21 May 1936

Sada Abe is arrested after wandering the streets of Tokyo for days with her dead lover’s severed genitals in her handbag. Her story soon becomes one of Japan’s most notorious scandals.

Sada Abe
Sada Abe portrait.JPG
Sada Abe portrait, circa 1935
BornMay 28, 1905[1]
Diedafter 1971 (age 66+)
OccupationGeisha, prostitute, maid, author, actress, waitress
Criminal charge(s)Murder, and mutilation of a corpse[2]
Criminal penalty6 years imprisonment
Parent(s)Shigeyoshi and Katsu Abe[3]

Sada Abe (阿部 定, Abe Sada, May 28, 1905 – after 1971) was a Japanese geisha and prostitute who murdered her lover, Kichizō Ishida (石田 吉蔵), via erotic asphyxiation on May 18, 1936, and then cut off his penis and testicles and carried them around with her in her kimono. The story became a national sensation in Japan, acquiring mythic overtones, and has been interpreted by artists, philosophers, novelists and filmmakers.[4] Abe was released after having served five years in prison and went on to write an autobiography.

Family background

Sada Abe was the seventh of eight children of Shigeyoshi and Katsu Abe, an upper middle-class family of tatami mat makers in Tokyo's Kanda neighborhood.[3] Only four of the Abe children survived to adulthood, and of those Sada was the youngest.[5] Sada's father, originally from Chiba Prefecture,[3] had been adopted into the Abe family to help with the business, which he eventually inherited.[3] Aged 52 at the time of Sada's birth, Shigeyoshi Abe was described by police as "an honest and upright man" who had neither conspicuous vices nor any brushes with the law,[6] although some acquaintances reported him to be somewhat self-centered, with a taste for extravagance. Likewise, Sada's mother had no known legal or moral blemishes on her record.[7]

Sada's brother Shintarō was known as a womanizer, and after his marriage, ran away with his parents' money.[8] Her sister Teruko was also known to have had several lovers. Sada's father sent Teruko to work in a brothel, then not an uncommon way to punish female sexual promiscuity in Japan, although he soon bought her back. Teruko's past was not considered a hindrance to marriage for those of the Abes' class at the time, and she soon married.[9]

Early life

Sada Abe was born in 1905.[1] Her mother doted on Sada, who was her youngest surviving child, and allowed her to do as she wished.[9] She encouraged Abe to take lessons in singing and in playing the shamisen, both activities which, at the time, were more closely associated with geishas and prostitutes than with classical artistic endeavor.[10] Geishas were considered glamorous celebrities at the time,[9] and Abe herself pursued this image by skipping school for her musical lessons and wearing stylish make-up.[11]

As family problems over her siblings, sister Teruko and brother Shintarō, became more pressing, Abe was often sent out of the house alone. She soon fell in with a group of similarly independent teenagers.[12] At the age of 14, during one of her outings with this group, she was raped by one of her acquaintances.[13][14] Her parents initially defended and supported her, but she became a difficult teenager.[9] As Abe became more irresponsible and uncontrollable, her parents sold her to a geisha house in Yokohama in 1922, hoping to find her a place in society with some direction.[15] Toku Abe, Sada's oldest sister, testified that Sada wished to become a geisha. Sada herself, however, claimed that her father made her a geisha as punishment for her promiscuity.[16]

Abe's encounter with the geisha world proved to be a frustrating and disappointing one. To become a true star among geisha required apprenticeship from childhood, with years spent training and studying arts and music. Abe never progressed beyond a low rank, at which one of her main duties was to provide sex for clients. She worked for five years in this capacity and eventually contracted syphilis.[9] Since this meant she would be required to undergo regular physical examinations same as a legally licensed prostitute, Abe decided to enter this better-paying profession.[17]

Early 1930s

The brothel where Abe was arrested

Abe began work as a prostitute in Osaka's famous Tobita brothel district, but soon gained a reputation as a trouble-maker. She stole money from clients and attempted to leave the brothel several times, but was soon tracked down by the well-organized legal prostitution system.[18] After two years, Abe eventually succeeded in escaping the licensed prostitution system and began working as a waitress. However, not satisfied with the wages, she was soon working as a prostitute again, though now unlicensed, and began working in the unlicensed brothels of Osaka in 1932. Abe's mother died in January 1933, and Abe traveled to Tokyo to visit her father, and her mother's grave. She entered into the prostitution market in Tokyo and while there became a mistress for the first time. When her father became gravely ill in January 1934, Abe nursed him for ten days until his death.[19]

In October 1934 Abe was arrested in a police raid on the unlicensed brothel at which she was working at the time. Kinnosuke Kasahara, a well-connected friend of the brothel owner, arranged for her release. Kasahara was attracted to Abe, finding that she had no debts, and with Abe's agreement, made her his mistress. He set up a house for Abe on December 20, 1934, and also provided her with an income. In his deposition to the police, he remembered, "She was really strong, a real powerful one. Even though I am pretty jaded, she was enough to astound me. She wasn't satisfied unless we did it two, three, or four times a night. To her, it was unacceptable unless I had my hand on her private parts all night long ... At first it was great, but after a couple of weeks I got a little exhausted."[20] When Abe suggested that Kasahara leave his wife to marry her, he refused. She then asked Kasahara to allow her to take another lover, which he also refused to do. Afterwards, their relationship ended, and to escape him Abe left for Nagoya.[21] Kasahara ended his testimony with an angry remark about Abe, "She is a slut and a whore. And as what she has done makes clear, she is a woman whom men should fear."[22] Likewise, Abe remembered Kasahara in less than flattering terms, saying, "He didn't love me and treated me like an animal. He was the kind of scum who would then plead with me when I said that we should break up."[23]

