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You are in: Features: "Seppuku - a Practical Guide"




Seppuku - a Practical Guide By: Nick May

Can't find that apartment? Tried everything? So try Seppuku.

It is hanami (Cherry Blossom) time in Japan and readers thoughts turn naturally to ritual disembowelment. Here in handy web-phone ready form is our guide to elegant self-immolation - (please don't call it hara kiri...)

Seppuku is highly ritualistic, exquisitely precise and earns you maximum respect

to avoid excessive pain, thoroughly internalise this fact: seppuku is all about RITUAL
 
from students and potential job interviewers alike. However, to avoid excessive pain, thoroughly internalise this fact: seppuku is all about RITUAL. Often one was not even required to DO anything, merely reaching for the knife was considered to be the act initiating your second's coup-de-grace (the famous "47 ronin" were despatched thus). In almost all historical cases death occurred from having the head almost separated from the body. (Never describe this as beheading, traditionally reserved for common criminals and quite beneath the dignity of gentlefolk.)

Obviously you have to decide well in advance why you are commiting seppuku as precise etiquette varies. Resistance, remonstrance, show of loyalty, affirmation of the correctness of one's own position, expiation of a crime and the wiping out of disgrace are all perfectly good reasons; being refused a work visa is not (though it might come under funshi, or seppuku to express great indignation). After all, even in matters of self disembowelment a chap must retain a sense of proportion.

even in matters of self disembowelment a chap must retain a sense of proportion
 
Here we will discuss "basic" seppuku and leave you to furnish your own flourishes.

Seppuku absolutely requires a minimum of two participants. Waiting to die from disembowelment is a notoriously drawn out process, very messy and trying for the spectator. Since the Empo era (late 17th century) only loonies such as Mishima and characters in Samurai dramas actually waited for hours to contemplate their entrails by- the-light-of-the-rising-sun - there is no need for you to indulge in anything so vulgarly melodramatic. You will require the services therefore of a Kaishakunin, or "second" who's duty it is to despatch you with a sharp sword at your signal. The exact moment he strikes is entirely for you to decide - obviously the later and more painful your death the better your chances with that next visa. For maximum effect and minimum pain we suggest you fake it. Be sure however that your second has no higher ideals than you, and of course better nerves and swordsmanship.


For maximum effect and minimum pain we suggest you fake it. Be sure however that your second has no higher ideals than you, and of course better nerves and swordsmanship.
 
Choosing an appropriate Kaishaku-nin is obviously very important. You should consider the following. Beheading being very infra dig points are deducted for actually detaching the head. Make sure your kaishakunin has practiced and perfected the "daki-kubi" cut so that your head is left attached to the body by a short flap of skin. This ensures your face is hidden, demonstrates his prowess with a sword and entirely remove the stigma of decapitation.

There are three ritual systems indicating when it is appropriate to strike; choose the one most appropriate to you. Do chat to your kaishaku-nin beforehand and establish precisely when he is to intervene. DON'T rely on a student, in our experience they make lousy kaishikunin - they've all seen far too many samurai movies and read too few history books. They will almost certainly insist you not only disembowel yourself but write your name in kanji with your own blood on a silken handkerchief given-you-by-fair-virgin-lady ("and no, katakana won't do") before carrying out their ultimate duty. If you are a child, point out that it is customary to strike at the earliest possible moment. The knife itself, the kozuka, should be of about 11.5 inches, wrapped in paper with the final inch exposed. Check it is steel and not a painted bamboo substitute. Youth can be cruel.

Next Page: Dress and Execution


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