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'Paris Cannibal' Sagawa reminisces over his grisly crime

59 Comments

As part of its ongoing series called "The Postwar History of 100 Million Japanese," Sunday Mainichi (March 22) tracks down Issei Sagawa, also known as the "Paris Cannibal." In June 1981, while he was studying literature at the Sorbonne Academy in Paris, French police arrested Sagawa for the murder of Renee Hartevelt, a 25-year-old Dutch student. In news that shocked Japan, Sagawa confessed to having eaten parts of her body, some raw and some that he cooked with seasoning in a frying pan.

The French judiciary was eventually persuaded not to prosecute Sagawa for the murder due to his frail mental condition, and in 1984 he was permitted to return to Japan. Sunday Mainichi provided detailed coverage in its issue of June 10, 1984 under the headline "Seventeen hours together with the man who ate the flesh of a beautiful woman," which was based on transcriptions during his flight between Paris and Narita airport.

Nearly 30 years have passed, and Sagawa, now age 65, currently lives alone in a small (1LDK) apartment in Kawasaki City. In November 2013, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and requires assistance, which is provided by a caregiver or Sagawa's younger brother.

In a voice that fluctuates in volume, Sagawa relates how he first became acquainted with Renee in Paris in May 1981. On June 1, he invited her to his apartment, where he served her a meal of sukiyaki. The killing took place in the same place 10 days later.

According to Sunday Mainichi's initial coverage, an 8-page article that appeared in its issue of July 5, 1981, Sagawa had propositioned Rene, who refused, saying she was committed to someone else. Sagawa had then told the police he took a small-caliber rifle that he kept for self-protection, and shot her from behind. (This contradicts other accounts that he had enticed her to his apartment by offering to pay her to make voice recordings of German poetry, and shot her while her back was turned.)

"When I think back on how gentle Renee was, I ask myself why I did what I did, and there's no end to my feelings of bitterness," Sagawa reflects. "But I wanted to eat her. That doesn't mean I wanted to kill her, but I came to the realization that in order to eat her, I had to kill her."

But, Sagawa is pressed, wouldn't he have been content to have been given some part of her body, such as her hair or fingernail clippings, to eat?

"If I think about it now, if, instead of her flesh, I'd been able to obtain her pubic hairs or urine and put them in my mouth I might have been satisfied. But I wasn't able to bring myself to ask -- I guess I was afraid my asking her for it would have disgusted her."

Sagawa had harbored his perverted urges from childhood, where he learned about cannibalism from a fairy tale. As he became aware of his urge to consume human flesh, Sagawa never consulted a psychiatrist.

In 1972, before going to study in Paris, Sagawa had been charged with attempted rape for having broken into the apartment of a German woman in Tokyo. His motive, however, had not been sex.

"If I had undergone therapy from that time, I suppose the incident in Paris probably wouldn't have happened," Sagawa tells Sunday Mainichi.

And how about these days? Does Sagawa still think about emulating Dr Hannibal Lecter?

"Looking at the sun radiating through trees, I thought, how pretty it looks," he says. "My life seems to have been a series of a recurring episodes of contradictory feelings, such as 'I want to eat it' and 'Eating it is forbidden.' Now is the first time in my life to have such tranquil feelings.

"After I recover physically, I want to go to the Shinjuku branch of the Kinokuniya bookstore, buy a book and eat eel."

Despite such feelings, Sagawa says he has recently become obsessed with an actress appearing in a morning TV drama series, referred to only by the initials T.M.

"I'll catch a glimpse of her thigh and think, 'That sure looks tasty.' But I don't feel like I actually want to eat it," he remarks. "As I accomplished the act of cannibalism once, there's no meaning to maintaining the desire for it anymore. In my book, I wrote that it [human flesh] was tasty, but that was not really true; I'd much rather eat Matsuzaka (Kobe) beef. But because I'd desired to consume human flesh for so long, I'd managed to convince myself that it would necessarily be delicious."

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

59 Comments
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Well, ok.

This has a made for TV movie written all over it.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I wish they would stop reporting on this guy every couple of years. It just glorifies his violence, and may encourage others to do similar things.

41 ( +43 / -2 )

Frankly it's a worry that this guy is not locked up. I'm not saying it to be mean or that he should have served more time - is it really safe for others if he is free?