In Nagoya in 1935, again intending to leave the sex industry, Abe began working as a maid at a restaurant. She soon became romantically involved with a customer at the restaurant, Gorō Ōmiya, a professor and banker who aspired to become a member of the Diet of Japan (Japanese parliament). Knowing that the restaurant would not tolerate a maid having sexual relations with clients, and having become bored with Nagoya, she returned to Tokyo in June. Ōmiya met Abe in Tokyo and, finding that she had previously contracted syphilis, paid for her stay at a hot springs resort in Kusatsu from November until January 1936. In January, Ōmiya suggested that Abe could become financially independent by opening a small restaurant, and recommended that she should start working as an apprentice in the restaurant business.[24]

Acquaintance with Kichizō Ishida

Back in Tokyo, Abe began work as an apprentice at the Yoshidaya restaurant on February 1, 1936. The owner of this establishment, Kichizō Ishida, 42 at the time, had worked his way up in the business, starting as an apprentice at a restaurant specializing in eel dishes. He had opened Yoshidaya in Tokyo's Nakano neighborhood in 1920.[25] When Abe joined his restaurant, Ishida had become known as a womanizer who by that time did little in the way of actually running the restaurant, which had become in fact managed primarily by his wife.[26]

Not long after Abe began work at Yoshidaya, Ishida began making amorous advances towards her. Ōmiya had never satisfied Abe sexually, and she was responsive to Ishida’s approaches. In mid-April, Ishida and Abe initiated their sexual relationship in the restaurant to the accompaniment of a romantic ballad sung by one of the restaurant's geishas. On April 23, 1936, Abe and Ishida met for a pre-arranged sexual encounter at a teahouse, or machiai—the contemporary equivalent of a love hotel[27]—in the Shibuya neighborhood. Planning only for a short "fling", the couple instead remained in bed for four days. On the night of April 27, they moved to another teahouse in the distant neighborhood of Futako Tamagawa where they continued to drink and have sex, occasionally with the accompaniment of a geisha's singing, and would continue even as maids entered the room to serve sake.[28] They next moved to the Ogu neighborhood. Ishida did not actually return to his restaurant until the morning of May 8, after an absence of about two weeks.[29] Of Ishida, Abe later said, "It is hard to say exactly what was so good about Ishida. But it was impossible to say anything bad about his looks, his attitude, his skill as a lover, the way he expressed his feelings. I had never met such a sexy man."[30]

After their two-week encounter ended, Abe became agitated and began drinking excessively. She said that with Ishida she had come to know true love for the first time in her life, and the thought of Ishida being back with his wife made her intensely jealous. Just over a week before Ishida's eventual death, Abe began to contemplate his murder. On May 9, 1936, she attended a play in which a geisha attacks her lover with a large knife, after which she decided to threaten Ishida with a knife at their next meeting. On May 11, Abe pawned some of her clothing and used the money to buy a kitchen knife. She later described meeting Ishida that night, "I pulled the kitchen knife out of my bag and threatened him as had been done in the play I had seen, saying, 'Kichi, you wore that kimono just to please one of your favorite customers. You bastard, I'll kill you for that.' Ishida was startled and drew away a little, but he seemed delighted with it all ..."[31]

"Abe Sada Incident"

Newspaper photo taken shortly after Abe's arrest, at Takanawa Police Station, Tokyo on May 20, 1936
Site of the "Abe Sada Incident"

Ishida and Abe returned to Ogu, where they remained until his death. During their love-making this time, Abe put the knife to the base of Ishida's penis, and said she would make sure he would never play around with another woman. Ishida laughed at this. Two nights into this bout of sex, Abe began choking Ishida, and he told her to continue, saying that this increased his pleasure. She had him do it to her as well. On the evening of May 16, 1936, Abe used her obi sash to cut off Ishida's breathing during orgasm, and they both enjoyed it. They repeated this for two more hours. Once Abe stopped the strangulation, Ishida's face became distorted, and would not return to its normal appearance. Ishida took thirty tablets of a sedative called Calmotin to try to soothe his pain. According to Abe, as Ishida started to doze, he told her, "You'll put the cord around my neck and squeeze it again while I'm sleeping, won't you ... If you start to strangle me, don't stop, because it is so painful afterward." Abe commented that she wondered if he had wanted her to kill him, but on reflection decided he must have been joking.[32]

About 2:00 in the morning of May 18, 1936, as Ishida was asleep, Abe wrapped her sash twice around his neck and strangled him to death. She later told police, "After I had killed Ishida I felt totally at ease, as though a heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders, and I felt a sense of clarity." After lying with Ishida's body for a few hours, she next severed his penis and testicles with the kitchen knife, wrapped them in a magazine cover, and kept them until her arrest three days later.[33] With the blood she wrote Sada, Ishida no Kichi Futari-kiri (定、石田の吉二人キリ, "We, Sada and Kichi(zō) Ishida, are alone") on Ishida's left thigh, and on a bed sheet. She then carved ("Sada", the character for her name) into his left arm. After putting on Ishida's underwear, she left the inn at about 8 am, telling the staff not to disturb Ishida.[34]

After leaving the inn, Abe met her former lover Gorō Ōmiya. She repeatedly apologized to him, but Ōmiya, unaware of the murder, assumed that she was apologizing for having taken another lover. In actuality, Abe's apologies were for the damage to his political career that she knew his association with her was bound to cause. After Ishida's body was discovered, a search was launched for Abe, who had gone missing. On May 19, 1936, the newspapers picked up the story. Ōmiya's career was ruined, and Abe's life was under intense public scrutiny from that point onwards.[35]

