Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star: A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan

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Overview

In May 1936, Abe Sada committed the most notorious crime in twentieth-century Japan -- the murder and emasculation of her lover. What made her do it? And why was she found guilty of murder yet sentenced to only six years in prison? Why have this woman and her crime remained so famous for so long, and what does her fame have to say about attitudes toward sex and sexuality in modern Japan?

Despite Abe Sada's notoriety and the depictions of her in film and fiction (notably in the classic In the Realm of the Senses), until now, there have been no books written in English that examine her life and the forces that pushed her to commit the crime. Along with a detailed account of Sada's personal history, the events leading up to the murder, and its aftermath, this book contains transcripts of the police interrogations after her arrest -- one of the few existing first-person records of a woman who worked in the Japanese sex industry during the 1920s and 1930s -- as well as a memoir by the judge and police records.

Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star steps beyond the simplistic view of Abe Sada as a sexual deviate or hysterical woman to reveal a survivor of rape, a career as a geisha and a prostitute, and a prison sentence for murder. Sada endured discrimination and hounding by paparazzi until her disappearance in 1970. Her story illustrates a historical collision of social and sexual values -- those of the samurai class and imported from Victorian Europe against those of urban and rural Japanese peasants.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Asian Studies - Ronald P. Loftus

An important book about a fascinating topic... magnificently salacious... Johnston's account is succinct and compelling.

Monumenta Nipponica - Valerie Durgaham
Johnston's ground-breaking study will satisfy a wide spectrum of readers.
Journal of Japanese Studies - Christine Marran

...a gripping contribution to stories woven about Abe Sada over the twentieth century and her attempt to tell her own story through testimony.

H-Net Reviews - Marie Seong-Hak Kim

If only all history books were this much fun to read.

Monumenta Nipponica - Valerie Durham

Johnston's ground-breaking study will satisfy a wide spectrum of readers.

Journal of Asian Studies
An important book about a fascinating topic... magnificently salacious... Johnston's account is succinct and compelling.

— Ronald P. Loftus

Monumenta Nipponica
Johnston's ground-breaking study will satisfy a wide spectrum of readers.

— Valerie Durgaham

Journal of Japanese Studies
...a gripping contribution to stories woven about Abe Sada over the twentieth century and her attempt to tell her own story through testimony.

— Christine Marran, University of Minnesota

H-Net Reviews
If only all history books were this much fun to read.

— Marie Seong-Hak Kim

Booklist - Whitney Scott

A smart, compelling examination...This well-researched, scholarly work is a service to women's studies as well as Asian cultural history.

Booklist
A smart, compelling examination...This well-researched, scholarly work is a service to women's studies as well as Asian cultural history.

— Whitney Scott

Library Journal
The story of Abe Sada, a Japanese ex-prostitute who murdered her lover in 1936, has been the inspiration for several oeuvres of the "ero-guro-nansensu" (erotic, grotesque, nonsensical) genre, as well as varieties of psychological interpretation. Johnston (Japanese history, Wesleyan Univ.) chooses to tell the story simply and clearly by using police transcripts and other documents to re-create Abe Sada's life, primarily as she presented it to her interrogators. The short but valuable introduction and prolog alert readers to the culturally and historically relative nature of gender roles, love, and sex. This book only touches on the changing mores of Japanese sexuality (for an in-depth discussion, see Sabine Fr hst ck's Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan); in addition, it does not explore the role of popular media in turning Sada's life into obscenity. By appending his own translation of the interrogation records, the author lets readers draw their own conclusions. Recommended for academic libraries with women's studies or Asian studies collections.-Lisa Klopfer, Eastern Michigan Univ. Lib., Ypsilanti Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

William Johnston is professor of Japanese history at Wesleyan University. He is the author of The Modern Epidemic: A History of Tuberculosis in Japan.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Prologue: A Murder Grips the Nation1. An Unremarkable Family History2. Early Childhood3. Maidens or Harlots Only4. Geisha and Prostitutes5. Acquaintance Rape6. Acting Up7. Becoming Professional8. Changing Saddles9. Legal Prostitution and Escape10. From Prostitute on the Lam to Mistress11. A Search for Stability12. Discovering Love13. Loveís Intoxication14. Murder15. No Longer Private16. Interrogation and Investigation17. Judgment18. Imprisonment and Release19. Celebrity, Hardship, and EscapeEpilogue: A Trail of Re-creationsNotes from the Police Interrogation of Abe Sada

Columbia University Press

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