Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star

A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan

William Johnston

Columbia University Press

Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star

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Pub Date: November 2004

ISBN: 9780231130523

272 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $40.00£30.00

Pub Date: November 2004

ISBN: 9780231509152

272 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $39.99£30.00

Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star

A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan

William Johnston

Columbia University Press

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.
valuable introduction and prolog alert readers to the culturally and historically relative nature of gender roles, love, and sex...Recommended Lisa Klopfer, Library Journal
A smart, compelling examination...This well-researched, scholarly work is a service to women's studies as well as Asian cultural history. Whitney Scott, Booklist
An important book about a fascinating topic... magnificently salacious... Johnston's account is succinct and compelling. Ronald P. Loftus, Journal of Asian Studies
Johnston's ground-breaking study will satisfy a wide spectrum of readers. Valerie Durham, Monumenta Nipponica
...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, Journal of Japanese Studies
If only all history books were this much fun to read. Marie Seong-Hak Kim, H-Net Reviews
Preface
Introduction
Prologue: A Murder Grips the Nation
1. An Unremarkable Family History
2. Early Childhood
3. Maidens or Harlots Only
4. Geisha and Prostitutes
5. Acquaintance Rape
6. Acting Up
7. Becoming Professional
8. Changing Saddles
9. Legal Prostitution and Escape
10. From Prostitute on the Lam to Mistress
11. A Search for Stability
12. Discovering Love
13. Loveís Intoxication
14. Murder
15. No Longer Private
16. Interrogation and Investigation
17. Judgment
18. Imprisonment and Release
19. Celebrity, Hardship, and Escape
Epilogue: A Trail of Re-creations
Notes from the Police Interrogation of Abe Sada
Endnotes
Bibliography
Index

About 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.