The tradition of seppuku—Japanese ritual suicide by cutting the stomach, sometimes referred to as hara-kiri—spans a millennium. Samurai revered seppuku as the most honorable form of death.
Here, for the first time in English, is a book that charts the history of samurai suicide from antiquity to modern times. Author Andrew Rankin traces the origins of seppuku in ancient myth, and guides us from the death of legendary warrior Minamoto no Tametomo in 1170 to the celebrated ritual suicide of General Nogi Maresuke in 1912. In between are countless examples of heroic courage, loyalty, and sacrifice.
Quoting from many previously untranslated sources, including battle chronicles, execution handbooks, private samurai documents, and rare eyewitness reports, Rankin also explains the protocols of the seppuku ceremony. This fascinating and accessible study will appeal both to the scholar and to the general reader.
“Behold!” he roared from the castle tower, “I am Prince Morinaga, second son of the divine Emperor Go-Daigo, who traces his lineage through ninety-five generations to the sun goddess Amaterasu. My men have run away. Now I shall destroy myself out of contempt for them—and you! Watch carefully and you will learn how to cut your bellies, for your day will surely come.”
From the Taiheiki (ca. 1375)
Seppuku: A History of Samurai Suicide is the first book in English to offer a comprehensive survey of seppuku—the samurai method of suicide by cutting the stomach. Drawing on a wealth of sources from antiquity to modern times, Andrew Rankin delivers both an exciting story and an invaluable work of scholarship.