26 ( +27 / -1 )

Well, he got away with murder and cannibalism. And while he may be in fragile health, he gets to have a forum every few years to wax nostalgically about it as if it were some summer romance during a Paris vacation. And stupid me, I read it.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Other than the shocking nature of his crime, the biggest shock for me in this was how on his return to Japan he was paraded in the public eye by the media - a kind of "twisted celebration". He gave tv interviews and discussed his crime as a matter of course, wrote books and articles as far as I know never saw the inside of a cell.

How could such a person of evil intent (insane or otherwise) be allowed to flaunt himself in society?

Always bothered me, that.

22 ( +24 / -2 )

Clearly this guy from the rape case had a history of violence against women. He should have been given a rope necktie and be done with it.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

@Strangerland

Totally agree. It is important to realize that after escaping a long sentence in a French prison, Sagawa's "frail mental state" didn't stop him from milking his infamy for all it is worth. He used to be a regular guest on various daytime programs. A right nasty piece of work.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

the biggest shock for me in this was how on his return to Japan he was paraded in the public eye by the media - a kind of "twisted celebration". He gave tv interviews and discussed his crime as a matter of course, wrote books and articles as far as I know never saw the inside of a cell.

BINGO! Yeah this monster returned to Japan & was free as a bird, off the charts insanity that authorities just let him be, pretty sick sick stuff.

And now he's getting another 15minutes, disgusting!

11 ( +13 / -2 )

What, he lives in an apartment in Kawasaki? Why didn't the Japanese authorities lock him away forever?

12 ( +13 / -1 )

“If I had undergone therapy from that time, I suppose the incident in Paris probably wouldn’t have happened,”

Yup, you and how many others....How many hundreds of others. Maybe thousands.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I wonder how the family of Renee Hartevelt feel, seeing this guy not only getting off scot free for murdering their loved one but being treated like a rock star for having done so. This is all very disturbing. He is clearly a psychopath - no emotion or concern whatsoever, he speaks like he is totally disassociated from himself. Makes me wonder how many more just like him are wandering around untreated and unconcerned.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

In 2005, investigative journalists from Australia's program 60 minutes actually tracked this guy down in Roppongi and interviewed him, partially in English. Apparently, he used to spend time there in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Here is an interview with him in English (at 15'40"): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdXPJWODzjo

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Hope the French who released him to Japan are proud of themselves, if they're aware at all of his celebrity status since.

JT: Sagawa had propositioned Rene, who refused, saying she was committed to someone else. Sagawa had then told the police he took a small-caliber rifle that he kept for self-protection, and shot her from behind. (This contradicts other accounts that he had enticed her to his apartment by offering to pay her to make voice recordings of German poetry, and shot her while her back was turned.)

That's not necessarily contradictory. Maybe it was three steps: invite to record, proposition, shooting.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nearly 30 years have passed, and Sagawa, now age 65, currently lives alone in a small (1LDK) apartment in Kawasaki City.

So where exactly in Kawasaki City? ...one might wonder.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Its a shame the French let him go and its a bigger shame that the media treat him as a celebrity.

He is the lowliest of the low among humans and should be locked up forever. If he is mentally ill lock him up in the psychiatric ward, he should not be out there enjoying life, something his victim is not capable of doing.

In November 2013, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and requires assistance,

I am sorry he survived, just goes to show there is no justice in the world.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Sagawa's family was quite wealthy and it was reported that his father arranged to pay more than 1-oku yen (close to half a million dollars at the time) to the French attorney, who used it to pull strings and get Sagawa freed. Upon his return to Japan, he became the world's first and only "celebrity cannibal."

9 ( +9 / -0 )

And why is this sicko given a platform to "reminisce" about the murder? That this guy is given a public platform instead of rotting jail is truly a shame on Japan.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I wonder did that guy who eluded the J-police for killing that British woman a few years back know of this guy and his case, and if that had any impacts on what he did.

Just from my reading of this case and the one I mentioned, it seems that if a Japanese male kills white women it is somehow seen as a celebrity crime and the media is fixated. If they kill and stuff a Filipina woman in a suitcase as was the case recently, it is reported, but not as much a celebrity case. But if a foreigner kills a Japanese woman either in Japan or on vaction, there is national outrage and Japanese citizens are warned to be on guard against foreigners.

