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.

The duty of burying the corpse and of setting the place in order again devolves upon four men; these are selected from Samurai of the middle or lower class; during the performance of their duties, they hitch up their trousers and wear neither sword nor dirk.  Their names are previously sent in to the censor, who acts as witness; and to the junior censors, should they desire it.  Before the arrival of the chief censor, the requisite utensils for extinguishing a fire are prepared, firemen are engaged,[109] and officers constantly go the rounds to watch against fire.  From the time when the chief censor comes into the house until he leaves it, no one is allowed to enter the premises.  The servants on guard at the entrance porch should wear their hempen dresses of ceremony.  Everything in the palace should be conducted with decorum, and the strictest attention paid in all things.

[Footnote 109:  In Japan, where fires are of daily occurrence, the fire-buckets and other utensils form part of the gala dress of the house of a person of rank.]

When any one is condemned to hara-kiri, it would be well that people should go to the palace of the Prince of Higo, and learn what transpired at the execution of the Ronins of Asano Takumi no Kami.  A curtain was hung round the garden in front of the reception-room; three mats were laid down, and upon these was placed a white cloth.  The condemned men were kept in the reception-room, and summoned, one by one; two men, one on each side, accompanied them; the second, followed behind; and they proceeded together to the place of execution.  When the execution was concluded in each case, the corpse was hidden from the sight of the chief witness by a white screen, folded up in white cloth, placed on a mat, and carried off to the rear by two foot-soldiers; it was then placed in a coffin.  The blood-stained ground was sprinkled with sand, and swept clean; fresh mats were laid down, and the place prepared anew; after which the next man was summoned to come forth.


When a clansman is ordered by his feudal lord to perform hara-kiri, the sentence must be read out by the censor of the clan, who also acts as witness.  He should take his place in front of the criminal, at a distance of twelve feet; according to some books, the distance should be eighteen feet, and he should sit obliquely, not facing the criminal; he should lay his sword down by his side, but, if he pleases, he may wear it in his girdle; he must read out the sentence distinctly.  If the sentence be a long document, to begin reading in a very loud voice and afterwards drop into a whisper has an appearance of faint-heartedness; but to read it throughout in a low voice is worse still:  it should be delivered clearly from beginning to end.  It is the duty of the chief witness to set an example of fortitude

Project Gutenberg
Tales of Old Japan from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook