Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ritual Suicide

Ritual Suicide. This short article has information on the ritual suicide practice known as Seppuku (or Hara-kiri). It was normally practiced by samurai in medieval Japan.

The article notes, "To the samurai, seppuku--whether ordered as punishment or chosen in preference to a dishonorable death at the hands of an enemy--was unquestionable demonstration of their honor, courage, loyalty, and moral character. "

It is hard to believe but many warriors made the decision to kill themselves in a painful manner for making poor tactical decisions on the battlefield or for being on the wrong side of a political alliance. It is noted that this behavior became common after Buddhism was introduced in Japan.

Death in this manner was also ritualized. It is noted, "The location of an officially ordered seppuku ceremony was very important. Often the ritual was performed at temple (but not Shinto shrines), in the garden or villas, and inside homes. The size of the area available was also important, as it was prescribed precisely for samurai of high rank. All the matters relating to the act was carefully prescribed and carried out in the most meticulous manner. The most conspicuous participant, other than the victim, was the kaishaku (kie-shah-kuu), or assistant, who was responsible for cutting off the victim's head after he had sliced his abdomen open. The was generally a close friend or associate of the condemned."

Although ritual suicide is rarely practiced in Japan today, the legacy lives on. There is less social stigma attached to suicide in Japan than there is in other parts of the world.

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