Harakiri


Harakiri is a Japanese term used to define a kind of suicide ritual, which consisted of disembowelment. This practice was very common among the samurai who preferred to die by their own hands rather than live a life of dishonor. However, originally this ritual was only for the nobles, later it was extended to all social classes.

The word harakiri was not used frequently, since in Japan this word was considered vulgar. The correct word to define this ceremony was “seppuku”.

Harakiri means “belly cut” and it was a ceremony that began in feudal Japan, when it was performed by samurai and noble warriors, in order to avoid the dishonor of being captured and tortured by their enemies. Later, over time, this practice became a means of execution, through which the emperor sent a message to any noble, informing him that his death was necessary for the good of the empire.

In many cases of compulsory harakiris, the official message or communication was accompanied by a highly decorated dagger, which was to be used as a tool for suicide. The ceremony consisted of the culprit or transgressor dressed in a white kimono kneeling, uncovering his chest to the waist, covering his hands with sheets of rice paper (this was to avoid staining his hands with blood, since was considered dishonorable) and then proceeded to plunge the dagger into his abdomen. The dagger was embedded on the left side and cut to the right, then returned to the center and made a vertical cut towards the sternum, exposing its viscera. It is important to note that before committing suicide, the offending subject drinks some sake (Japanese drink) and writes a kind of farewell poem.

One of the characteristics of this ritual is that its practice was exclusively for men. If a woman took her own life, it was not considered harakiri, but a simple suicide (jigai in Japanese).

This form of suicide was abolished in the year 1868.