The Fine Art of Seppuku

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Seppuku is a Japanese suicide ritual. It is a “unique phenomenon only existing in Japan” (Li Jian-jun). “The word seppuku comes from the words setsu ‘to cut’ and fuku ‘abdomen’” (Kallie Szczepanski). This exquisite ritual was most common in the samurai, it gave the samurai an honorable death, and honor was the most important thing to a samurai. Samurai means “one who serves” and his main duty was to give faithful service to his feudal lord (Kallie Szczepanski). Seppuku is a stylized and strict ritualized practice of suicide and has been a form of suicide for centuries. It has also been a popular theme in Japan’s literature and theatre for years (Toyomasa Fuse). Seppuku is a great honor; the honor was reserved for only the samurai, even in WWII Japanese soldiers committed seppuku. Seppuku is a highly complicated ritual and is taken very seriously; there are many complicated steps in completing this ritual and very interesting motives and reasons for it.

“The first thing to do is to recruit an assistant, a kaishkunin. Contrary to what is thought, almost all forms of seppuku do not technically involve suicide, but merely inflicting fatal injury upon oneself” (John Braue). The kaishkunin was the one who did the actual “killing”. The attendant was usually the one who appointed his own kaishkunin, most likely a close friend. The participant dresses in all white to express purity, the participant then sits in the seiza position (legs drawn up under the body so that one is actually sitting on one’s heels) (John Braue). A servant enters the room and places a small wooden table in front of the candidate. The table contains a sake cup, a sheaf of washi with writing utensils and a disemboweling blade. If the attendant was considered to evil he was given a fan instead. Though the primary weapon of the samurai was the katana (Swords). The sake cup is filled from the left, by an attendant using his left hand. The person committing seppuku then empties it in two drinks of two...
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