April 26, 1949 |
Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan
|Charge(s)||Murder, cannibalism (France)|
|Penalty||Unfit to stand trial by reason of insanity|
|Occupation||Public speaker, commentator, actor, writer|
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 in Paris. After his release, he became a minor celebrity in Japan and made a living through the public's interest in his crime.
Early life 
Sagawa was born in Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan, to wealthy parents. He was born prematurely, reportedly small enough to fit in the palm of his father's hand, and was immediately afflicted with enteritis, a disease of the small intestine. He eventually recovered, after several saline injections of potassium and calcium.
Murder of Hartevelt 
Sagawa served time in a French jail for the murder of the Dutch student Renée Hartevelt, a classmate at the Sorbonne Academy. 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, after convincing her to begin reading the poetry, he then 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 of eating her. His first attempt to bite into her buttocks met with failure so he proceeded to go out shopping for a butcher knife. She was selected, he has stated, for her health and beauty, those 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 desire to eat her. 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 her 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 the French police who found parts of the deceased still in his refrigerator.
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 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, stating that sexual perversion was the sole motivation for the murder. However, Japanese authorities found it to be legally impossible to hold him, because the French government refused to release court documents (which remain secret), 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. 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 throughout 1986-1997. 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.
Besides books about the murder he committed, Sagawa wrote a commentary book Shonen A in 1997 on the Kobe child murders of 1997, when a 14-year-old referred to in the media as "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 resume out in longhand. He was nearly accepted by a French language school because the manager was impressed by his courage to use his real name, but employees protested and he was rejected. In 2005, his parents died. He was prevented from attending his parents' funeral, but he repaid their creditors and moved into public housing. He received welfare for some time but no longer does so. 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.
In popular culture 
- Sagawa's story inspired the 1981 Stranglers song "La Folie", the 1983 Rolling Stones song "Too Much Blood", and the 2004 Human Factors Lab song "Dinner with Renee". A 1986 short film by Olivier Smolders called Adoration is based on Sagawa's story. In the same year, the TV channel Viasat Explorer released a 47-minute documentary film called "Cannibal Superstar". In 2010, www.VBS.TV did a short documentary about him, titled "VBS Meets: Issei Sagawa."
- The Noise/Drone metal band Gnaw Their Tongues produced an EP in 2007 titled "Issei Sagawa" with tracks based on his crime.
- Morris, Steven (September 20, 2007). "Issei Sagawa: Celebrity Cannibal". New Criminologist, the On-line Journal of Criminology (New Criminologist). Archived from the original on June 14, 2011.
- Ramsland, Katherine. "The Cannibal Celebrity: Issei Sagawa". TruTV. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Luzajic, Lorette C. "The Sweetest Taboo: An Anthropology of Anthropophagy". Gremolata. Archived from the original on January 25, 2010.
- Kushner, Barak. (1997). "Cannibalizing Japanese Media: The Case of Issei Sagawa". Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 31 (3), p. 56
- Henshall, Kenneth G. Dimensions of Japanese society: gender, margins and mainstream. rev.ed. Palgrave Macmillan, London 1999 p.207
- "Issei Sagawa". IMDb. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Issei Sagawa at Goodreads
- Knoll, Paul (April 25, 2007). "Bard of Brooklyn". Metro Times. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Kosuga, Tomokazu; Lena Oishi (January 19, 2009). "Who's Hungry?". An Interview With Issei Sagawa, Cannibal (Vice Magazine). Retrieved July 26, 2009.
- "Issei Sagawa". Serial Killers Live. FFRWP. Retrieved July 26, 2009.
- Harritz, Pia D. "Consuming the Female Body: Pinku Eiga and the case of Sagawa Issei". Mediavidenskab. Archived from the original on July 2, 2007. Retrieved July 7, 2007.
- Kamiyama, Masuo (October 2, 2007). "'Paris Cannibal' Sagawa still hungers for attention". Mainichi Shimbun. Archived from the original on December 27, 2007. Retrieved January 19, 2008.
- "The Cannibal that Walked Free". Visual Voodoo. 12 November 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2010.
- Issei Sagawa at the Internet Movie Database
- "Interview with a Cannibal". Online Documentary (in English). YouTube: VICE. 29. Retrieved 30 September 2012.