Best of EAT: Issey Sagawa, Japan’s Celebrity Cannibal

One of our most talked about and appreciated EAT stories written in an original and creepy style. Hey, cannibals have to eat too.

Story by Phil Sick -

From Cover 16


My best friend is a Japan enthusiast. The guy is a six foot six English man who actually lived in the empire of the sun for three years, until the Fukushima disaster changed his life and the lives of many others. When the tsunami hit, he was actually away, eating a hotdog with me in Williamsburg. Well, that’s when he found out anyway. I remember it vividly because he dropped his dog. Joe was on a well-timed vacation, though he insists on calling them holidays, just as some might call what I just said plain cynical. Well, I guess you’re right, but am I to blame for being happy that my pal was thousands of miles away from a major nuclear/environmental disaster theater?


Anyway, as soon as Joe started trying to reach his Japanese mates and girlfriends (being super tall, blond, and funny, he had many) and couldn’t speak to them he decided to purchase a bottle of Jameson. He felt guilty for not being there. I guess that if he didn’t, he would’ve bought an even more expensive whiskey… At that point, I had to put aside all my irrational dislike for japan, all my pseudo-racist jokes, and actually start empathizing with the courageous nation that was now on its knees. Honestly, I have never witnessed such a great display of dignity. It started making me feel bad for not being a big fan of japan. Stereotypes and clichés are pretty much like opiates; they’re easy to come across, they poison your system, and they’re difficult to kick… Don’t get me wrong, I love sushi and I’ve driven Japanese cars… Now that I think about it, I even have a few Japanese friends. Mostly pen pals, but you can’t say I ain’t trying. So, why is it that whenever Joe mentioned Japan, I started to look all constipated? The answer is very simple. I tackled this issue with my shrink and we broke it down to the fact that I really don’t like technology that much, I hate manga, and when I was a kid, I came across the figure of a four foot nine Japanese fellow called Issey Sagawa, also known as the Japanese cannibal who feasted on a young Dutch woman in the early summer of 1981.


Now, call me squeamish, but at the age of ten, a short little Asian Sorbonne exchange student in Paris who befriends, kills, practices necrophilia on, and then eats a young Dutch class mate of his not only didn’t seem right, but actually kept me up for whole nights after I watched his documentary. Say, then I must not like Germans because of Hitler and loath Americans because of Jeffry Damer. Damn, I could even hate my own kind for being responsible for creating Fiat and giving Sylvester Stallone an Italian name… I never actually hated Japanese people, but as an adolescent I did go through a phase where I’d get pretty spooked around them because of the Sagawa story… I’d go eat sushi with my folks in the Village and believe the cook, doing all his fancy stuff with the knife, wasn’t really so big on fish. I’d get myself really worked up. I would start thinking the man behind the sushi counter would’ve rather had a roast Phil instead of a roast beef, or feel the gelatinous texture of my fucked up OCD brain…


Yup. After the Sagawa (who, by the way, was the son of a rich Japanese business man and is at this moment living under a false name in what Joe would call Tokyo’s Queens) incident, I found out that the tiny cannibal didn’t even serve time. He is, as we speak, making a living by appearing on TV shows, while writing memoirs and gruesome manga on how he did the Dutch beauty and actually walked away from it a free man. Yeah, and it doesn’t take an expert to see that the guy is bat-shit crazy. Nonetheless, most of the shrinks on the planet agree that he is extremely dangerous and he himself admits that he still feels the urge to eat beautiful womens’ legs. It was at this point that I told my aunt to look at her varicose veins under a different light. I said to her, “Auntie, if I were you on this trip to Japan you’re going with Uncle Louie… I’d simply stop shaving my legs…”

“Phil, sweetie… How do you feel about nail polish? Is that okay with you? Oh… and before I forget, are tampax a safe bet in your book?“

I had this remote feeling she was being a tad sarcastic, so I decided not to disclose to her the way I felt about nail polish, nor tampax. What I did do, was send her a link to scariest Sagawa documentary I ever watched, just before she left, along with my best wishes for a pleasant and safe journey to Japan.


Good old Sagawa appears in several porn flicks, as well as, on mugs and t-shirts. He’s a regular on Japanese talk shows and recently, even the National Geographic covered his story. His mom tried to commit suicide after he was extradited, then she died along with her husband. The father was some company’s hot shot and always saved the boy’s ass. Before the “Paris accident”, he bought off another white girl his jolly good son allegedly tried to feast on while wearing a rubber Frankenstein mask, armed with an umbrella instead of a rifle. After all, he did spend a fortune paying the most expensive lawyer in France. Years have passed and, thanks to controlled substances and pet therapy, I’ve grown out of my fear for Sagawa. That gruesome prospect he would one day come to Brooklyn, find my twenty year old sister, con her, shoot her, have sex with her corpse, and finally make a nice hearty stew out of her buttocks (my sister is way too thin; no meat at all, Mr. Sagawa…). Nonetheless, I sometimes wonder, especially when I do not take my meds or I’m watching a Chuck Norris movie, what would happen if I went to Tokyo, tracked the guy down, shot, and then ate him. Would I succeed in making a nice pudding out of his vile looking flesh? If only I could skip trial and invite Andrew Zimmerman for lunch. Imagine this: film the foodie eating the cannibal and make a few bucks. Truth is I’d be arrested in no time and spend the rest of my life in a Japanese jail for getting back at that creep for someone I didn’t even know in the first place. One thing’s for sure, if I would ever actually make a Sagawa casserole, I’d dump it in the Hudson and then order some veggie pizza. Honestly, I don’t even know if I’d ever touch food again.

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