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The Early Story of Samurai and Seppuku in Feudal Japan

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Trendingcips.comThe Honorable Death: Samurai and Seppuku in Feudal Japan. While martial suicide may be a practice found during a lot of cultures, the act of seppuku, or ritual self-disembowelment, is peculiar to Japan.

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The earliest known acts of seppuku were the deaths of samurai Minamoto Tametomo and poet Minamoto Yorimasa within the latter a part of the 12th century. Seppuku is understood within the west as hara-kiri. However, the term seppuku is taken into account more elegant usage.

As the human spirit was believed to reside within the stomach, slitting the stomach open was considered to be the foremost straightforward and bravest, way to die. Therefore, this act was a privilege reserved for the samurai. Commoners were allowed to hold or drown themselves, and samurai women could slit their own throats, but only a male samurai were allowed to commit seppuku.

So…What is the post ritual of seppuku?

This is the post samurai and seppuku history.

The post given below will guide you to learn all about Seppuku is known in the West as hara-kiri.

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Onodera Junai’s wife

Onodera Junai’s wife (one of the 47 ronin) preparing for jigai (female version of seppuku) to follow her husband in death.

By committing seppuku, a samurai would be ready to maintain or prevent the loss of honor for himself and his extended family. Therefore, a samurai who committed seppuku was often revered after his death. Defeated or dishonored samurai who chose to surrender instead of kill often found themselves reviled by society.

 

The Ritual of Seppuku

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The seppuku ritual, circa 1900

By the Edo Period, the act of seppuku had become a totally developed ritual. Emphasis was placed on strict adherence to the ceremony. during typical seppuku, a big white cushion would be placed and witnesses would arrange themselves discreetly to 1 side. The samurai, wearing a white kimono, would kneel on the pillow during a formal style. Behind and to the left of the samurai knelt his kaishakunin (his “second” or assistant).

The duty of the kaishakunin was to stop the samurai from experiencing prolonged suffering by cutting the samurai’s head off once he had slit his stomach. Contrary to popular belief, the ritual of seppuku for a samurai didn’t technically involve suicide, but inflicting fatal injury, leaving the kaishakunin to strike the death blow.

The kaishakunin needed to strike the samurai’s hard enough to sever the spine but also delicate enough to still leave the head attached. As severing the head completely dishonored both the samurai committing seppuku and therefore the kaishakun, the role of “second” was given only to men who possessed superior control of their swords.

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A servant would place a wooden table before the samurai, which might contain a sake (rice wine) cup, a sheaf of washi (paper handmade from mulberry bark), and writing utensils, also because the kozuka (disemboweling blade) – although the samurai would be allowed to use his own sword if he preferred. The sake cup was then filled from the left by an attendant. The samurai emptied the cup in two drinks of exactly two sips each, together sip would show greed, and three or more sips would show hesitation. this is able to make a complete of 4 sips (the character shi, which suggests “four”, also means “death”).

 

The Importance of the Death Poem

Asano-Naganori
Asano Naganori

Before committing seppuku, a samurai would write a josei (death poem) – which was considered important as someone facing imminent death was believed to possess special insight into the nature of death and therefore the value of life. The poem should be graceful and natural, usually within the theme of transient emotions. Mentioning the samurai’s impending death within the poem would be considered poor form and uncouth.

This was also important for the samurai because the poem would function a written glimpse into his nobility of character and the way he wished to be remembered after his death. Asano Naganori, for instance, whose seppuku precipitated the famous incident of the “ forty-seven ronin ”, is claimed to possess written a very poor death poem, possibly because he implied the approaching end to his life, thereby showing his immaturity and lack of character.

 

Completing the Death Ritual of Seppuku

According to tradition, when he felt ready, the samurai would loosen the folds of his kimono, exposing his stomach. He would then lift the knife with one hand and unsheathe it with the opposite, setting the sheathe to 1 side. After mentally preparing himself, he would drive the knife into the left side of his stomach, then draw it across to the proper. He would then turn the blade in his wound and convey it upward.

Most samurai didn’t need to endure this last agony, because the kaishakunin would sever the neck at the first sign of pain. The cut in seppuku administered to its finish was called the Jumanji (crosswise cut), and to perform it in its entirety was considered very impressive seppuku.

A samurai must keep his composure even on the brink of death, showing strength and full control of his mind and body in his last moments. Any previous reputation of a samurai would be meaningless if he were to die in an unseemly manner. However, although a relaxed and composed state was ideal for the samurai committing this act, the eighteenth-century book Hagakure and other Edo works relate stories of samurai losing their composure just before committing seppuku, and in some cases, they had to be forcibly decapitated.

 

Different Reasons for a Samurai to kill

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He had just written his death poem, which is also visible in the upper right corner: General Akashi Gidayu preparing to commit Seppuku after losing a battle for his master in 1582.

Of course, there have been circumstances where there wasn’t enough time for the samurai to undergo the entire ritual of seppuku. Therefore, acts like cutting his own throat, throwing himself from a running horse with a sword in his mouth, or throwing himself off cliffs were also allowed.

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There were some reasons for the samurai’s suicide. the first is Junshi, an act of suicide by following one’s lord in death, which was common within the days of open samurai warfare. With the end confrontation of the Gempei War imminent and everyone hope lost, general Taira Tomomori resolved to finish his life.

He summoned his foster brother, who then assisted Tomomori into a second suit of armor and donned another himself. Hand in hand, they jumped into the ocean. Seeing this, a minimum of 20 samurai then placed on their heavy armor, bore weighty objects on their backs to create sure they might sink, took each other by the hand, and jumped, determined to not stay behind after their master was gone.

Fushi is an act of suicide to precise one’s indignation at a situation. a well-known occurrence was in 1970 when the novelist Mishima Yukio disemboweled himself in protest against what he believed was the loss of traditional values in his country. However, because the act of seppuku was abolished in 1873, his suicide was mostly seen as anachronistic and something of a national embarrassment.

General Akashi Gidayu preparing to commit Seppuku after losing a battle for his master in 1582. He had just written his death poem, which is additionally visible within the upper right corner.

General Akashi Gidayu preparing to commit Seppuku after losing a battle for his master in 1582. He had just written his death poem, which is additionally visible within the upper right corner. ( property right )

Kanshi is an act of suicide thanks to remonstration. A samurai would kill to state his case or make his point to a lord when all other sorts of persuasion had proven ineffective. This was done by Hirate Nakatsukasa Kiyohide in 1553. He committed suicide to create his master Oda Nobunaga change his ways.

Nobunaga’s behavior as a young man was said to be disgraceful. Hirate wrote a letter urging Nobunaga to vary his ways then committed Kanshi. His death is claimed to possess had a dramatic effect on Nobunaga. He did mend his ways and built the Seisyu-Ji in Owari to honor Hirate.

Finally, Sokotsu-shi is an act of suicide as a way for an offending samurai to form amends for his transgression. An example of a transgression is striking his fellow retainer with a sword in anger, which was punishable by death, and sometimes the choice of suicide was given. A samurai would also commit suicide because of his failure in his duty of protecting his lord from being killed in battle, or by an assassin.

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Scene of seppuku in japan feodal

Related Article for you:

The post history of the samurai and seppuku in Japan.

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