Just curious on how the press is here in Japan in regards to these types of cases.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I wonder if the Japanese public would be so keen on things if the situation was reversed and a foreign woman had eaten a Japanese guy... no, they'd be calling for the death penalty.

And this is the real issue here, the xenophobia and sexism underlying the double standard.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

zubrach: So where exactly in Kawasaki City? ...one might wonder.

A "Where is Issei Sagawa?" app is needed. To keep the citizenry updated in real-time.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I guess I was afraid my asking her for it would have disgusted her.

I thought he was a complete psychopath, but reading the statement above, it appears that his case is more complex than I thought . The reasons why he has the desire and what made him actually act along with it should be examined immediately in order to prevent other similar incidents from happening.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Isny having a person who has eaten another wistfully reminiscing about how he should have just eaten the victims pubic hair or drank her urine not beyond the pale of reporting!!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Isny having a person who has eaten another wistfully reminiscing about how he should have just eaten the victims pubic hair or drank her urine not beyond the pale of reporting!!

Not in Japan!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Turbotsat ,before making some stupid French bashing , you should check the background of this story 1- This insane guy is the son of Sagawa Publishing and the Japanese governement at this time put a lot of pressure on the French government to release him. For humanitarian reasons ,the deal was that he would be interned in a psychiatric hospital upon his arrival in Japan. If I remember well, he just spent a couple of months and was considered as cured and released. You can imagine that we , in France were not happy about the breach...

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Why is this man alive or allowed to walk freely and possibly procreate? Listen to him, he hasn't changed. His existence serves no purpose and retelling his chilling tale so casually is completely disrespectful to the memory of Renee Hartevelt.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The only platform this evil POS should be given is one with a trap door.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Wow. This specimen should be in a psychiatric facility, at best. Whether he is beyond being a public threat or not. He most certainly should not be getting media space!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

People hold your horses.... So the Paris Cannibal is at "large"... and apparently he is still craving for some more... that this guy should be at least in a constant check sure it would be nice.

Now, regarding his "celebrity" status I much don't think as to be given that, at least not so much as other serial killers or gruesome crimes perpetrators, here in Japan and all over the world.

Regarding, his getting away with it... so Sagawa daddy paid a lot of money to free his sonny boy... ooooh evil Japanese. But wait, for that transaction to be fulfilled, there has to be a counterpart that received, ordered and implemented the liberation of Sagawa...so ooooohh poor French people that freed the guy because money....right?

About Sagawa not being arrested in Japan for the crime committed in France... maybe because it is a different country?

That Sagawa got away with the "attempt of rape" in 1972 to a German woman... The key there is the world "attempt" (and may be "daddy's money" too). There is a big difference between the word Attempt and Commit, people... You wanna bash go bash but at least be fair and centered in your bashing.... oh sorry that IS an oxymoron.

-17 ( +1 / -18 )

Ah....reminiscing. As Humphry Bogart said to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca: "We'll always have Paris."

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Is no one else extremely disgusted that the guy was not tried in France for his murder, but instead allowed back to Japan to live his life and 'enjoy the sun and tranquility'? What's worse is that the media is completely GLORIFYING what the guy did! At the very least, due to his 'frail mental condition' he should have been locked up for life like Hannibal Lector if the media is so intent on making him out to be like him. If a foreigner had done this in Japan to a Japanese, would he or she be allowed to go home and the media not be outraged if people in that nation did nothing about it except glorify him or her in the media?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Totally agree with smithinjapan. This monster adds a macabre twist to the old Japanese saying about leaving shame behind when you travel. That this creature has become a media idol says some about the Japanese media and Japan.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

But wait, for that transaction to be fulfilled, there has to be a counterpart that received, ordered and implemented the liberation of Sagawa...so ooooohh poor French people that freed the guy because money....right? About Sagawa not being arrested in Japan for the crime committed in France... maybe because it is a different country?

I think he has been sentenced in France to mental institution for life. But then Japan heavily requested to have him deported to Japan where he has been declared sane...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@smithinjapan

Just one little observation... is "Dr. Hannibal Lecter".