Abe Sada panic

The circumstances of Ishida's death immediately caused a national sensation. The ensuing frenzy over the search for Abe was called "Abe Sada panic".[9] Police received reports of sightings of Abe from various cities, and one false sighting nearly caused a stampede in the Ginza, resulting in a large traffic jam.[25] In a reference to the recent failed coup in Tokyo, the Ni Ni-Roku Incident ("2–26" or "February 26"), the crime was satirically dubbed the "Go Ichi-Hachi" Incident ("5–18" or "May 18").[27]

On May 19, 1936, Abe went shopping and saw a movie. Under a pseudonym, she stayed in an inn in Shinagawa on May 20, where she had a massage and drank three bottles of beer. She spent the day writing farewell letters to Ōmiya, a friend, and Ishida.[34] Abe planned to commit suicide one week after the murder, and practiced necrophilia. "I felt attached to Ishida's penis and thought that only after taking leave from it quietly could I then die. I unwrapped the paper holding them and gazed at his penis and scrotum. I put his penis in my mouth and even tried to insert it inside me ... It didn't work however though I kept trying and trying. Then, I decided that I would flee to Osaka, staying with Ishida's penis all the while. In the end, I would jump from a cliff on Mount Ikoma while holding on to his penis."[36]

At 4:00 in the afternoon, police detectives, suspicious of the alias under which Abe had registered, came to her room. "Don't be so formal," she told them, "You're looking for Sada Abe, right? Well that's me. I am Sada Abe." When the police were not convinced, she displayed Ishida's genitalia as proof.[37]

Abe was arrested and interrogated over eight sessions.[38] When asked why she had severed Ishida's genitalia, Abe 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."[39] The interrogating officer was struck by Abe's demeanor when asked why she had killed Ishida. "Immediately she became excited and her eyes sparkled in a strange way."[40] Her answer was: "I loved him so much, I wanted him all to myself. But since we were not husband and wife, as long as he lived he could be embraced by other women. I knew that if I killed him no other woman could ever touch him again, so I killed him ..."[2] In attempting to explain what distinguished Abe's case from over a dozen other similar cases in Japan,[41] William Johnston suggests that it is this answer which captured the imagination of the nation: "She had killed not out of jealousy but out of love."[42] Mark Schreiber notes that the Sada Abe Incident occurred at a time when the Japanese media were preoccupied with extreme political and military troubles, including the Ni-Ni-Roku Incident and a looming war in China. He suggests that a sensationalistic sex scandal such as this served as a welcome national release from the disturbing events of the time.[27] The case also struck a chord with the ero guro nansensu ("erotic-grotesque-nonsense") style popular at the time, and the Sada Abe Incident came to represent that genre for years to come.[43]

When the details of the crime were made public, rumors began to circulate that Ishida's penis was of extraordinary size; however, the police officer who interrogated Abe after her arrest denied this, saying, "Ishida's was just average. [Abe] told me, 'Size doesn't make a man in bed. Technique and his desire to please me were what I liked about Ishida.'"[40] After her arrest, Ishida's penis and testicles were moved to Tokyo University Medical School's pathology museum. They were put on public display soon after the end of World War II, but have since disappeared.[44]

Conviction and sentencing

The first day of Abe's trial was November 25, 1936, and by 5 a.m. crowds were already gathering to attend.[2] The judge presiding over the trial admitted to being sexually aroused by some of the details involved in the case, yet made sure that the trial was held with the utmost seriousness.[9] Abe's statement before receiving sentencing began, "The thing I regret most about this incident is that I have come to be misunderstood as some kind of sexual pervert ... There had never been a man in my life like Ishida. There were men I liked, and with whom I slept without accepting money, but none made me feel the way I did toward him."[45]

On December 21, 1936, Abe was convicted of murder and mutilation of a corpse. Though the prosecution demanded ten years, and Abe claimed that she desired the death penalty, she was in fact sentenced to just six years in prison.[2] Abe was confined in Tochigi women's penitentiary, where she was prisoner No. 11.[46] Her sentence was commuted on November 10, 1940, on the occasion of the 2,600th anniversary celebrations of the mythical founding of Japan, when Emperor Jimmu came to the throne.[47] Abe was released, exactly five years after the murder, on May 17, 1941.[46]

The police record of Abe's interrogation and confession became a national best-seller in 1936. Christine L. Marran puts the national fascination with Abe's story within the context of the dokufu (毒婦) or "poison woman" stereotype, a transgressive female character type that had first become popular in Japanese serialized novels and stage works in the 1870s.[48] In the wake of popular "poison woman" literature, confessional autobiographies by female criminals had begun appearing in the late 1890s.[49] By the early 1910s, autobiographical writings by criminal women took on an unapologetic tone and sometimes included criticisms of Japan and Japanese society. Kanno Suga, who was hanged in 1911 for conspiring to assassinate Emperor Meiji in what was known as the High Treason Incident, wrote openly rebellious essays while in prison.[50] Fumiko Kaneko, who was sentenced to death for plotting to bomb the imperial family, used her notoriety to speak against the imperial system and the racism and paternalism that she said it engendered.[51] Abe's confession, in the years since its appearance, became the most circulated female criminal narrative in Japan. Marran points out that Abe, unlike previous criminal autobiographers, stressed her sexuality and the love she felt for her victim.[52]

Later life

Upon release from prison, Abe assumed an alias. As the mistress of a "serious man" she referred to in her memoirs as "Y," she moved first to Ibaraki Prefecture and then to Saitama Prefecture. When Abe's true identity became known to Y's friends and family, she broke off their relationship.[53]

