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.

[Footnote 110:  Oishi Chikara was separated from his father, who was one of the seventeen delivered over to the charge of the Prince of Higo.]

Although it is right that the condemned man should bathe and partake of wine and food, these details should be curtailed.  Even should he desire these favours, it must depend upon his conduct whether they be granted or refused.  He should be caused to die as quickly as possible.  Should he wish for some water to drink, it should be given to him.  If in his talk he should express himself like a noble Samurai, all pains should be exhausted in carrying out his execution.  Yet however careful a man he may be, as he nears his death his usual demeanour will undergo a change.  If the execution is delayed, in all probability it will cause the prisoner’s courage to fail him; therefore, as soon as the sentence shall have been passed, the execution should be brought to a conclusion.  This, again, is a point for the chief witness to remember.


When the condemned man is one who has been given in charge for execution, six attendants are employed; when the execution is within the clan, then two or three attendants will suffice; the number, however, must depend upon the rank of the principal.  Men of great nerve and strength must be selected for the office; they must wear their hempen dress of ceremony, and tuck up their trousers; they must on no account wear either sword or dirk, but have a small poniard hidden in their bosom:  these are the officers who attend upon the condemned man when he changes his dress, and who sit by him on the right hand and on the left hand to guard him whilst the sentence is being read.  In the event of any mistake occurring (such as the prisoner attempting to escape), they knock him down; and should he be unable to stand or to walk, they help to support him.  The attendants accompanying the principal to the place of execution, if they are six in number, four of them take their seats some way off and mount guard, while the other two should sit close behind the principal.  They must understand that should there be any mistake they must throw the condemned man, and, holding him down, cut off his head with their poniard, or stab him to death.  If the second bungles in cutting off the head and the principal attempts to rise, it is the duty of the attendants to kill him.  They must help him to take off his upper garments and bare his body.  In recent times, however, there have been cases where the upper garments have not been removed:  this depends upon circumstances.  The setting up of the white screen, and the laying the corpse in the coffin, are duties which, although they may be performed by other officers, originally devolved upon the six attendants.  When a common man is executed, he is bound with cords, and so made to take his place; but a Samurai wears his dress of ceremony, is presented with a dagger, and dies thus.  There ought to be no anxiety lest such a man should attempt to escape; still, as there is no knowing what these six attendants may be called upon to do, men should be selected who thoroughly understand their business.

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Tales of Old Japan from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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