About the media glorifying him...I think is because of the morbid pleasure people get with that kind of news....is like "EWWW gross... but I can't stop watching" kind of thing.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Daniel: Thanks for correcting me on the spelling -- not overly concerned about it, though, given it's a name. And as for the fascination, that makes it no less disgusting and even MORE disgusting given that it's a REAL murderer and not a fictional character. You also miss the point that it would not be "I can't stop watching" if this were a foreign criminal having done it to a Japanese -- people seem even more desensitized and detached to the crime because it was 'far away' and not to one of their nationals. Here the guy is almost being made a hero! How on earth can the man being let go be justified??

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@ulysses

If he is mentally ill lock him up in the psychiatric ward

I believe the word "ward" means "with other patients". A "cell" (like that of Dr. Hannibal Lecter) would be more to the point......

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Sagawa had harbored his perverted urges from childhood, where he learned about cannibalism from a fairy tale.

Just goes to show you that kids pick up on things when their young. It becomes part of who they are, or rather, they become in part what that is. Gay couples should not be allowed to adopt.

-10 ( +0 / -10 )

I remember this case too well! Not long after this creep was returned to Japan and then released, my Japanese friend and I went to a play in Shinjuku. During the interval and having drinks, my friends eyes suddenly widened and her mouth dropped. She told me not to look around and suggested we leave, immediately. She finally told me who was behind me so naturally, I sort of turned around and glanced as we walked out. Here was a very short, thin man dressed in a bright red suit, drinking champagne and having quite a discussion with what seemed to be, some rather elite foreigners. We were both disgusted that such a man could be allowed free and to fraternize with others, especially at these functions. But, I believe, due to the prominence and wealth of his father, he got off quite easily. I'm not sure but it seems he made his money by selling his paintings and books! Thank God I don't live in Kawasaki anymore! Who knows what lies in apartment!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

yes he was still "dating" probably unsuspecting foreign girls in the early 90's. My friend saw him out at a restaurant where he was dining with a young blonde woman.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Gay couples should not be allowed to adopt.

Stupidest comment this week. Maybe you've been living in a box, but homosexuality is not learned.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

incr-edible!! this guyb should be locked up and i'm amazed and disgusted at how permissive japanese society is!!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A "cell" (like that of Dr. Hannibal Lecter) would be more to the point......

@Viking, a psychiatric ward is a horror worse than any cell.Its a place where patients with little control over their bodily functions are kept. I am sure having to bear the smell day after day would be a good enough torture for him.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

About Sagawa not being arrested in Japan for the crime committed in France... maybe because it is a different country?

Japanese justice says they don't rejudge the cases already judged abroad and they respect the verdicts of froreign courts (not that I noticed that rule was applied about custody judgements). But obviously, they don't have the same consideration for the decisions of psychiatrics.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Madmen and perverted killers crop up in every country, that's not surprising. But something is seriously screwed up with a culture that lionizes a guy like this as a kind of cult hero, and brings him out to parade him around every so often.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

TS: Hope the French who released him to Japan are proud of themselves ...

Burgundy: Turbotsat ,before making some stupid French bashing , you should check the background of this story 1- This insane guy is the son of Sagawa Publishing and the Japanese governement at this time put a lot of pressure on the French government to release him. For humanitarian reasons ,the deal was that he would be interned in a psychiatric hospital upon his arrival in Japan. If I remember well, he just spent a couple of months and was considered as cured and released. You can imagine that we , in France were not happy about the breach...

You appear to be confusing "the French who released him" with 'all the French in France', which I did not say; if so, the error is yours, not mine. I did not say "the French, who released him to Japan", which would indicate all French were to blame.

USA has its own similar cases, the judge letting off the 'Affleunza' kid being the most recent plus infamous, I guess. O. J. Simpson, another (even though he won a jury trial).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affluenza#As_a_legal_defense