In the aftermath of World War II, wishing to divert public attention from politics and criticism of the occupying authorities, the Yoshida government encouraged a "3-S" policy—"sports, screen, and sex".[54] Pre-war writings, such as The Psychological Diagnosis of Abe Sada (1937) depict Abe as an example of the dangers of unbridled female sexuality and as a threat to the patriarchal system. In the postwar era, she was treated as a critic of totalitarianism, and a symbol of freedom from oppressive political ideologies.[55] Abe became a popular subject in literature of both high and low quality. The buraiha writer Sakunosuke Oda wrote two stories based on Abe,[56] and a June 1949 article noted that Abe had recently tried to clear her name after it had been used in a "mountain" of erotic books.[57]

In 1946, the writer Ango Sakaguchi interviewed Abe, treating her as an authority on both sexuality and freedom. He called Abe a "tender, warm figure of salvation for future generations."[58] In 1947, Ichiro Kimura's The Erotic Confessions of Abe Sada became a national bestseller, with over 100,000 copies sold.[46] The book was in the form of an interview with Abe, but was actually based on the police interrogation records. As a response to this book, Abe wrote her own autobiography, Memoirs of Abe Sada, which was published in 1948. In contrast to Kimura's depiction of her as a pervert, she stressed her love for Ishida.[59] The first edition of the magazine True Story (実話, Jitsuwa), in January 1948, featured previously unpublished photos of the incident with the headline "Ero-guro of the Century! First Public Release. Pictorial of the Abe Sada Incident." Reflecting the change in tone in writings on Abe, the June 1949 issue of Monthly Reader called her a "Heroine of That Time" for following her own desires in a time of "false morality" and oppression.[57]

Abe capitalized on her notoriety by sitting for an interview in a popular magazine,[46] and appearing for several years starting in 1947 in a traveling one-act stage production called Shōwa Ichidai Onna (A Woman of the Shōwa Period) under the direction of dramatist Nagata Mikihiko.[60] In 1952 she began working at the Hoshikikusui,[61] a working-class pub in Inari-chō in downtown Tokyo. Abe lived a low-profile life in Tokyo's Shitaya neighborhood for the next 20 years, and her neighborhood restaurant association gave her a "model employee" award.[62] More than once, during the 1960s, film-critic Donald Richie visited the Hoshikikusui. In his collection of profiles, Japanese Portraits, he describes Abe making a dramatic entrance into a boisterous group of drinkers. She would slowly descend a long staircase that led into the middle of the crowd, fixing a haughty gaze on individuals in her audience. The men in the pub would respond by putting their hands over their crotches, and shouting out things like, "Hide the knives!" and "I'm afraid to go and pee!" Abe would slap the banister in anger and stare the crowd into an uncomfortable and complete silence, and only then continue her entrance, chatting and pouring drinks from table to table. Richie comments, "... she had actually choked a man to death and then cut off his member. There was a consequent frisson when Sada Abe slapped your back."[63]

In 1969, Abe appeared in the "Sada Abe Incident" section of director Teruo Ishii's dramatized documentary History of Bizarre Crimes by Women in the Meiji Taishō and Shōwa Eras (明治大正昭和 猟奇女犯罪史, Meiji Taishō Shōwa Ryōki Onna Hanzaishi),[64] and the last known photograph of Abe was taken in August of that year.[62][65] She disappeared from the public eye in 1970.[9] When the film In the Realm of the Senses was being planned in the mid-1970s, director Nagisa Oshima apparently sought out Abe and, after a long search, found her, her hair shorn, in a Kansai nunnery.[66]


Decades after both the incident and her disappearance, Abe continues to draw public interest:

  • Mutsuo Toi took an interest in Abe's case and had started writing a novel, Yūtokaiōmaru (雄図海王丸).[citation needed] Two years after Abe's crime, Toi perpetrated the deadliest single-shooter massacre in Japanese history before killing himself.[67][68]
  • In addition to the documentary in which Abe herself appeared shortly before she disappeared from the public eye, and the 1976 Japanese-language In the Realm of the Senses, at least three successful films have been made based on the story. The 1983 film, Sexy Doll: Abe Sada Sansei, made use of Abe's name in the title.[69] In 1998, a 438-page biography of Abe was published in Japan,[62] and the first full-length book on Abe in English, William Johnston's Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star: A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan, was published in 2005.[70]
  • Japanese Noise musician Merzbow adopted the alias Abe Sada for an early musical project. He released only one record under this name, the 1994 7" .[71]
  • In March 2007, a four-bass noise band from Perth, Australia named Abe Sada won a Contemporary Music Grant from the Australian Department of Culture and the Arts to tour Japan in June and July 2007.[72]

Sada Abe in literature

Selected major writings on Sada Abe

  • Abe, Sada (1948). Memoirs of Abe Sada: Half a Lifetime of Love (阿部定手記―愛の半生, Abe Sada shuki – Ai no hansei), 1998 (in Japanese), Tokyo: Chuokoron sha. ISBN 978-4-12-203072-5.
  • Funabashi, Seiichi (August 1947). A Record of Abe Sada's Behavior (Abe Sada gyōjō-ki).[73]
  • Fuyuki, Takeshi (March 1947). Woman Tearstained in Passion—The Life Led by Abe Sada (Aiyoku ni nakinureta onna—Abe Sada no tadotta hansei).[73]
  • Kimura, Ichirō (1947). The Erotic Confessions of Abe Sada (お定色ざんげ―阿部定の告白, Osada iro zange – Abe Sada no kokuhaku), 1998 (in Japanese), Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsha. ISBN 978-4-309-40530-8.
  • Nagata, Mikihiko (September 1950 – August 1951). True Story: Abe Sada (Jitsuroku: Abe Sada) aka Impassioned Woman of Love (Jōen ichidai onna), serialized novel.[73]
  • Oda, Sakunosuke (1946). "The State of the Times" (Sesō), short story.[73]
  • Oda, Sakunosuke (1947). "The Seductress" (Yōfu), short story.[73]
  • Satō, Makoto. Abe Sada's Dogs, avant-garde play.[74]
  • Sekine, Hiroshi (1971). "Abe Sada", poem.[75]
  • Tōkyō Seishin Bunsekigaku Kenkyōjo (1937). The Psychoanalytic Diagnosis of Sada Abe (Abe Sada no seishin bunseki teki shindan).[76]
  • Watanabe, Junichi (1997). A Lost Paradise (Shitsuraken), novel modeled on the Abe Incident.[77]
  • Ohkubo, Kristine (2019). Nickname Flower of Evil (呼び名は悪の花): The Abe Sada Story, non-fiction.[78]

Sada Abe in film

Abe herself appeared in the "Sada Abe Incident" section of Teruo Ishii's 1969 documentary History of Bizarre Crimes by Women in the Meiji, Taisho and Showa Eras (明治大正昭和 猟奇女犯罪史, Meiji Taishō Shōwa Ryōki Onna Hanzaishi) (actress Yukie Kagawa portrayed Abe)[64]

Also, there have been at least six films based on her life:

See also


  1. ^ a b c Johnston 2005, p. 25
  2. ^ a b c d Schreiber 2001, p. 188
  3. ^ a b c d Johnston 2005, p. 20
  4. ^ Thompson 1985, p. 1570
  5. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 21, 25.
  6. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 20, 25
  7. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 21, 168
  8. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 21, 171
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Honjo
  10. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 26–27
  11. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 37
  12. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 44
  13. ^ Abe, Sada quoted in Second Interrogation of Abe Sada in Johnston 2005, p. 169 Chapter "Notes from the Police Interrogation of Abe Sada": While we were playing around on the second floor he forced himself into me.
  14. ^ Abe, Sada quoted in Johnston 2005, p. 45, Chapter 5. "Acquaintance Rape", .. in the summer of my fifteenth year because I was raped by a student at a friend's house ...
  15. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 58, Schreiber 2001, p. 187
  16. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 57
  17. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 66–67, Honjo
  18. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 67–71
  19. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 72–77
  20. ^ Deposition by Kasahara Kinnosuke in Johnston 2005, pp. 165–166
  21. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 126–127
  22. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 167
  23. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 177
  24. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 78–83
  25. ^ a b Johnston 2005, p. 11
  26. ^ Schreiber 2001, pp. 184–185
  27. ^ a b c Schreiber 2001, p. 184
  28. ^ Schreiber 2001, p. 185
  29. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 84–94
  30. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 92, 193
  31. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 95–99, 192–194
  32. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 99–102, 164–165
  33. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 102–103, 200–201, 206, Honjo
  34. ^ a b Schreiber 2001, p. 186
  35. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 105–108
  36. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 111
  37. ^ Schreiber 2001, pp. 186–187
  38. ^ Schreiber 2001, p. 187
  39. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 103
  40. ^ a b Johnston 2005, p. 124
  41. ^ A book, 19 nin no Abe Sada (19 Abe Sadas), detailing similar cases, was published in 1981; and Schreiber, "O-Sada Serves a Grateful Nation" mentions at least 53 cases of women severing male genitalia since the Abe case.
  42. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 119
  43. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 11, 114, 160
  44. ^ Schreiber 2001, p. 190, Honjo
  45. ^ Schreiber 2001, pp. 188–189
  46. ^ a b c d Schreiber 2001, p. 189
  47. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 147
  48. ^ Marran 2007, pp. xiii–xiv
  49. ^ Marran 2007, pp. 66–67
  50. ^ Marran 2007, p. 103
  51. ^ Marran 2007, pp. 103–104
  52. ^ Marran 2007, p. 104
  53. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 148–150
  54. ^ McLelland 2012, p. 6
  55. ^ Marran 2007, pp. 136, 140
  56. ^ Marran 2007, p. 143
  57. ^ a b Marran 2007, pp. 140–141
  58. ^ Marran 2007, pp. 142–143
  59. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 160
  60. ^ Johnston 2005, pp. 152–153
  61. ^ Johnston 2005, p. 153
  62. ^ a b c Schreiber 2001, p. 190
  63. ^ Richie 1987, pp. 33–35
  64. ^ a b 明治大正昭和 猟奇女犯罪史 (in Japanese). Japanese Movie Database. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
  65. ^ The 1969 picture of Abe, age 64, seated next to a tense male dancer can be seen at: "SADA ABE 阿部定" (in Japanese). asahi-net.or.jp. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2007.
  66. ^ Richie 1987, p. 37
  67. ^ 理不尽な凶行、遺族ら「無念」…秋葉原無差別殺傷事件 (in Japanese). Sports Hochi. June 9, 2008. Archived from the original on June 13, 2008. Retrieved June 13, 2008.
  68. ^ "LUNATIC KILLS 27 IN JAPAN; Young Man Shoots Sleeping Men, Women and Children". The New York Times. May 22, 1938. Retrieved April 22, 2009.(subscription required)
  69. ^ "Sexy doll: Abe Sada sansei". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2007.
  70. ^ Johnston, William (2005). Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star: A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231130523.
  71. ^ "Abe Sada-Original Body Kingdom / Gala Abe Sada 1936". Discogs Abe Sada discography. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
  72. ^ "Contemporary Music Grant Results". Department of Culture and the Arts, Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved June 2, 2006.
  73. ^ a b c d e Marran 2007, p. 143
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8 March 1936

Daytona Beach race track holds its first oval stock car race.

Even though the new crop of NASCAR race cars mimics the look of models on the road, they’re still anything but stock — at least until Toyota sells a Camry with rear-wheel-drive and a V-8.

But when the first stock car race was held at Daytona Beach on March 8, 1936, drivers brought their own street-legal open tops, coupes and saloons to the race. The grueling 3.2-mile course didn’t discriminate against aerodynamic tricks or windshield angle; it simply demanded that a car survive its grueling, pit-filled sandy turns.

Marred with scoring controversy, stalled cars and mid-corner mash-ups, the race was stopped after 72 of the 78 laps, and the $1,700 prize went to driver Milt Marion. As the vintage video below shows, more regulation couldn’t have hurt for the chaotic event.

7 March 1936

In violation of the Locarno Pact and the Treaty of Versailles, Germany reoccupies the Rhineland.

The remilitarization of the Rhineland by the German Army began on 7 March 1936 when German military forces entered the Rhineland. This was significant because it violated the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Treaties, marking the first time since the end of World War I that German troops had been in this region. The remilitarization changed the balance of power in Europe from France and its allies towards Germany, making it possible for Germany to pursue a policy of aggression in Western Europe that the demilitarized status of the Rhineland had blocked until then.

Under Articles 42, 43 and 44 of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles—imposed on Germany by the Allies after the Great War—Germany was “forbidden to maintain or construct any fortification either on the Left bank of the Rhine or on the Right bank to the west of a line drawn fifty kilometers to the East of the Rhine”. If a violation “in any manner whatsoever” of this Article took place, this “shall be regarded as committing a hostile act…and as calculated to disturb the peace of the world”. The Locarno Treaties, signed in October 1925 by Germany, France, Italy and Britain, stated that the Rhineland should continue its demilitarized status permanently. Locarno was regarded as important as it was a voluntary German acceptance of the Rhineland’s demilitarized status as opposed to the diktat of Versailles. Under the terms of Locarno, Britain and Italy guaranteed the Franco-German border and the continued demilitarized status of the Rhineland against a “flagrant violation” without however defining what constituted a “flagrant violation”. Under the terms of Locarno, if Germany should attempt to attack France, then Britain and Italy were obliged to go to France’s aid and likewise, if France should attack Germany, then Britain and Italy would be obliged to Germany’s aid. The American historian Gerhard Weinberg called the demilitarized status of the Rhineland the “single most important guarantee of peace in Europe” as it made it impossible for Germany to attack its neighbors in the West and as the demilitarized zone rendered Germany defenseless in the West, impossible to attack its neighbors in the East as it left Germany open to a devastating French offensive if the Reich tried to invade any of the states guaranteed by the French alliance system in Eastern Europe, the so-called Cordon sanitaire.

The Versailles Treaty also stipulated that Allied military forces would withdraw from the Rhineland by 1935. However, the German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann announced in 1929 that Germany would not ratify the 1928 Young Plan for continuing to pay reparations unless the Allies agreed to leave the Rhineland in 1930. The British delegation at the Hague Conference on German reparations in 1929 proposed that reparations paid by Germany be reduced and that British and French forces should evacuate the Rhineland. The last British soldiers left in late 1929 and the last French soldiers left in June 1930. As long as the French continued to occupy the Rhineland, the Rhineland functioned as a form of “collateral” under which the French could respond to any German attempt at overt rearmament by annexing the Rhineland. Once the last French soldiers left the Rhineland in June 1930, it could no longer play its “collateral” role, thus opening the door for German rearmament. The French decision to build the Maginot Line in 1929 was a tacit French admission that it was only a matter of time before German rearmament on a massive scale would begin sometime in the 1930s and that the Rhineland was going to be remilitarized sooner or later. Intelligence from the Deuxième Bureau indicated that Germany had been violating Versailles continuously all through the 1920s with the considerable help of the Soviet Union, and with the French troops out of the Rhineland, it could only be expected that Germany would become more open about violating Versailles. The Maginot Line in its turn lessened the importance of the Rhineland’s demilitarized status from a French security viewpoint.

The foreign policy of Fascist Italy was to maintain an “equidistant” stance from all the major powers in order to exercise “determinant weight”, which by whatever power Italy chose to align with would decisively change the balance of power in Europe, and the price of such an alignment would be support for Italian ambitions in Europe and/or Africa.

The foreign policy goal of the Soviet Union was set forth by Joseph Stalin in a speech on 19 January 1925 that if another world war broke out between the capitalist states that: “We will enter the fray at the end, throwing our critical weight onto the scale, a weight that should prove to be decisive”. To promote this goal which would lead to the global triumph of Communism, the Soviet Union tended to support German efforts to challenge the Versailles system by assisting German secret rearmament, a policy that caused much tension with France. An additional problem in Franco-Soviet relations was the Russian debt issue. Before 1917, the French had been by far the largest investors in Imperial Russia, and the largest buyers of Russian debt, so the decision by Lenin in 1918 to repudiate all debts and to confiscate all private property, whether it be owned by Russians or by foreigners, had hurt the world of French business and finance quite badly. The question of the Russian debt repudiation and compensation for French businesses affected by Soviet nationalisation policies poisoned Franco-Soviet relations until the early 1930s.

The centerpiece of interwar French diplomacy had been the cordon sanitaire in Eastern Europe, which was intended to keep both the Soviet Union and Germany out of Eastern Europe. To this end, France had signed treaties of alliance with Poland in 1921, Czechoslovakia in 1924, Romania in 1926 and Yugoslavia in 1927. The cordon sanitaire states were intended as a collective replacement for Imperial Russia as France’s chief eastern ally. The states of the cordon sanitaire emerged as an area of French political, military, economic and cultural influence.

