What went wrong, something obviously HAD to go wrong somewhere. Why wouldn't he talk to a psychologist or someone like that? Why did he HAVE to go do what he did? Instead of doing something to prevent it, he carried out his 'plan', and that's what makes him weak-minded. I think it's most frightening to think he could very well go do something like it again(not to say he would succeed). Oh dear, I'm rambling on! Thank you for the post Saya-sama! Certainly kept me entertained for the weekend. :)

  20. @Mimi: I think this interview is interesting in that we get to hear from Sagawa himself first hand about the murder rather than reading about it through secondary sources. Sagawa also writes books although I never got to read any of them.

    @Kira Collins: That's right, Shounen A refers to a 14 year-old boy who gruesomely murdered two little kids. One of the victims got his head chopped off and the head was displayed on top of a school gate. It shook the whole Japanese society at the time due to the young age of the murderer, and created many controversies because the boy was only sent to a youth detention centre and not to prison. I think the Japanese law at the time stated you needed to be at least 18 to bear criminal responsibility. You can read about this murder on Wikipedia by searching "Kobe child murders."

  21. @Tia: It's been a long time since I watched this video, but I think it could be that his fixation on cannibalism stems from supressed sexual feelings, as you say. If I remember it right, he also wanted to gain qualities such as beauty and strength by eating someone who has those qualities. It reminds me of the practices in so-called primitive societies where people eat flesh of the deceased as part of grieving process or so as to pass the characteristics of the deceased onto themselves. So perhaps what Sagawa did was not as far-fetched as we might think? haha

    Last year I was doing a little research on Zombie and I meditated on the relationship between Sex and Cannibalism. Sexual intercourse is an effort to become one with the partner, and we often do things in it which seem as if we were trying to devour each other --for example, love bites. In Japan we use an expression like, "This child is so cute that I almost want to eat him/her." So Sagawa's saying that he is living the purest form of love might be his unconscious reference to this close link between Love and Cannibalism.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for your comment! I'm glad it entertained you even for a bit! :D

    @Anon (19 Oct 02:02): I know what you mean. What his deed was unforgivable, but him as a person is a pitiful man.

    @Yaviva: I think it's occasionally good to take a peek into the dark side of the world and human nature! XD

    @edwee: It does seem rather strange he was declared insane and unfit for trial. He knew what he was doing and he knew it was a wrong thing to do. I don't know what sort of test they did on him at the time...
    Yes, Sagawa is an extremely unhappy man, he seems to be getting his just deserts.

    @Jex: Perhaps had he lived in a society where cannibalism was part of their culture (for such cultures exist), he might not have suffered as much as he does. Maybe he could have gotten an easy access to dead meat without resorting to murder. You never know.

    Yes I do feel pity for him, because he is actually not an evil man. Unlike some crazy serial killers, he doesn't enjoy inflicting pain on others. He just expresses his sexual urge in a way that is unacceptable to most of us. Of course I think it's wrong to terminate someone's life like that, but as I said in the comment above I condemn his crime only and not him as a person...

    Anyway thanks a lot for leaving a comment! It's great to hear from you :)

    @Jill: It is indeed a creepy video. I too felt uncomfortable after watching it, but I was more scared about how the media treated him than the part about his crime.
    Thanks a lot for your comment! :D

    @Anonymous (19 Oct 21:48): And I love you too, my dear. lol

    @Van Vu: Hi, how are you? Very nice to hear from you!

    I know, it's very bizarre that no legal actions were taken against him. As you say for him it is probably more painful living outside prison than inside it. He's probably not getting any jobs and he can't make friends or family. He's going to suffer until the day he dies. That's the punishment he got for his crime.

    Don't worry about your English! I understand you perfectly! :D

    @nunu: I know. I said above that I pity him, but what if he lived in my neighbourhood? I would be really scared.

    @Kiyoraka: You heard about him? Or you had a similar case in Malaysia?

  22. @Petzie: I think he's not much of a celebrity anymore. The period when he appeared sporadically on TV was probably when Japan was in the bubble economy era. Everyone was crazy and abnormally optimistic back then. I have personally never seen him on TV.
    He probably still publishes a book or two now and then though.

    Anyway obviously this celebrity status never made him happy, because after all the media was just cashing in on him. It's sick.

    I know it's scary.
    I just pray that he continue to live peacefully without committing another crime!

    @Anon (20 Oct 23:47): Hi, thank you very much for suggesting an interesting book to read! :D

    @AyumiFey: Was it you who once told me a story about a forest in Poland, where a spirit of wolf sometimes appear? That was very interesting. Maybe that wasn't you, but I would love to hear stories from you! I should really set up a place where people can post their ghost stories.

    @Anon (21 Oct): As I said in the reply to Petzie's comment above, I think this temporary celebrity status never brought any benefits to the man, at least in the metal aspect. It must be painful for the relatives that he was never tried but by the look of it he's getting his just deserts.

  23. @regorgitated: Nature or Nurture? The age old question comes to mind again.

    Once when I was in England I read in the newspaper about a woman who had three young sons, and one of these sons committed murder. Some people were criticizing her method of upbringing and blaming her for his crime, but she refuted them by saying, "the other two sons of mine are good kids who are doing well at school and never got into any troubles. But they are brought up by me too. This child is the only one who turned out to be like this. Why do I have to be blamed for his action?"

    When faced with something incomprehensible we become uneasy, and we want to do away with this uneasy feeling as quickly as possible, do we not? We never stay with the problem itself but find solutions elsewhere, and settle for easy answers that we can understand. Freud says sexual perversion arises from some suppressed sexual desire in infacy, but is that really true? The best we can do is guess, nothing more. We can never know --- Sagawa himself has no idea --- only God knows.

    I don't know what it is that attracts us to these murderers and sick individuals. The positive side of his publicity is that it teaches us never to trust others too much! I would feel uncomfortable being alone in a house with a man I don't know much about.

    But this media exploitation is just plain SICK. The way the media can turn anything into entertainment is appalling. This is a capitalist society for you!

    Sorry, if I don't make much sense, my brain is getting tired..

    Where am I... oh, yes, I said in one of the comments above that Sagawa is not an evil person, but if selfishness is evil, then he must be an evil person indeed. Sagawa is very selfish, perhaps in an infantile way. Perhaps he was sexually frustrated for a long time and he exploded at the moment of the murder.

    Capital punishment ---- hmmm. Interestingly, I remember Marquis de Sade once wrote he was opposed to capital punishment, because he said it's barbaric to punish a person who killed someone by killing that person. He had a point. lol

    I am opposed to capital punishment because apparently, unlike what some people think, it doesn't act as a deterrent for crime (people don't stop and think, "oh I'm not gonna kill this guy because I might get death penalty) and I think NOBODY has a right to terminate someone else's life without consent. And moreover, some people who recieved death sentence in the past were found innocent after they died, and that is really screwed up. I mean, this can happen to you and me. This is no laughing matter.

    Haha, thoses people who are badmouthing like that are either kids or ignorant fools or both. I don't worry about them.

  24. @Anon (21 Oct 22:11): Fair enough. I completely understand if you feel no pity for the man. After all the victim is the girl, and not Sagawa, and it's natural to think he doesn't deserve to act as if he were a victim himself. I am of course disgusted by him and by how the media treated him, but still feel pity for the guy, perhaps because I imagine what it might be like to be him. Perhaps very strong inferiority complex like that can drive a man to do insane things. Or if I had a sexual desire tied to cannibalism?
    Sexual desire is almost as strong as desire to eat and sleep, and no one can resist it for long. Especially if it finds no release for a long time, it can become destructive. Mind you, I'm not trying to defend him. I'm just trying to understand it in my own way.

    @Kiera: It's true he's weak-minded and he should have refrained from making his fantasy into reality. I am a weak-minded individual too, so I do pity him though... As you say if he had someone to whom he could talk and confide his desire, he could have been saved. Obviously it must be very hard to tell someone you have a desire to eat people though.

    Thanks a lot for your comment. Take care! :D

    EVERYONE, THANKS A LOT AGAIN for commenting! Lots of love <3

  25. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, Saya! And, of course, all your words make sense, no doubt of it.

    There are still quite a lot of questions about that case with the English woman. Perhaps she couldn't take care of her third son. Perhaps he had some reasons for murder, thinking about it as justified. But, of course, it is impossible to find her guilty with her son's crime. It was the son to make that choice.

    And, on the other hand, this publicity teaches us not to trust each other. Capitalism loves individualism, eh.

    Sagawa really looks evil only in a childish way, having done that practically on a whim. He is not a match to some gruesome murderers, who embody the absolute evil, if there is one.

    De Sade didn't approve of capital punishment, but approved of torturing people, should any sexual desire for that occur. Oh, that amazing libertine! :D

    Perhaps you've read "The Idiot" by Dostoyevsky. At the beginning of the novel the protagonist, Prince Myshkin, delivers a monologue on the question of the capital punishment. I think that it is really interesting to follow his thoughts because Dostoyevsky himself had to go through a mock execution.
    A series adaptation was made, and I really like how the actor impersonating the protagonist delivers this monologue. If you are interested in it, you can find it here:
    There are actually two monologues, one from 9:00 to 12:00, another one from 43:00 to 48:00.

  26. actually in my country, there are some cases like this but with different reasons..
    Such as Sumanto, for learning occult..
    Then Ryan, caused by his jealousy with some of his boyfriends..
    There are many more, but they already arrested in imprisoned for their whole life, some of them already received death sentences...

    But still, I love this story...
    keep up your good work Saya-San...


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