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Seven Facts About Miyuki Ishikawa, Japan's Demon Midwife

If you were birthing a baby in 1940s Japan, heavens help you. And if the midwife was Miyuki Ishikawa then even hell could not help. That's because she was a serial killer, who targeted babies. These were dark days in Japan as it reeled from the death and destruction of WWII, along with the economic downfall that came with it being on the losing end. The feudal rule had taken a lot out of the country in the period before the defeat, creating particularly difficult circumstances for a child to be born in.

There was no money and each added infant meant another mouth to feed. Unable and sometimes even unwilling, the Japanese began to practice “mabiki”, which literally means weeding, in which unwanted newborns were simply left to die. The girls would often be spared because they could be married, sold off for money or sent off to be geishas, thus supporting their families. The sons were rarely spared. Many of these poor victims were basically murdered by the very midwife who helped birth them, Miyuki Ishikawa.

Here’s her story, and how Japan failed many of its babies through infanticide... 

Born In Affluence, Miyuki Ishikawa Was A University Graduate

Miyuki Ishikawa led a comfortable life, born in 1897 at a time when Japan was still unscarred by the war and the nuclear bomb. 

Girls from impoverished families would often become geishas to earn a living and support their families. However, Ishikawa graduated from the University of Tokyo which likely means that she came from a fairly affluent background. 

She became a midwife and later, as per her family’s wishes, was married to Takeshi Ishikawa.


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Miyuki Had No Children

After marriage, Miyuki continued to work as a midwife in the Kotobuki maternity hospital and it is said that in Takeshi she found a supportive husband, as she rose to the rank of director in the hospital.

Miyuki’s marriage to Takeshi Ishikawa did not result in any children. It is unclear if the reason was a medical issue or a decision made by the couple. Was she a secret child hater or did an empty womb turn her into one? Or was it happenstance?

The Murders Began As An Act Of "Charity"

It’s not as if Miyuki Ishikawa started this practice of letting newborn infants die. Poverty-stricken families would often abandon a newborn infant and leave it to wither away. Sometimes they would abandon the babies at the hospital. 

When Ishikawa faced a deserted baby, she too would leave it to its own devices. Initially, all she did was carry on what the parents themselves had started, neglecting her duty as a medical professional and letting the babies die “accidentally”. Basically, she was an "angel of mercy", a medical professional turned serial killer.

Later, it became more sinister and Ishikawa became a way more active participant.

The Game Soon Turned Into Greed

While Miyuki may have gotten a sick thrill out of the killings, the end result was money. She was a businesswoman and felt that money could be made off these killings. 

Whenever the parents didn’t want their children because they could not afford them, Takeshi would demand money to get the death certificates. She roped in her husband and Dr. Shiro Nakayama, who would then draw up false death certificates for the infants that were killed. 

An Accidental Discovery Brought About Her Arrest

There were many who worked under or around Miyuki Ishikawa who had been raising their doubts and complaints against her to no avail. 

It was only when two policemen found five baby corpses in a plastic bag that public outcry arose and a case against Miyuki was made. Forty more infant corpses were found in a mortician’s house, while another thirty were buried under the temple. 

Miyuki and Takeshi were finally arrested in 1948 along with Dr. Shiro Nakayama and more.

Miyuki Blamed The Parents For The Abandonment

No one knows how many infants she helped die, for the birth records of the 1940s weren’t exactly the best. The estimate of her victims lies between 85 and 169 but she was “tried for” 103 newborn deaths in total. 

Her crimes were viewed as omission and not as a homicide. Ishikawa in turn claimed that it was the parents who abandoned their children and left them to die. Child activists like Yuriko Miyamoto seemed to agree and Miyuki and the others were awarded lenient sentences.

Justice Served?

Initially, Miyuki got eight years in prison and her husband and Dr. Nakayama got four each. Upon appeal, the sentence was halved. The reason is simple. At the time, Japan was a country in crisis. Abortion was illegal which is why, despite 10 million people being at risk of starvation in 1946, the population rose by another 11 million from 1945 to 1950. Killing a child in the womb was illegal, birthing it and letting it die seemed the easiest choice because, at the time, Japan did not recognize infant rights.

It was in the wake of this case that Japan finally legalized abortions in 1948 and later, it became part of the Maternal Body Protection Law in 1996.

The Ishikawa's, meanwhile, slipped off the pages of history and their crimes remain largely forgotten today...

Next, read about a child, Mary Bell, who murdered other children in a bizarre case... 

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