Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Issei Sagawa, the celebrity cannibal

Issei Sagawa“The public has made me the godfather of cannibalism, and I am quite happy about that.”

In 1981, at the age of 32, Issei Sagawa leapt to infamy for a cannibal murder the Japanese call Pari jinniku jiken (The Paris Human Flesh Incident). When captured, he was found mentally unfit to stand trial, and sent home amidst suggestions that his wealthy family were able to secure special treatment for him. After a year in a mental hospital, Japan’s most gruesome celebrity was free.

Pari jinniku jiken

Sagawa had been studying English literature in Paris when he became obsessed with a Dutch classmate, Renée Hartevelt. Having persuaded her to come to his house to discuss their studies, he shot her in the neck, and spent the next 2 days eating various parts of her body. He chopped up the remains and put them in a couple of suitcases, which he dumped in a park. He was spotted in the park and arrested a few days later.

Celebrity career

Although most people were appalled by what he had done, there was undeniable public fascination with Sagawa, and he has managed to make some sort of living out of his infamy:

  • He has authored at least 13 books, including explicit accounts of his own experiences. In one, he describes how the Dutch girl’s flesh “melted in [his] mouth like a perfect piece of tuna”. He has also written about other people’s atrocities, including a book about the infamous child-killer Sakakibara.
  • He appeared in the 1992 film Sisenjiyou no Aria (The Bedroom), in which women are drugged and subjected to bizarre sexual fetishes. Sagawa’s role as a sadistic voyeur drew directly from his public persona.
  • Another example of art imitating life is in Sagawa’s own painting, which focuses on the nude bodies of Caucasian women.
  • In one extraordinary display of bad taste, he was once hired by a tabloid to write restaurant reviews.

Despite his varied celebrity career, Sagawa admitted in 2006 that he was having trouble scratching together enough cash to eat a Big Mac, let alone another Dutch student. Sagawa’s decision to revel in public infamy has made sure no one forgets his horrific crime, and he has found himself unemployable. It is difficult to see how much sympathy he should expect.

  • Issei Sagawa (Wikipedia)
    “In interviews, Sagawa describes himself as a ‘weak, ugly and small man’ and claims that he wanted to ‘absorb her energy.'”
  • The Cannibal Celebrity: Issei Sagawa (Crime Library)
    He says that when he sat next to her in a class, he fell instantly in love and could not stop thinking about the white skin of her arms.”
  • Issei Sagawa: The Confession
    Sagawa’s account of his cannibal act. Not for the faint-hearted.
  • Sagawa Issei: Too Much Blood
    “I flipped through the childlike drawings. It was an account of his life, with the centerpiece being the two day-long orgy of mutilation, cannibalism and sexual deviance”
  • Police photos from the crime scene
    WARNING! Some of the pictures are graphic and might be upsetting. If you’re unsure about visiting this site, please don’t.
  • Former celebrity cannibal struggles for next meal (MDN WaiWai)
    “The fiend not only avoided prison time for his monstrous meal but managed to sashay his gruesome act into a celebrity career”
  • Issei Sagawa (Everything2)
    “He is (or at least was) a huge celebrity and pop-culture icon in Japan, selling books, doing TV interviews and the like”
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73 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. na

    What the fuck is wrong with u people that are on his side. Just think how would u feel if it was ur daughter that was being eaten.
    If it was up to me I would tie a big ass rock to his legs and through him in the ocean with a fuck load of sharks.
    That assholes going to hell for sure

  2. Buddhist

    everyones behaviour is shaped by the environment heorshe lives in

    ISSEI probably face racism in france that wat happen to him

  3. anno

    He was racially abused by a fellow japanease girl / so this excuses him to eat her..? You must be mad also.

    Clearly he was a nutter! daddys money bailed him out – as the saying goes, its not what you know, its who you know.

    And to brag about it also..? my heart goes out to the poor girls family, im supprised they havn’t hurt him.

  4. Rosanne Nopgrata

    Without a shadow of a doubt I desperately want to meet Issei Sagawa. I find him sexy and exciting because of his past. To offer up my body to him never quite knowing exactly what was going through his mind, what visions clouded his soul would be a supremely thrilling, breath-taking joy; as his essence mixed with mine promising the possibility of new life.
    If anyone knows how I can contact him please be so good as to kindly advise. I’ll shortly be travelling to Tokyo, but Tokyo is a large city and without help I dare say I’ll never be able to find Issei and offer myself to him.
    I just want to be his perfumed slave, his bed-wench and whore. I’m infatuated, intrigued and desperately want to give him my love and admiration whilst accepting what only he could offer me: His exceptional individuality.
    To think he loved her so much he ate her…


