Sakuma Hideka & Chiyoka 1934 Japan
gouache on paper, 11 x 7 inches
2012

Sakuma Hideka and Chiyoka worked at a coffee shop in Tokyo together with another (unnamed) woman.  Newspaper accounts of their story describe the three women as having a polyamorous relationship that they knew society would never condone.

Knowing that they could not live as a couple or threesome, Hideka and Chiyoka embarked on a journey to commit shinjū, double suicide or love suicide, by jumping into Mt. Mihara, an active volcano on the island of Ōshima off the coast of Tokyo. 

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them, the third woman attempted to commit suicide on her own, leaving farewell notes to her family.  Alerted by these notes, the press found out about Hideka and Chiyoka’s intentions and followed them to Ōshima, catching up to them before they could throw themselves into the crater. 

Afterwards, Hideka wrote her own account of the incident, describing their two-day journey to Mt. Mihara, their stay at an inn, and how they held each other close “thinking only of death.”  She also criticized the press for spreading rumors about her family, disparaging her masculine appearance, and trivializing their suicide attempt by asking readers to contribute satirical songs about it.  She expressed her loneliness and wondered why self-sufficient women in love could not live together just as heterosexual couples did.


Sources:
 

Robertson, Jennifer. “Dying to Tell: Sexuality and Suicide in Imperial Japan.” Signs 25.1 (Autumn 1999): 1-35.

Sakuma Hideka. “Joshi Ketsui suru made” (Until [We] resolved to commit love suicide). Fujin Gahô 8 (1934): 82-3.

“Watashi wa koi no shorisha” (I am a survivor of love). Asahi Shinbun (Tokyo morning edition) 14 Jun. 1934: 11.

Thanks to Mamiko Imoto for translation assistance.