Death Poems

Topics: Seppuku, Battle of Iwo Jima, Iwo Jima Pages: 6 (1181 words) Published: May 10, 2013
Throughout most of Japan’s history poetry played a large part in the process of death. A jisei is a death poem, a poem that any person on their deathbed was encouraged to write. While if you were a samurai, according to the bushido code of honor, if you wanted to die with honor and not at the hands of your enemy, if you had dishonored yourself or fellow samurai, or if your master had died you would commit the ritual of seppuku. Seppuku is a ceremony (if not committed on the battle field) in which a samurai is bathed, dressed in a white robe, and fed his favorite meal followed by being placed in a small public circle where they would take a small sword or wakizashi and place it in front of the samurai. At this time the samurai would begin to read his jisei quietly to himself. When he had finished reading his poem he would reach forward taking the wakizashi and stabbing it into his abdomen cutting left to right. At this time an appointed Kaishakunin (usually a friend or skilled swordsman) would use a katanna to behead the samauri ending his life and the seppuku ceromoney. Whether an ordinary jesei or a jisei used during a seppuku, death poems of any sort are one of the most powerful pieces of literature composed. This critical essay aims to prove that a jisei more than any other type of poem can show the reader immense amounts of insight into the authors life through the great quality of the words not the quantity. -------------------------------------------------

In 1360 Kozan Ichikyo was nearing his death, on the morning of his death he wrote his jesei. -------------------------------------------------

“ Empty handed I enter the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.”


Once he had finished writing he put down his brush and passed away remaing in his same position, sitting upright. In his jesei it is evident to see that Ichikyo believed in a very simple life style and explains his whole entire life, full of happenings, with just two simple events that became entangled. His “coming” which he explains as entering the world empty handed and his “going” which he explains as leaving the world barefoot. By this it seems as if he is tryiing to express that he entered the world with nothing and left the world with nothing, material objects that is. By saying empty handed it shows that Ichikyo litterally did enter the world with nothing, not material posestions or knowledge. Yet, when he leaves he explains it as leaving barefoot. This shows that while he probably had a few material possesions he left the earth with a large amount of knowledge. Also by using the word “entangled” Ichikyo is able to bring a vision into the mind of the reader that his coming and going were the major parts of his life and that everything that happened inbetween was minimally important compared to his creation and death. By completing his jisei he is able to truly express his simplestic and humble lifestyle one last time before he passed. -------------------------------------------------

In March 1945 Tadamichi Kuribayashi a general in the Japanese armed forces during the battle of Iwo Jima sent a letter back the Japanese government saying that he appologized and was unable to defeat the United States armed forces. In this letter he also expressed that he was extremely proud of his soldiers that while they ran out of ammo to use they did not stop fighting and used their hands and butts of their guns. To close this letter he wrote his death...
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