  5. To Ninja,Aloysius Fozdyke,Queer Face,and Rosanne Nopgrata

    If you think that Cannibalism is not wrong then you need to be commited to a mental institution yourself. It is in NO way right to MURDER another human and then EAT their remains. Let me LEAD your mother to my house MURDER and then EAT her, and then you tell me how it feels bitch!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Roja

    I think Issei Sagawa is a truly disgusting human being (I use that term loosely). What he did to that poor girl was just evil, and the worse thing was he got away with it and is living off what he did without remorse. I’m not a religious person but I really hope he has a nasty ends a thousand times worse than his victim. RIP Renee, you did not deserve what happened to you and many people hope you’re in a better place.

  7. Anonymous

    holy shit
    there is sumething wrong with this man he murdered and ate a fellow student…..
    im just shocked and sicken

  8. O.O

    DUUUUUUUDE. Why is he still alive?!

  9. May

    This man is sick, no doubt about that!!! Killing and eating another human… I can’t believe that he got away with it… I want to meet this man, and tell him how disgusting and inhuman he is!!! And that I wish somebody would kill him, and he should burn in hell!!!! It makes me furious to hear that he is proud of it! What the hell is wrong with that sick bastard!!!? Why havn’t somebody tried to kill him yet!? I wish that I could kill him!! It would be a pleasure! And the ones who support him is just as sick as he is!!!! Burn in hell inhumane bastards!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Fuck you Sagawa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really want to see him DEAD!!!!

    RIP Renee Hartevelt… you poor girl….

  10. At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll say it again: all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing……


  11. me

    He is not sick. He is evil. Sick people dont know that they do wrong. He knows what he is doing is wrong (to say the least). I know the day will come when he is in the worst place of hell along with the other killers and cannibals. The goverment that lets him and other criminals get away with their crimes will be along side him. The family is increadible to not have flown to Japan to rip out the heart of this beast!!

  12. FuckYouIsseiSagawa

    I seriously can’t believe some of the fucking BULLSHIT I read on here. How are you morons even alive? I hope you’re just trolling for your own sake because this guy was in no way a fucking hero or deity of any kind—merely one sick bastard that MURDERED and ATE another human being. How can you justify that? Can you imagine the horrors that the victim’s family went through to see this sick fucker on the street again? He should NEVER be able to see the light of day again. Also, for the idiots below me that defended him or tried to tie his case with “Racism” or “attacks against the japanese government” deserve to be sodomized repeatedly in a mental hospital. That has nothing to do with the issue at hand. My goodness there are SO many illogical people nowadays! Some of you sound even more insane than he is!

  13. Jake

    I literally cringed throughout the whole story. I’m a red-blooded guy, yeah, but honestly, that’s just … wrong.

  14. carer

    to Aloysius Fozdyke,
    Your just a try hard and not even a good one. Ha ha, what a fool you are. An idiot that rides on the coat tails of a sicko. Dummy!

  15. Bob

    Son of a rich japanese industrialist.
    He’s protected, you wouldn’t be able to get near him.

  16. tom

    i would gladly do 20 years in the pen just to have 5 mins alone with that sick fuck. someone should kill him, the family of the victim deserves justice

  17. random person

    ok. this guy is just f***in sick in his bloody head!!! i don’t blame the japanese ppl, just blaming sagawa ass. i would luv to carve parts of his body ALIVE, make sure hez alive through the whole process so that he cam feel the pain dead renee had to go through though shez dead. :p

  18. Issei Sagawa is an absolutely sick and disgusting individual. How the hell is he a minor celebrity in Japan? It makes no sense.

  19. Anonymous

    I don’t understand why everyone’s directing hate at Japan. If you all read the whole article, you’d see that he can barely support himself. So no, the Japanese do not support him. Take your white supremacy somewhere else.

  20. Angel of Death

    Mr. Issei Sagawa,

    I am coming for you, you will burn for your crimes against humanity. Your pride in the crimes you committed against that girl is your downfall. Because you have not repented, because you have not made ammends, because you are inspiring others to be like you, this is the end. Be warned, and be expecting me.

  21. Anonymous

    That’s the loophole in law. This type of treatment is for the truly mentally disabled people that can hardly even do basic things in life. This sicko killed and used this loophole in the law. Only one year will never help with that. Forever in a mental hospital would be better.

  22. Anonymous

    Little disgusting man….you should be skinned and roled in salt. You denied a young woman to live her life, you took it to enrich your own. You can not and will never be albel to pay the price for what you have done. You should have spent your life in a little holw being pissed on and spat at day in and day out.

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