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Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star: A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan (Asia Perspectives: History, Society and Culture) Hardcover – 26 Nov 2004


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Review

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

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Abe Sada's family and ancestors were quite ordinary, like innumerable other families then living in Tokyo and throughout the country. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An Amazing Crime 8 Jan. 2006
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Once you get over reading the name "Abe Sada" as though it were "Abe Lincoln," you'll have a whale of a time reading Dr. Johnston's account of a famous modern Japanese geisha and killer. He is a professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, but don't let his distinguished credentials put you off, he is also a tip top storyteller. Many of us in the West heard about this case first from the shocking "art film" directed by Oshima called, IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES, and many guys who saw this movie back in the day will still not uncross their legs.

Johnston has won access to the original testimony and court transcriptions of Sada's arrest and trial. He quotes from memoirs of Sada provided by the man who interrogated her directly after the crime. "What really left an impression," said Adachi Umezo, "was when I asked her, 'Why did you cut him?' Immediately she became excited and her eyes sparkled in a strange way. At the time people were saying thaat she had cut off Ishida's thing because it was larger than average. But in reality, Ishida's was just average." Johnston asks the question, how did Udezo know rhat Ishida's penis was just average. Who can say, but as Johnston proves, Udezo must have seen a lot of men's genitals to make such a judgement.

As an appendix, the historian wins out over the storyteller, and Johnston's narrative voice slips discreetly away and we hear Abe Sada's own account of what happened, the way she saw it. For the first time, we see the whole murder slash castration story from the point of view of the woman who committed it, and we see that a society, like pre-war Japan, that had driven women to the point of insanity, their backs against the wall, monitored and legislated through rape and coerced brothel activity, might expect plenty more from any woman brave enough to strike back. If Abe Sada was a star, as Johnston foregrounds in his title, she became a star in much the same way that Valerie Solanas did, for political and economic reasons, however badly understood by both perpetrator and victim.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Abe Sada Review 14 Jan. 2011
By kmccall86 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book starts off a bit slow, establishing the social attitudes and perceptions of normal sexual behavior in Japan, and in Abe Sada's own history. After the first 20 or 30 pages, though, the book gets into the actual story that continues to capture the attention of audiences worldwide. Overall, a very interesting, well-written account of the events that transpired. My favorite part is the actual police transcript of the Abe Sada interview and confession. If you make it through the book and do not read the story according to Abe Sada, then you're robbing yourself of the $30 you paid for this book. Perhaps that's my only knock on the book. It should be a $5-$10 book, but w/e.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
AT THE MARGINS 3 April 2010
By WSH - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of Abe Sada has all the sensational ingredients to attract a further retelling. This is a serious treatment, certainly, but an unsatisfying one - at least for this reader - because the case testimony presented by the author does not fit well with his contention that she was a misunderstood woman, who murdered and mutilated her lover "for love." It takes a peculiar definition of love - certainly not selfless devotion - to arrive at this formula. As for being misunderstood, the fact that she received a sentence of six years jail (with time off) suggests - and the commentaries provided in the book confirm this - that the judicial system was quite capable of a subtle and reasoned response to the case (although the failure of the book to really account for the light sentence is a weakness). Johnston would have us regard Abe as the victim in this crime. While this may be a fashionable position to adopt, it seems bizarre to this reader, and hardly supported by the evidence, taken as a whole. There is some interesting discussion in the book about the status of women in the period - the 1930s - the writing is fluent, and Johnston has done a valuable job of translation, but his thesis wears thin.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Five Stars 11 Dec. 2014
By Japninja - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Delivered quick and as stated plus its a great book
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