As regards Germany, it had always been assumed by the states of the cordon sanitaire that if Germany should attack any of them, France would respond by beginning an offensive into western Germany. Long before 1933, German military and diplomatic elites had regarded the Rhineland’s demilitarized status as only temporary, and planned to remilitarize the Rhineland at the first favorable diplomatic opportunity. In December 1918, at a meeting of Germany’s leading generals, it had decided that the chief aim would be to rebuild German military power to launch a new world war to win the “world power status” that the Reich had sought, but failed to win in the last war. All through the 1920s and the early 1930s, the Reichswehr had been developing plans for a war to destroy France and its ally Poland, which necessarily presumed remilitarization of the Rhineland. Steps were taken by the German government to prepare for the remilitarization, such as keeping former barracks in a good state of repair, hiding military materials in secret depots, and building customs and fire watch towers that could be easily converted into observation and machine gun posts along the frontier.

From 1919 to 1932, British defense spending was based upon the Ten Year Rule, which assumed that there was to be no major war for the next ten years, a policy that led to the British military being cut to the bone. Amongst British decision-makers, the idea of the “continental commitment” of sending a large army to fight on the European mainland against Germany was never explicitly rejected, but was not favored. The memory of the heavy losses taken in the Great War had led many to see the “continental commitment” of 1914 as a serious mistake. For most of the inter-war period, the British were extremely reluctant to make security commitments in Eastern Europe, regarding the region as too unstable and likely to embroil Britain in unwanted wars. At most, Britain was willing to make only limited security commitments in Western Europe, and even then tried to avoid the “continental commitment” as much as possible. In 1925, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain had famously stated in public at the Locarno conference that the Polish Corridor was “not worth the bones of a single British grenadier”. As such, Chamberlain declared that Britain would not guarantee the German-Polish border on the grounds that the Polish Corridor should be returned to Germany. That the British did not take even their Locarno commitments seriously could be seen in Whitehall’s prohibition of the British military chiefs’ holding staff talks with German, French and Italian militaries about what to do if a “flagrant violation” of Locarno occurred. In general, for most of the 1920s–30s, British foreign policy was based upon appeasement, under which the international system established by Versailles would be revised in Germany’s favor, within limits in order to win German acceptance of that international order, and thereby ensure the peace. One of the main British aims at Locarno was to create a situation where Germany could pursue territorial revisionism in Eastern Europe peacefully. The British viewpoint was that if Franco-German relations improved, France would gradually abandon the cordon sanitaire.

Once France had abandoned its allies in Eastern Europe as the price of better relations with the Reich, the Poles and Czechoslovaks would be forced to adjust to German demands, and would peacefully hand over the territories claimed by Germany such as the Sudetenland, the Polish Corridor and the Free City of Danzig. British policy-makers tended to exaggerate French power with the normally Francophile Sir Robert “Van” Vansittart, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office writing in 1931 that Britain was faced with an “unbearable” French domination of Europe, and what was needed was a revival of German power to counterbalance French power. French economic and demographic weaknesses in the face of Germany’s strengths such as the Reich’s far larger population and economy together with the fact that much of France had been devastated by World War I while Germany had escaped mostly undamaged were little appreciated in Whitehall.

30 December 1936

The United Auto Workers union stages its first sitdown strike.

At 8 p.m. on December 30, 1936, in one of the first sit-down strikes in the United States, autoworkers occupy the General Motors Fisher Body Plant Number One in Flint, Michigan. The autoworkers were striking to win recognition of the United Auto Workers as the only bargaining agent for GM’s workers; they also wanted to make the company stop sending work to non-union plants and to establish a fair minimum wage scale, a grievance system and a set of procedures that would help protect assembly-line workers from injury. In all, the strike lasted 44 days.

The Flint sit-down strike was not spontaneous; UAW leaders, inspired by similar strikes across Europe, had been planning it for months. The strike actually began at smaller plants: Fisher Body in Atlanta on November 16, GM in Kansas City on December 16 and a Fisher stamping plant in Cleveland on December 28. The Flint plant was the biggest coup, however: it contained one of just two sets of body dies that GM used to stamp out almost every one of its 1937 cars. By seizing control of the Flint plant, autoworkers could shut down the company almost entirely.

So, on the evening of December 30, the Flint Plant’s night shift simply stopped working. They locked themselves in and sat down. “She’s ours!” one worker shouted.

GM argued that the strikers were trespassing and got a court order demanding their evacuation; still, the union men stayed put. GM turned off the heat in the buildings, but the strikers wrapped themselves in coats and blankets and hunkered down. On January 11, police tried to cut off the strikers’ food supply; in the resulting riot, known as the “Battle of the Running Bulls,” 16 workers and 11 policemen were injured and the UAW took over the adjacent Fisher Two plant. On February 1, the UAW won control of the enormous Chevrolet No. 4 engine factory. GM’s output went from a robust 50,000 cars in December to just 125 in February.

Despite GM’s enormous political clout, Michigan Governor Frank Murphy refused to use force to break the strike. Though the sit-ins were illegal, he believed, he also believed that authorizing the National Guard to break the strike would be an enormous mistake. “If I send those soldiers right in on the men,” he said, “there’d be no telling how many would be killed.” As a result, he declared, “The state authorities will not take sides. They are here only to protect the public peace.”

Meanwhile, President Roosevelt urged GM to recognize the union so that the plants could reopen. In mid-February, the automaker signed an agreement with the UAW. Among other things, the workers were given a 5 percent raise and permission to speak in the lunchroom.

30 November 1936

The Crystal Palace in London is destroyed by fire.

On November 30, 1936, the Crystal Palace, an iconic structure which had come to epitomise the pomp of the Victorian era, was destroyed by one of the greatest fires ever seen in London.

