Sada Abe: an image of reality? From Mecca, Srebrenica, Malcolm X and Tibet
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
If you know nothing about Sada Abe then this image will seem to be just another typical photo where you see a young lady smiling. The young lady is in fact Sada Abe and clearly the men in the photo look like people in power. However, for people who know nothing about Sada Abe then can you imagine the reality of why people seem so happy and cheerful?
Maybe by asking the question then some people will be thinking that something is amiss because why ask if the photo is innocent? This is the problem because by itself it is just a photo and like life many people see what they desire to see.
The façade on the outside is just a mirage because within all humans you have mystery, a passion that may or may not burn and a truth which is never spoken or is spoken in order to hide another reality.
Political propagandists will certainly feel at home by the photo which is shown where you see a young lady smiling with men. What could be more innocent? A blissful public unaware of the real reality or an opposing thought pattern which is deemed to be very dangerous.
How many communists were slaughtered in Indonesia? It is hard to count after more than a million, isn’t it? Therefore, was Vietnam “a mirage” for the real threat in Indonesia?
This may be veering off topic but the same can be said of Srebrenica. This applies to images of innocent Muslims being killed by Christian Serbs but what about the 3,500 innocent Christian Serbs who were slaughtered around Srebrenica?
Also, what about past history in this part of the Balkans because Christian Serbs had been enslaved and suffered dhimmitude and eldest sons were taken and converted to Islam. Does this mean nothing?
The same applies to Muslim SS units which were loyal to Hitler in World War Two and in more recent times thousands of international Islamic jihadists bypassed the Western media in the 1990s and beheaded at random; should all this be ignored?
Can we view reality through images and how do you judge history?
A photo, an image, an ideology, all can be played and manipulated and in this image we have to remember the atrocities in China and Korea by imperial Japanese forces. After all, something sinister is hiding behind the image of Sada Abe.
Sada Abe was born in 1905 and the photo was taken in 1936 and this was a period of heightened political divisions in Japan. Nationalism and socialism were both powerful and militarists would sway the course of Japanese history in this period.
However, the life of Sada Abe appears to be more embedded within aspects of Japanese culture. After all, the image of conservative Japan and high morals is a distortion just like it is a distortion in other cultures but of course not all distortions are carried out to the same degree.
After all, in this period Arab Muslims in Mecca and Medina could still buy their African female concubines and do how they pleased because slavery was still going strong in this part of the world.
Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam also missed the connection and left one faith and joined another. However, slavery was still a reality in the land of Mecca and Medina throughout the 1950s. Therefore, you have a man who declared that he was “throwing of his slave master” but who then converted to a faith which sanctions slavery.
Also, during his conversion slavery was part and parcel of society in Saudi Arabia and of course the majority of slaves will have been African.
Similarly, Tibetan priests were no moral and innocent guardians of virtue in this period and many a child was sexually abused. Indeed, the image of peaceful Buddhism in Tibet is just a façade because until 1913 the punishment system was barbaric.
Under the Sakya school which was embedded in the Tibetan legal code it was legal to punish by gouging out of eyes, cross amputation and other gruesome punishments. Indeed, two years before the photo of Sada Abe a Tibetan official called Lungshar had his eyes gouged out by “untouchables” in utopian Tibet in 1934 and slavery under the feudal system was common in Old Tibet.
All this may seem like a far cry from the topic but the photo represents a façade which exists under every utopian or conservative culture. Therefore, the image of Sada Abe does tell us much about the reality of propaganda and turning to Japan itself; then the image shows us something more sinister and the same applies to cultural norms of the day.
Sada Abe, the smiling young lady who is joking and at ease, had just been arrested for the brutal murder of her lover, Kichizo Ishida. Not only had she murdered Kichizo Ishida but she also mutilated his body and carried with her his penis and testicles which she had chopped off.
If this is not bad enough it is also stated that after killing him and mutilating his body she would also behave sexually to the dismembered penis. This applies to entering the penis of Kichizo Ishida into her mouth and trying to enter it into her body and using it like a sexual toy to pleasure herself.
However, in her worldview she was claiming that she killed out of love and clearly she caught the imagination of Japan.
In the photo it is clear that she was viewed somewhat exotically and a lady of mystery and astonishingly she was only given 6 years for this brutal murder. Not that she served the six years because she was released early.
Therefore, not only does the image by itself distort the most ghastly of deeds but the most shocking aspect of the case may not even belong to the murder?
I am not implying that this gruesome murder wasn’t brutal and the sexual acts that she performed on herself weren’t on the borders of insanity. However, the real shock may belong to two other revealing factors depending on your thinking.
Firstly, Sada’s sister, Teruko, had several lovers therefore her father punished her in not such an unusual way within Japan during this period. Yes, he punished his daughter by sending her to a brothel and this also did not hinder her marriage after shortly leaving the brothel when her father reclaimed her.
Yet, this factor tells us much about aspects of Japanese culture because it would seem rather extreme in most cultures to send your daughter to a brothel. However, it was not uncommon and clearly men often married ladies who were punished like this.
The second telling factor is that artists, philosophers, novelists, and the film industry have turned everything upside down and given her a mysterious billing. Also, a book was written about her and then she decided on her own memoirs.
Therefore, within 11 years of this brutal murder and of playing with a chopped off penis in her mouth she emerges to be widely respected. In 1947 The Erotic Confessions of Abe Sada sold over 100,000 copies and became a best-seller.
Given this, the photo tells us nothing by itself and if we view history then how many distortions and unrealities do you have in this world? Or is it that unreality and reality belong together because each individual will see things differently based on culture, time, history, individualism, environment, political beliefs, religion, personal factors, and so forth?
However, while the photo may distort things the same can’t be said for what happened to Sada’s sister, Teruko. Maybe the real story is not Sada Abe but how punishments were handed out in Japan in this period and this applies to government and family punishments.