Tales of Old Japan eBook

Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 481 pages of information about Tales of Old Japan.
fighting, were neither guilty of high treason nor of infidelity to their feudal lords, but who by the chances of war were taken prisoners.  To drag out such men as these, bound as criminals, and cut their heads off, was intolerably cruel; accordingly, men hit upon a ceremonious mode of suicide by disembowelling, in order to comfort the departed spirit.  Even at present, where it becomes necessary to put to death a man who has been guilty of some act not unworthy of a Samurai, at the time of the execution witnesses are sent to the house; and the criminal, having bathed and put on new clothes, in obedience to the commands of his superiors, puts an end to himself, but does not on that account forfeit his rank as a Samurai.  This is a law for which, in all truth, men should be grateful.

[Footnote 102:  Ashikaga, third dynasty of Shoguns, flourished from A.D. 1336 to 1568.  The practice of suicide by disembowelling is of great antiquity.  This is the time when the ceremonies attending it were invented.]


In old days the ceremony of hara-kiri used to be performed in a temple.  In the third year of the period called Kan-yei (A.D. 1626), a certain person, having been guilty of treason, was ordered to disembowel himself, on the fourteenth day of the first month, in the temple of Kichijoji, at Komagome, in Yedo.  Eighteen years later, the retainer of a certain Daimio, having had a dispute with a sailor belonging to an Osaka coasting-ship, killed the sailor; and, an investigation having been made into the matter by the Governor of Osaka, the retainer was ordered to perform hara-kiri, on the twentieth day of the sixth month, in the temple called Sokusanji, in Osaka.  During the period Shoho (middle of seventeenth century), a certain man, having been guilty of heinous misconduct, performed hara-kiri in the temple called Shimpukuji, in the Koji-street of Yedo.  On the fourth day of the fifth month of the second year of the period Meireki (A.D. 1656), a certain man, for having avenged the death of his cousin’s husband at a place called Shimidzudani, in the Koji-street, disembowelled himself in the temple called Honseiji.  On the twenty-sixth day of the sixth month of the eighth year of the period Yempo (A.D. 1680), at the funeral ceremonies in honour of the anniversary of the death of Genyuin Sama, a former Shogun, Naito Idzumi no Kami, having a cause of hatred against Nagai Shinano no Kami, killed him at one blow with a short sword, in the main hall of the temple called Zojoji (the burial-place of the Shoguns in Yedo).  Idzumi no Kami was arrested by the officers present, and on the following day performed hara-kiri at Kiridoshi, in the temple called Seiriuji.

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Tales of Old Japan from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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