The 990,000 square foot cast iron and plate glass building was constructed in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition in 1851, at the behest of the Queen’s husband Prince Albert. In 1854 it was redesigned and reconstructed on Penge Common, by Sydenham Hill in South East London.

At just after 7pm on the evening of November 30 the Palace’s manager, Sir Henry Buckland, was walking in the grounds of the building when he saw a red glow emanating from it. He found two nightwatchmen trying to douse a fire that had begun in the women’s cloakroom and spread to the central transept.

The blaze took hold with alarming speed as the flames, helped by a strong wind, swept across the Palace’s acres of timber flooring, up into galleries and along glazing bars. The Penge Fire Brigade was not called until nearly 8pm; by that time, the building was an inferno.

1 August 1936

The Summer Olympics are opened in Berlin by Adolf Hitler.


In 1933, Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany and quickly turned the nation’s fragile democracy into a one-party dictatorship. Police rounded up thousands of political opponents, detaining them without trial in concentration camps. The Nazi regime also put into practice racial policies that aimed to “purify” and strengthen the Germanic “Aryan” population.

A relentless campaign began to exclude Germany’s one-half million Jews from all aspects of German life. For two weeks in August 1936, Adolf Hitler camouflaged his antisemitic and expansionist agenda while Berlin hosted the Summer Olympic Games. Hoping to impress the many foreign visitors who were in Germany for the games, Hitler authorized a brief relaxation in anti-Jewish activities (including even the removal of signs barring Jews from public places).

The games were a resounding propaganda success for the Nazis. They presented foreign spectators with the image of a peaceful and tolerant Germany. Here, Hitler formally opens the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. Inaugurating a new Olympic ritual, a lone runner arrived bearing a torch carried by relay from the site of the ancient Games in Olympia, Greece.

15 June 1936

The first flight of the Vickers Wellington bomber.

The Wellington, which served Bomber Command so well in the early years of World War II, is remembered by the RAF and the people of Britain as the ‘Wimpey’ – a nickname derived from an American cartoon character possessing the proud name J. Wellington Wimpey. It was designed to meet an Air Ministry requirement for a long-range medium bomber under Specification B.9/32 and evolved as a mid-wing monoplane with a fuselage of oval cross-section. Both of these major structures were of the geodetic construction which Barnes Wallis had introduced in the Wellesley. But experience with the latter and development of the geodetic concept made it possible for the individual components (which were built up into the ‘basket-weave’ structure) to be smaller and lighter in weight without any loss of structuial integrity by comparison with the Wellesley. Wings, fuselage and tail unit were fabric-covered; power plant comprised two wing-mounted engines; and the tailwheel-type landing-gear units were hydraulically retractable.

‘Heavy’ defensive armament – comprising five machine-guns in nose and tail turrets and a ventral dustbin – would, it was believed, enable a flight of these aircraft to put up such a curtain of fire that fighter escort would be superfluous. Those who held such beliefs (as for the Boeing B-17 Fortress developed in America) were to discover their error very quickly.

The prototype Wellington made its first flight on 15 June 1936, but it was not until October 1938 that production aircraft began to enter RAF service. Less than one year later (on 4 September 1939) Wellingtons were in action against targets in Germany. Early deployment on daylight raids showed that these and other British bomber aircraft were extremely vulnerable to fighter attack. Following the loss of ten Wellingtons from a force of 24 despatched on an armed reconnaissance of Wilhelmshaven on 18 December 1939, the type was withdrawn from daylight operations. As a night bomber, however, the Wellington proved an invaluable weapon during the early years of Bomber Command’s offensive against Germany.

1 March 1936

The Hoover Dam is finished.

Hoover Dam, also known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete gravity-arch dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the U.S. states of Arizona and Nevada. The dam, located 48 km southeast of Las Vegas, is named after Herbert Hoover, who played an instrumental role in its construction, first as Secretary of Commerce and then later as President of the United States. Construction began in 1931 and was completed in 1936, over two years ahead of schedule. The dam & the powerplant are operated by the Bureau of Reclamation of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, Hoover Dam was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985. Lake Mead is the reservoir created behind the dam, named after Elwood Mead, who oversaw the construction of the dam.

Before the construction of the dam, the Colorado River Basin periodically overflowed its banks when snow from the Rocky Mountains melted and drained into the river. These floods endangered downstream farming communities. In addition to essential flood control, a dam would make possible the expansion of irrigated farming in the parched region. It would also provide a dependable supply of water for Los Angeles and other Southern California communities.

One of the major obstacles for the project was determining the equitable allocation of the waters of the Colorado River. Several of the Colorado River Basin states feared that California, with its vast financial resources and great thirst for water, would be the first state to begin beneficial use of the waters of the Colorado River and therefore claim rights to the majority of the water. It was clear that without some sort of an agreement on the distribution of water, the project could not proceed.



30 November 1936


The Crystal Palace in London is destroyed by fire.

On November 30, 1936, the Crystal Palace, an iconic structure which had come to epitomise the pomp of the Victorian era, was destroyed by one of the greatest fires ever seen in London. The 990,000 square foot cast iron and plate glass building was constructed in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition in 1851, at the behest of the Queen’s husband Prince Albert. In 1854 it was redesigned and reconstructed on Penge Common, by Sydenham Hill in South East London.

The blaze took hold with alarming speed as the flames, helped by a strong wind, swept across the Palace’s acres of timber flooring, up into galleries and along glazing bars. The Penge Fire Brigade was not called until nearly 8pm; by that time, the building was an inferno. Despite the best efforts of 88 fire appliances and 438 men from four brigades, the building could not be saved, its central transept collapsing with a deafening roar. Buckland told reporters that the magnificent structure would “live in the memories not only of Englishmen, but the whole world”.