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The honor of the Samurai. Hara-Kiri or Seppuku.

Seppuku or hara-kiri is the Japanese term used for suicide by disembowelment ritual or evisceration (hara kiri is abdomen and cut).

Hara 1In Japanese ‘hara-kiri’ it is not commonly used, as such term is considered vulgar and grotesque, it is more correct to use the word seppuku.It was a common practice among the samurai, they regarded her life as a delivery to the honor of dying gloriously, rejecting any kind of natural death. So, before seeing his life dishonored by a crime or offense, they resorted to this act to be death. The practice of forcing death by seppuku by order of a master is known as Oibara or junshi;the ritual is similar.


Avoid dishonor

For the Samurai, death meant a matter of honor, and death by old age and natural causes was not desirable. As the ancient Greeks believed, a noble, early and violent death was a sign of predilection of the gods, his ideal was “living beautifully and die beautifully.” Hence the adoption of cherry blossom as an emblem of Samurai … beautiful and ephemeral. One day in full bloom, the next day I killed by the storm.

“To live happily ever after” was a completely foreign concept and remains in modern Japanese literature.However, deliberately seek death was a sign of cowardice and escapism. A remarkable man would live his life as a noble could and only in certain prescribed circumstances could resort to Seppuku or Hara-kiri (literally meaning “belly cut”) as an honorable escape mode. These circumstances referred to avenge friends, pay a crime or mistake, or avoid dishonor.

The rite of seppuku

Seppuku was a key part of bushido, the code of the samurai warriors. The Seppuku could be voluntary, used by warriors to avoid falling into enemy hands or to expiate a fault code of honor, or compulsory, mandated by a Shogun or tribunal if a samurai committed a crime of murder, robbery or corruption. In this case, it communicated to the samurai a period to perform seppuku, and not occur proceeded to decapitate the prisoner.
Prior to committing seppuku sake he drank and a last farewell poem called zeppitsu or yuigon, consisted almost always on back of tessen or war fan. In the rite of seppuku, the samurai stood on his knees and sank a short sword (wakizashi or both) on the left side of the abdomen, continuing the cut to the right, back to center and effected a turn to climb the cutting path , to the sternum. Curiously, the samurai seppuku effected had to hold the wakizashi or both using a cloth to prevent splashing hands, and to die with blood on his hands was a disgrace. While the warrior effected seppuku, a fellow kaishaku remained standing beside him, and if he saw it suffer too, cut off his head. The term kaishaku is not the equivalent of an executioner, but of a gentleman who attends the realization of seppuku (in many cases is a position held by a relative or friend of the condemned).

harakiri cutting head


Women who followed the bushido performed a similar practice called jigai. The main difference with seppuku is that a cut is made in the neck, the carotid artery seccionándose dagger with a double-edged blade called Kwaiken. Previously, she was tied with a rope ankles to avoid the disgrace of dying with open legs falling.

The story of the 47 Ronin

Seppuku form an essential part of the history of the “47 Ronin,” the most important literary works of medieval Japan, immortalized by kabuki. The plot of the story is this:

Two daimyo (feudal lords) called Asano and Kira were in court and emerged a discussion, in which Kira insulted Asano, who drew his wakizashi and wounded Kira. Since it was forbidden to unsheathe any weapon in the imperial court, Asano was sentenced to commit sepukku, which 47 samurais of which he was daimyo became ronin (samurai who lacked a gentleman whose service delivered).

The 47 Ronin decided to avenge his master and, after a planning year, were introduced in Kira’s mansion one night, demanding that he also carried out with the same wakizashi seppuku had used Asano. Since Kira refused, they cut off his head and placed on the grave of Asano, in Sengaku-ji Temple.

By this act, the 47 Ronin were convicted by the Shogun to commit seppuku as a way to restore his honor (because of the crime of murdering a daimyo) and were buried in the temple of Sengaku-ji at the grave of his master.

Junshi Oibara or seppuku by order of Emperor

E1 Seppuku was also institutionalized under a formal state of execution that allowed the victim to retain his honor by beating itself to death.
In most cases the harakiri called mandatory, the imperial statement was accompanied by a dagger richly decorated for it was used as an instrument of suicide. The offender will be granted a certain number of days to prepare for the ceremony. At home the noble offender, or a temple, a stage that was covered with red carpets rose, see more carpet design and cleaning. As we begin the final act, the nobleman, dressed in ceremonial attire and assisted by a group of officers and friends, he took his place on the dais. His knees, said his prayers, received the dagger hands of the representative of the emperor and publicly confessed his guilt; then, stripping to the waist, he plunged the dagger into the left side of the abdomen, slowly moving toward the right side and effected a slight upward incision. At the last moment, a friend or family beheaded the dying nobleman.Then it was customary to send the bloodied dagger to the emperor as proof of the death of the noble by this method. If the offender voluntarily made the harakiri, ie, acted according to the dictates of his guilty conscience rather than by order of the emperor, his honor was considered restored and all their possessions passed into the hands of his family. Conversely, if the harakiri had been ordered by the emperor, half of the deceased ‘s possessions were confiscated by the state.

