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Inside Seppuku, The Ancient Samurai Ritual Suicide Tradition

This fascinating and accessible study will appeal both to the scholar and to the general reader. My men have run away. Watch carefully and you will learn how to cut your bellies, for your day will surely come. Drawing on a wealth of sources from antiquity to modern times, Andrew Rankin delivers both an exciting story and an invaluable work of scholarship. Sin stock. Disponible en semanas. In this illustration, a warrior prepares himself to perform seppuku, Wikimedia Commons.

Seppuku: A History of Samurai Suicide

In this story, warrior Minamoto no Tametomo was said to have reacted to defeat by cutting his own stomach open. In this colorized photo possibly a reenactment , a warrior performs seppuku. By the middle of the 19th century, seppuku was on the decline along with the samurai way of life.

However, it would still be roughly years before its practice had all but been phased out of Japanese culture. Here a samurai is shown in the process of committing seppuku, his death poem at his feet.

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Circa Getty Images. This photo shows a disassembled antique tanto and its smaller dagger counterpart. As with all things related to seppuku, how the tanto was inserted into the gut was carried out in a specific way. The blade would be thrust into the left side of the belly and pulled to the right with a sharp upward cut at the end.

Seppuku : a history of samurai suicide

This image from a kabuki play depicts a warrior committing seppuku as armed soldiers pursue him. Prior to the 17th century, the practice was less formal and often resulted in a slower and more painful death as participants bled out. Around , a helping-hand was incorporated with the addition of a kaishakunin or "second. The kaishakunin was not supposed to fully sever the head, but leave it still slightly attached at the throat. Failure to do so earned one a bad reputation. The distraught face of the kaishakunin above possibly shows his embarrassment in his less than ideal performance.

Library of Congress. A modified version of seppuku would occasionally be used as a form of protest against the actions of a ruler. Known as kanshi, this version would see the samurai commit the act and then quickly bandage the wound.

What Was the Gordian Knot?

He would later appear before his lord and state his grievances before removing the bandage to expose the mortal wound. Isao Inokuma, second from the left won a gold medal for Japan in martial arts at the Olympics and is the last known person to have performed ritualistic seppuku. It's believed that he carried out the act after suffering huge financial losses as CEO of his company in On November 25, Mishima and five uniformed followers charged in to the Ichigaya Station of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, slashed at soldiers who tried to stop them and took over the commanding officer's offices.

Appearing on the balcony of the building, Mishima delivered a speech to 2, soldiers who surrounded it. He then disappeared into the building and committed seppuku.


  • Genesis!
  • Different Reasons for a Samurai to Commit Suicide.
  • A History of Samurai Suicide!

Seppuku was an incredibly ritualistic process and involved the samurai going through a number of preparations before committing the act. One of these was writing his death poem, which was supposed to be eloquent and attest to their emotions, but not directly mention death. In this illustration, General Akashi Gidayu prepares to commit seppuku after losing a battle for his master in His death poem is visible in the upper right corner.

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Wives of samurai had their own suicide ritual known as jigai. Carried out in a very similar way with a knife to the belly, women would perform this if their husbands had carried out seppuku or if capture by an an enemy was imminent, so as to prevent rape. When carried out as punishment, seppuku was not typically a solitary act and was performed in front of one's peers in the garden area of a temple.

The participant would be properly groomed and bathed and dressed in white to symbolize purity. A servant would typically place a small wooden table in front of the participant that would be set with a sake cup, tanto, and a piece of paper for writing the death poem.