In December 2013, State District Judge Jean Boyd sentenced a North Texas teenager, Ethan Couch to 10 years probation for drunk driving and killing four pedestrians and injuring 11 after his attorneys successfully argued that the teen suffered from affluenza (though in this case, the lawyer used the term 'affluenza' to mean that Couch was unable to understand the consequences of his actions because of his financial privilege) and needed rehabilitation, and not prison.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why is he "celebrated" by even being mentioned or let alone interviewed this 100 Million Japanese series??!! This sick man has had far too much media attention, and each interview ends up glamorizing or drumming sympathy for the monster - with NO words from the victim. After, Renee cannot speak because she is no longer with us. Let us remember her and her suffering and not the words of a sick sick man.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Sagawa, a spoiled rich boy with a rather frail physique, has scant knowledge and few skills that would earn him a decent livelihood, so he made the decision to milk his crime for all it was worth.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just as a side note... between yesterday evening and today morning I did a quick check to the main news programs here in a Japan... and as far as I saw there were no mention of this "Paris Cannibal" guy anywhere. So the concerns that this Sagawa is getting "major media coverage and treated like a star" is not so... Even there are not major mentions in the main news papers.... so.....

Also, I really doubt this Sagawa subject has ever been seen as "almost a hero", a freak yes... hero no. Once again, daddy's power and money did wonders hiding him from the public, so that will be part of the reason most Japanese don't even heard about him.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I cannot even think of what to comment,,I am lost with words

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Daniel@you seemed to have missed the first sentence of the article, which was "As part of its ongoing series called “The Postwar History of 100 Million Japanese." For your information, postwar history involved news stories that occurred since 1945. "History" is usually about past events, no? So you completely wasted your time looking for recent coverage. Nor did the article ever make such a claim.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Turbotsat ,before making some stupid French bashing , you should check the background of this story 1- This insane guy is the son of Sagawa Publishing and the Japanese governement at this time put a lot of pressure on the French government to release him. For humanitarian reasons ,the deal was that he would be interned in a psychiatric hospital upon his arrival in Japan. If I remember well, he just spent a couple of months and was considered as cured and released. You can imagine that we , in France were not happy about the breach...

That's a very different account from What I heard on Vice documentaries. According to them, the French people pushed to have him deported to Japan because they weren't Happy about a book deal he signed while in a mental Ward. After he arrived in Japan, the Japanese found him mentally fit for trail and attempted to prosecute him but the French government would not cooperate as they considered the matter closed. Sagawa was glamorized in Japan for a while but he has Since been ostracized and is unable to even find a job.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Darknet

Japanese governement at this time put a lot of pressure on the French government to release him.

ALL governments of ALL countries put a lot of pressure on "foreign" countries to have their own "guilty" nationals sent back to their country of origin.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Dear Galapagos

I hope by now you are beginning to feel a bit silly regarding your last comment.

If you don't... well....sarcasm and irony is a pretty difficult thing to understand for some....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you really want though I do not know why you would, VICE japan did a documentary about this sicko freak. He even gets to have sex with a porn star whom they told afterwards what he did. The whole thing makes me sick, but to know evil you have to study it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is the guy the Rolling Stones wrote the song 'Too Much Blood' about. He was a celebrity for a while. His book about the crime sold quite well. But in the end, the guy was, and still is, mentally unbalanced. I don't think he was truly responsible for the crime. At the same time, he should never have been allowed to walk free.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Some things I do not want to understand.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The fact that this guy is not locked up but given sanctuary in Japan where his acts are fetishized and exploited for entertainment purposes is a shameful blemish on Japanese society. I feel badly for the girl's family and friends who has to live with the tragedy of what this animal has done while this guys continues to get press attention and living out his pathetic life into old age.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There's not much to be gained by continuing to bring the guy up VICE already did a great documentary interviewing him. He had a pretty interesting trip through the legal system and a pretty interesting post release career of capitalizing off his crime through books and being exploited for gimmicky adult films but constantly bringing him up is dangerous and will cause isolated young guys to fantasize about living similar lives and getting similar ammounts of attention.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Of note was that his parents own the "Sagawa" private postal company (yes, THAT one), and used their considerable influence to make sure their son came home. He was classified, under French law, as "insane" , so could not be sent to prison. The sagawa's found a loophole, where they could claim to offer him psychological care back in Japan. Once he was back, he was free to go about his way, and like international child abductions of half Japanese kids and the political asylum granted to Brazil's (then) politician, Sagawa was safe from "meddling foreign laws".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Of note was that his parents own the "Sagawa" private postal company

@Paul

Not true. His father was Sagawa Akira, president of Kurita Water Industries at the time. He passed away in 2005.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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