What is harakiri?

We explain what harakiri is and what this ritual consists of. Also, what is it for, when it was banned and some of its history.

  1. What is harakiri?

It is called harakiri or seppuku  (in Japanese the second term is preferred, since the first is vulgar; but in Spanish the preferred form is the first, sometimes Castilianized:  haraquiri ) to a ritual form of suicide from the Japanese tradition , and which consists of unraveling, that is, evisceration, usually by means of a longitudinal cut in the abdomen, from left to right, using a dagger ( tant ö ) or another knife.

This practice was traditionally valued in ancient Japan, as part of the samurai (bushidö) code of ethics, which taught to die with honor and honor rather than be defeated and captured by the enemy, and could then be interrogated and tortured.

At the same time, it was the only way to wash the honor of those who had committed unworthy acts or betrayed their factions of origin. In fact, the feudal lords of ancient Japan could ask their warriors to consume this ritual suicide, as a form of execution on their own hand in case they had brought dishonor.

Seppuku was traditionally done after thoroughly cleaning the body itself, drinking sake (rice liquor) and composing a farewell poem ( zeppitsu ) on a war fan ( tessen ). Usually the cut in the womb was carried out in front of one or more spectators who, in case of failure of the hand or the determination of the suicide, should complete the task for him (known as  kaishakunin ).

The choice to assume such responsibility was considered an honor or a sign of affection or recognition. In some cases, wives or even slaves were expected to accompany their master in suicide, which was known as  jisatsu  and  oibara , respectively.

With these cultural assessments in tow, the harakiri survived as a practice until contemporary times, despite its prohibition as a judicial penalty in 1873. Numerous Japanese military practiced it during the 19th and 20th centuries , as a method of protest against some imperial decree or to escape to defeat in World War II . In addition, writers such as Emilio Salgari or Yukio Mishima chose death through this traditional method.

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