Currently Seppuku

The Seppuku as judicial punishment was officially banned in Japan in 1873, although the practice of seppuku did not finish at all. They have documented dozens of cases people who have made voluntary seppuku since then, including several military in 1895 to protest the return of a conquered territory to China, the General Maresuke Nogi (educator of Emperor Hirohito) and his wife to death emperor Meiji in 1912, and many soldiers and civilians who chose to die rather than accept surrender after World War II.

In 1970, the famous writer Yukio Mishima and one of his followers held a public seppuku after a failed attempt to incite the army to carry out a coup. Mishima realized his seppuku in the office of General Kanetoshi Mashita. His kaishaku, a 25-year-old named Masakatsu Morita, tried three times unsuccessfully to behead him. Finally, it was Hiroyasu Koga who performed the decapitation. Later, Masakatsu Morita tried to make his own seppuku. Although their cuts were too shallow to be fatal, he signaled to Koga so that also decapitate him.

In 1999, Masaharu Nonaka, an employee of Bridgestone in Japan, the abdomen was stabbed to protest his forced at age 58 retirement age. He died later in a hospital because of injuries.

Narration as this ritual suicide snub

The following account of a conventional Seppuku is registered in Tales of Old Japan, Mitford (later Lord Redesdale).

“We were invited – Seven foreigners to accompany the Japanese to deep or main hall of the temple, which was to be performed the ceremony was witnessed by representatives breathtaking scenery. A large living room high ceiling supported by wooden pillars dark. The ceiling hung a huge variety of lamps of tinsel and ornaments peculiar to Buddhist temples. Given the high altar and on the floor, covered with beautiful white mats, and a height of eight or ten feet off the ground, he lays a carpet of scarlet felt. Long candles placed at regular intervals projected a strictly enough to allow them to be seen and mysterious procedures diffuse light. Seven Japanese took their places to the left of the floor up, and seven foreigners on the right. They were the only ones.

“After an interval of a few minutes of intense excitement, Taki Zenzaburo, stocky man of thirty-two years old, he entered the room. with an air of nobility, attired in ceremonial dress, with wings peculiar hemp cloth used for special occasions. He was accompanied by a kaishaku and three officers, who wore the jimbaori, or breastplate of gold tissue war front. We note that the word kaishaku not equate the executioner term. E1 title is a gentleman; and in many cases it is a position held by a relative or friend of the condemned; and the relationship between them is rather that of a principal and second than that of victim and executioner. In this case, the kaishaku was a disciple of Taki Zenzaburo, and was selected for his skill in fencing among the friends of the latter. “Taki Zenzaburo with kaishaku inched his left towards the Japanese witnesses; they bowed before them and then approached us and greeted in the same way, though perhaps more consideration; in each case, the greeting was reciprocated ceremoniously. E1 condemned ascended slowly and great dignity to the raised floor, prostrated himself before the altar twice up and sat on the felt carpet with his back to the altar, and kneeling on his left kaishaku. Then he moved one of the three official assistants, carrying a lectern employees in the temple to make offerings.On the lectern was the wakizashi, the short sword or dagger Japanese twenty-four centimeters long, with a tip and a sharp edge such as a razor. Prostrating, he gave the condemned, who received it with reverence, lifting up his head with both hands, and put before him.

“After another profound obeisance, Taki Zenzaburo, with a voice that reflected great emotion and hesitation as expected in a man who made a painful confession; but firm in his face and his attitude, spoke as follows:

“I, and I alone, unjustifiably gave the order to shoot foreigners in Kobe and again I did when trying to escape. For this crime I unraveled and beg to present you do me the honor of witnessing the act. ”

“E1 who spoke let his upper clothes to slide up his belt, bowing once again, and was stripped to the waist.Carefully, according to custom, he picked up his sleeves under his knees to avoid falling back; because a noble Japanese gentleman should die falling forward. He took a firm hand and determined the dagger in front of him; He looked thoughtfully, almost affectionately; It seemed for a moment to review your thoughts for the last time and then stabbed deeply below the waist, on the left side and took the dagger slowly to his right side and turning it into the wound, gave a slight cut upwards. During this agonizingly painful operation he did not move a muscle of his face. When he drew his dagger, he leaned forward and stretched out his neck for the first time crossed his face an expression of pain, but never issued any regret. At that moment, the kaishaku, who had been watching carefully each of their movements, kneeling at his side, stood a jump and a second raised his sword in the air; there was a flash, an ugly blow, heavy, and a precipitous drop; the head had been severed from the body in one fell swoop.

“He went dead silence, broken only zor the horrible noise of the blood that gushed from the inert lump in front of us, which only a moment before had been a brave and chivalrous man. It was horrible.

“The kaishaku bowed deeply, wiped his sword with a piece of paper prepared for that purpose, and retired from the raised floor; and bloodstained dagger was solemnly removed, as bloody proof of the execution.

“Then the two representatives of the Mikado abandoned their sites and crossed to where the foreign witnesses were sitting; He asked us to testify that the death sentence had been fulfilled Zenzaburo Taki faithfully, we left the temple ceremony finished. “