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PDF Hara-kiri: Japanese Ritual Suicide

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Kinja is in read-only mode. In the practice of past times, there were instances when the head flew off. It was said that it was best to cut leaving a little skin remaining so that it did not fly off in the direction of the verifying officials. The retainer would make one deep, horizontal cut into his stomach, then quickly bandage the wound.

A Samurai's Guide to Harakiri

After this, the person would then appear before his lord, give a speech in which he announced the protest of the lord's action, then reveal his mortal wound. It involves a second and more painful vertical cut on the belly. A samurai performing jumonji giri was expected to bear his suffering quietly until perishing from loss of blood, passing away with his hands over his face. The main purpose was to achieve a quick and certain death in order to avoid capture.

Hara-Kiri Swap

Women were carefully taught jigaki as children. Before committing suicide, a woman would often tie her knees together so her body would be found in a dignified pose, despite the convulsions of death. Jigaki, however, does not refer exclusively to this particular mode of suicide. Jigaki was often done to preserve one's honor if a military defeat was imminent, so as to prevent rape.

A Form of Ritual Suicide Practiced by the Samurai

Invading armies would often enter homes to find the lady of the house seated alone, facing away from the door. On approaching her, they would find that she had ended her life long before they reached her. Stephen R.

Harakiri (1962) - Seppuku scene HD

Turnbull provides extensive evidence for the practice of female ritual suicide, notably of samurai wives, in pre-modern Japan. One of the largest mass suicides was the 25 April final defeat of Taira Tomomori establishing Minamoto power.

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The wife of Onodera Junai, one of the Forty-seven Ronin, is a notable example of a wife following by suicide the seppuku disemboweling of a samurai husband. A large number of honour suicides marked the defeat of the Aizu clan in the Boshin War of , leading into the Meiji era.


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Voluntary death by drowning was a common form of ritual or honour suicide. By way of contrast, the religious beliefs of Hosokawa Gracia, the Christian wife of daimyo Hosokawa Yusai, prevented her from committing suicide. The expected honour-suicide of the samurai wife is also frequently referenced in Japanese literature and film, such as in Humanity and Paper Balloons and Rashomon.

The term was introduced into English by Lafcadio Hearn in his Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation, an understanding which has since been translated into Japanese and Hearn seen through Japanese eyes. Though both Long's story and Puccini's opera predate Hearn's use of the term jigai, the term has been used in relation to western japonisme which is the influence of Japanese culture on the western arts.

While the voluntary seppuku described above is the best known form, in practice the most common form of seppuku was obligatory seppuku, used as a form of capital punishment for disgraced samurai, especially for those who committed a serious offense such as unprovoked murder, rape, robbery, corruption, or treason. The samurai were generally told of their offense in full and given a set time to commit seppuku, usually before sunset on a given day. Sometimes, but not always, a second would finish the job with a sword. Interestingly, ritual seppukus were usually performed in front of spectators, who witnessed the samurai's last moments.

Among the samurai who performed ceremonial seppuku were General Akashi Gidayu during the Sengoku and forty-six of the 47 Ronin in To express his guilt over sending some 4, young Japanese men to their deaths, Onishi committed seppuku without a second. It took him more than 15 hours to bleed to death. Seppuku was by no means a solely male phenomenon.

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Women of the samurai class often committed seppuku if their husbands died in battle or were forced to kill themselves. They also might kill themselves if their castle was besieged and ready to fall, so as to avoid being raped.

The ritual of seppuku

To prevent an unseemly posture after death, women would first bind their legs together with a silk cloth. Some cut their abdomens as male samurai did, while others would use a blade to slit the jugular veins in their necks instead. At the end of the Boshin War , the Saigo family alone saw twenty-two women commit seppuku rather than surrendering. The word "seppuku" comes from the words setsu , meaning "to cut," and fuku meaning "abdomen.