Honor in Japan has been a concept of their culture since the beginning of their history as a people.. Today's date, still fervent that feeling rooted by their respectable ancestors.
Taking them back to the feudal era, where life was considered a state of transition to another world, the attachment to it did not have the same anchor as that which we can understand from the western mind.
This encouraged the option of not dismissing taking one's life with a heroic act, before losing it in an unseemly way or continuing to live with shame for any kind of disgrace such as that circumstance could be understood back then. This exit was also used as a protest against decisions of his superiors that were not shared or not well accepted.. Even some samurai, after the death of his feudal lord, a symbol of loyalty, used this method to meet their lord in the White Jade Pavilion.
This heroic and honorable act that he tries to keep even in the last breath of life, their dignity and moral integrity, was known as SEPPUKU; something beyond a mere sacrifice (the suicide ceremony).
It was an act focused more on samurai warriors who maintained the ethical codes of bushido, although it was also practiced by other men not included in this social class.
Wrongly, it has become known as HARAKIRI, a composition of two words (Hara = belly / Kiri = cut), since this was usually the way they used to detach themselves from their life, thus showing the courage of the Japanese spirit in the face of adversity, abiding by his destiny and hoping to be so remembered.
This sacrifice in question had a pre-established protocol as a kata. A ceremony where your spirit leaves the earth to enter the other world and be able to reunite with your ancestors.
He began his process with a bath in order to cleanse the body. They carefully combed their hair with the intention of not losing their image both at the beginning and after taking their own lives.. They wore pants and a white jacket, color representing death or mourning; a pure and clean color to enter the afterlife. They drank a cup of sake, as a characteristic symbol of the fuel that would ignite the engine of courage just as if they were on their way to battle.
After arriving at the chosen place, the ceremony continued the position of seiza (on knees) on a mat commonly made of braided straw or fabrics that would soak up spilled blood well. This position is the characteristic to show not only respect but also submission., understanding such as acceptance to their destiny.
They will place with great care in the front left corner of your mat, his last words, generally dedicated to someone you love, family members or a general appointment, which they will have previously written on a papyrus, wooden tablet or their own fan and that sometimes they wrote it in the form of verses with beautiful rhymes to the ear and deep feeling for the conscience. These types of poems are known as YUIGON.
Loose-fit jacket with wide sleeves allows arms to easily reach between lapels, that with a protocol movement similar to the beginning of Kanku Dai, they leave the naked torso in view of all those present. These sleeves were tucked under the knees to avoid unseemly falling backwards., since dying on your back is considered in bad taste.
They then stretched out their right arm to grasp the dagger or other short weapon (the tanto or the wakizashi was generally used) that was housed horizontally in front of him. He took it out of its case and placed it completely perpendicular to his belly, with the tip resting just below your floating ribs on the left side and with the edge pointing to the right, they plunged him energetically within themselves, trying to keep my composure, without moaning, without gesturing, since the process was not finished.
Once nailed, they took out the courage that they had left, that was not little, and tore horizontally from left to right his belly, cutting the guts that crossed their path.
The ideal process for the suicide is that after this horizontal cut, retract your dagger toward the center of the cut for a second upward vertical cut until you reach the sternum, thus forming inverted T-shaped cuts. Obviously there were few who could go this far.
Prostrate in pain, they remained motionless until death took them by the hand. Could spend minutes, hours and even days until this happened. An inhumed suffering, typical of heroes who border on the inhuman.
Those who did not want such suffering or because of their social status, they had the option of being cared for by someone they trust to avoid this latest episode (kaishakunin), in such a way that I am stationed behind on his left, katana in hand, he waited for the moment to deliver the final thrust that would end with a blow with said suffering by separating his head from the trunk with a clean cut. As a curiosity, the assistant tried hard not to finish cutting off the head and with precision, leave a shred of skin to hold it so that it does not roll off on the floor, being able to give rise to mockery and lack of seriousness.
In this way, his honor and that of his family was purified..
But not always a disgrace could be cleaned with this protocol. Sometimes, circumstances were pressing and it was impossible to prepare so much formalism. See the case of wars where before losing a fortification, the commanding general took his own life in this way in a secluded compound, away from enemy eyes. There was no time for poetry, no white clothes; It was a quick solution whose end reigned the ritual.
Also comment that a dagger was not always at hand, or did not always want to approach human sacrifice in the same way. Some thought that if the suffering was greater, the greater the honor that would endure in future years. This is the case of Akechi Mitsuyosi who after gutting in front of a Buddhist temple, with the blood that flowed from his belly, he had the strength to use it as ink and write a poem on the door.
There are other perhaps faster methods that avoid so much pain. An example we have in letting himself fall face down on his sharp sword.
More dramatic seems to dive headfirst as he gallops on his steed, keeping the sword between the teeth. Imagine such a scene when the hilt touches the ground and the edge of his katana slices through the skull as the body reaches down to the ground.. Imai Kanchira will always be remembered for this feat in the year 1184.
They passed close to 400 years when Matsunaga Kojiro emulated him, but not having a horse at that time, He did it by jumping from the tower of his castle with katana in his mouth and hands on his head.
Other forms of suicide are pouncing on the enemy under a hail of arrows or bullets. Let's remember this scene in the movie The last Samurai, based on real situations of the time.
There are many more forms of suicide used. We list some: drowning under the weight of your armor or tying yourself to a temple bell, to be starved, be buried alive and even the most curious technical feat such as self-beheading, which requires great anatomical knowledge in addition to a very well sharpened sword.
It's funny to think that in this feudal age, where the place of men and women were well differentiated, there were some who also decided to kill themselves for similar reasons, especially those who were among the nobility. In these cases, they were not advised to cut their belly, possibly because they would not have enough strength and courage once nailed, keep cutting, which would cause an unfinished process that would remain as an act of bad taste in the view of the observer. Even in the cases that were in your privacy, they preferred a different protocol but with the same ending. Instead simulate men's protocol with seppuku, would mean in those minds, that a woman can do the same as a man, and that was not well considered.
Holding the seiza position, legs were previously tied at thigh height, just above the knees. In this way, when falling to the ground, they would keep their legs firm and together, not revealing parts of her body that were forbidden and reserved for her husband or master.
Once her thighs were tied, with a sharp dagger they approached the edge to his left carotid and with a swift mowing motion, they cut her so that the blood would flow until she fell asleep eternally. Another way to approach this act of sacrifice in an accurate and courageous way.
This act, is not considered SEPPUKU, but it is known by the name of JIGAI (suicide).
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