The dismemberment plan

Ransom Riggs

There was a gruesomely fascinating article in the LA Times on Sunday about Japan. We know Japan, we love Japan; its citizens boast one of the lowest homicide rates and one of the longest average life expectancies in the world. They also, the article points out, have been dismembering one another quite a bit lately. I'll skip the goriest highlights, but a few telling examples are the young man who offed his mother, spray-painted her arm white and then planted it upright in a houseplant pot and the woman who buried the head of her cheating husband in a public park. Strange and horrifying? Certainly. A new phenomenon? Certainly not.

Dismemberment took place in the Edo period (1603-1868), in both state sanctioned form -- check out this brief wiki on crime and punishment at that time -- and in private life. Also, according to historian Mark Schreiber, "slashing of innocent passersby occurred regularly during the Showa era (1926-89) and the Taisho period (1912-26) had its record of sadistic crimes," as well. Needless to say, there's plenty of speculation out there as to the reasons why dismemberment is back in the Japanese news again. Far be it from us to guess; from what we can tell, sadism is something of a sport the world round.

Photo by Kalle Sissonen.