AN INTERVIEW WITH ISSEI SAGAWA, CANNIBAL
By Tomokazu Kosuga, Translated by Lena Oishi
On the afternoon of June 12, 1981, a Japanese man named Issei Sagawa walked into the woods in Bois de Boulogne, France, carrying two suitcases. The postgraduate student at the Sorbonne had shot and killed a female exchange student, a classmate of his, the day before. After eating portions of her body, he tried to dump the corpse in a remote lake. Witnesses saw him and he was soon arrested. According to reports, Issei uttered the following to the French police who raided his home: “I killed her to eat her flesh.”
French psychologists found Sagawa to have been legally insane at the time of the crime and, therefore, unfit to stand trial. He was subsequently exempted from prosecution. He returned to his homeland, where Japanese authorities tried to put him on trial for murder. French justice officials refused to hand over the necessary documents to carry on and he was again set free.
Personally, we’d probably eat human flesh if there was a massive apocalyptic famine like the siege of Stalingrad or if we were paid $100 trillion a year for life and were guaranteed to never get in trouble and to not get sick from it either. But short of stuff like that, why the fuck would you eat person meat? What are you, an orc? What exactly drove Sagawa to do it? Vice Japan’s editor, Tomo, who would probably make a pretty tasty little dish himself, courageously visited the cannibal’s home to find out the whole story.
Vice: Tell me about the first time you felt cannibalistic urges.
Issei Sagawa: I was physically weak from the moment I was born. My legs were so skinny they looked like pencils. It was in the first grade of elementary school when I saw the quivering meat on a male classmate’s thighs and I suddenly thought, “Mmm, that looks delicious.” But I’m not homosexual, so from around the time I entered junior high school I became obsessed with the Western actress Grace Kelly—an obsession that lasted right through high school. That was the beginning of my infatuation with Occidental people. Before I knew it, tall, healthy-looking Western women became the trigger for my cannibalistic fantasies. I guess my infatuation with such women stemmed from the fact that I was short, ugly, and had an inferiority complex and therefore sought people who were the exact opposite of myself. Eventually, I began feeling a strong desire to bite into them—not to kill them or eat them per se, but merely to gnaw on their flesh. It was purely a form of sexual desire. It wasn’t like I felt like eating someone every time I was hungry. But you know how you tend to feel a stronger sexual desire when you’ve eaten a full meal? That’s when I would start feeling the urge to eat a girl. It’s absurd, right? In essence, it’s different from the type of hunger that people experience for food. This cannibalistic urge, where I’m going, “I want to eat human meat,” is a sort of sexual appetite, so if I don’t make sure that I ejaculate frequently enough, the desire only gets stronger and stronger.
And this urge of yours got so pent up that it eventually exploded in the form of the… let’s say, the “incident” in Paris?
After I went to study in Paris, my cannibalistic urges showed no signs of slowing down. Almost every night I would bring a prostitute home and then try to shoot them from behind while they washed their vaginas at the bidet. I tried hundreds of times, but for some reason my fingers froze up and I couldn’t pull the trigger. From around that time, it became less about wanting to eat them, but more an obsession with the idea that I simply had to carry out this “ritual” of killing a girl no matter what. Yet for some reason, I failed so many times to pull the trigger. Rather than morals and whatnot, it was instinct that stopped my hand from moving. Somewhere in my mind I knew that I, and the world that I lived in, would shatter to pieces the moment I pulled...