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Seppuku: A History of Samurai Suicide

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The tradition of seppuku—Japanese ritual suicide by cutting the stomach, sometimes referred to as hara-kiri—spans a millennium. Samurai revered seppuku as the most honorable form of death.

Here, for the first time in English, is a book that charts the history of samurai suicide from antiquity to modern times. Author Andrew Rankin traces the origins of seppuku in ancient myth, and guides us from the death of legendary warrior Minamoto no Tametomo in 1170 to the celebrated ritual suicide of General Nogi Maresuke in 1912. In between are countless examples of heroic courage, loyalty, and sacrifice.

Quoting from many previously untranslated sources, including battle chronicles, execution handbooks, private samurai documents, and rare eyewitness reports, Rankin also explains the protocols of the seppuku ceremony. This fascinating and accessible study will appeal both to the scholar and to the general reader.

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rare eyewitness reports

If this is referring to reports by Westerners, they are hardly that rare. British diplomat Ernest Satow witnessed several and wrote some accounts in his diaries.

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Just in time for the holidays.

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I thought seppuku required a couple of witnesses. At least one for chopping the head off.

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They should really slash the price of this book, lol.

I wonder if they talk about Mishima?

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suicide has always Been the cowards way out. too many Newbies think this is "cool" theres always someone there to cut off their head after they cut themselves to shorten suffering. what kind of suicide is that? seppuku. should be called, (getting your head cut off after you cut your stomach)

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Raymasaki

Hmm, not many people these days would be brave enough to slice their own belly open.....only crazy people. But samurai who did it were, for the most part, intelligent and educated in various arts. It would take a hell of a lot of commitment and a strong will to do it. I admire them but am also glad that we aren't expected to do it today!

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Seppuku is allowed for only samurai in the Edo Era. In Ryomaden story, some men cut his stomach cause of their guilt. Dying by Seppuku is a proof of the man is real samurai. For Japanese who lived the era, Seppuku is thought as beautiful dying. They chose suicide rather killed by their enemies.

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Samurai who displeased their lords, as a general rule, were not executed but "sentenced" to commit seppuku, making it a dubious honor at best. I don't know if it's in this book, but vernacular accounts state that some individuals were unable to go through with thrusting a sword into their bowels and instead opted to use a folding fan. Reaching out and lifting the fan signalled the kaishakunin (designated "assistant") to lop off the person's head, making the process quick and painless. Admiral Onishi, founder of the Kamikaze Corps in WW2, refused this form of assistance and took quite a few hours to bleed out, in gory glory.

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Wordstar.

A similar sentence existed in Europe too. Where the liege would send out a rope with gold threads in it = hang yourself as I don"t want to have you executed.

And, yes, the cutting of the head could be either a sign of weakness or if a person(usually friend or family) was appointed a "lessening" of the sentence/suffering. Similar that many witches(those that confessed), etc were strangled before being burned on the stake.

There is a lot of cultural background that needs to be considered for stuff like this.

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Not exactly a coffee table book.

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poison would've been so much cleaner without the mess of blood and entrails to clean up.

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Itai......

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In between are countless examples of heroic courage, loyalty, and sacrifice.

But in ALL the cases there was an example of failure, whether real or imagined, on the part of the participant. To paraphrase Gen. Patton, "The object of battle is not to die for your Daimyo, but to get the other guy to die for his."

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No beauty anywhere in seppuku, only if you're reading it safely in your local Starbucks. In Shogun, there's a description of a seppuku which is just horrible. While there was a festive air surrounding the ceremony, it never could make the horrendous act something to be admired: before being beheaded, the samurai had to thrust the knife, rip his belly side-to-side, make it return to the point where it started. Gaahh!

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