Ritual suicide in Silverstari culture, usually performed to remove the stain of dishonor from oneself or their family. A samurai committing seppuku would use his or her wakizashi for self-disembowelment.

Historical Seppuku (OOC)

Seppuku ("stomach-cutting") is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. Seppuku was originally reserved only for samurai. Part of the samurai honor code, seppuku has been used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies, as a form of capital punishment for samurai who have committed serious offenses, and for reasons that shamed them. Seppuku is performed by plunging a sword into the abdomen and moving the sword left to right in a slicing motion. The practice of committing seppuku at the death of one's master, known as oibara or tsuifuku follows a similar ritual.

The most famous form of seppuku is also known as hara-kiri ("cutting the belly") and is written with the same kanji as seppuku but in reverse order with an okurigana. In Japanese, hara-kiri is a colloquialism, seppuku being the more formal term. Samurai (and modern adherents of bushido) would use seppuku, whereas ordinary Japanese (who in feudal times as well as today looked askance at the practice) would use hara-kiri. Hara-kiri is the more common term in English, where it is often mistakenly rendered "hari-kari".

Seppuku was a key part of bushido, the code of the samurai warriors; it was used by warriors to avoid falling into enemy hands, and to attenuate shame. Samurai could also be ordered by their daimyo (feudal lords) to commit seppuku. Later, disgraced warriors were sometimes allowed to commit seppuku rather than be executed in the normal manner. The most common form of seppuku for men was composed of the cutting of the abdomen, and when the samurai was finished, he stretched out his neck for an assistant to decapitate him. Since the main point of the act was to restore or protect one's honor as a warrior, those who did not belong to the samurai caste were never ordered or expected to commit seppuku. Samurai generally could only commit the act with permission.

In his book The Samurai Way of Death, Samurai: The World of the Warrior (ch.4), Dr. Stephen Turnbull states:

Seppuku was commonly performed using a tantō. It could take place with preparation and ritual in the privacy of one's home, or speedily in a quiet corner of a battlefield while one’s comrades kept the enemy at bay. In the world of the warrior, seppuku was a deed of bravery that was admirable in a samurai who knew he was defeated, disgraced, or mortally wounded. It meant that he could end his days with his transgressions wiped away and with his reputation not merely intact but actually enhanced. The cutting of the abdomen released the samurai’s spirit in the most dramatic fashion, but it is an extremely painful and unpleasant way to die, and sometimes the samurai who was performing the act asked a loyal comrade to cut off his head at the moment of agony.

In time, committing seppuku came to involve a detailed ritual. This was usually performed in front of spectators if it was a planned seppuku, not one performed on a battlefield. A samurai was bathed, dressed in white robes, fed his favorite meal, and when he was finished, his instrument was placed on his plate. Dressed ceremonially, with his sword placed in front of him and sometimes seated on special cloths, the warrior would prepare for death by writing a death poem. With his selected attendant (kaishakunin, his second) standing by, he would open his kimono (robe), take up his tantō (knife) and plunge it into his abdomen, making a left-to-right cut. The kaishakunin would then perform daki-kubi, a cut in which the warrior was all but decapitated (a slight band of flesh is left attaching the head to the body). Because of the precision necessary for such a maneuver, the second was often a skilled swordsman. The principal agreed in advance when the kaishakunin was to make his cut, usually as soon as the dagger was plunged into the abdomen. The second was usually, but not always, a friend. If a defeated warrior had fought honorably and well, an opponent who wanted to salute his bravery would volunteer to act as his second.

This elaborate ritual evolved after seppuku had ceased being mainly a battlefield or wartime practice and become a para-judicial institution (see next section).

Seppuku as capital punishment (OOC)

While the voluntary seppuku described above is the best known form, in practice the most common form of seppuku was obligatory seppuku, used as a form of capital punishment for disgraced samurai, especially for those who committed a serious offense such as unprovoked murder, robbery, corruption, or treason. The samurai were generally told of their offense in full and given a set time to commit seppuku, usually before sunset on a given day. If the sentenced was uncooperative, it was not unheard of for them to be restrained, or for the actual execution to be carried out by decapitation while retaining only the trappings of seppuku; even the short sword laid out in front of the victim could be replaced with a fan. Unlike voluntary seppuku, seppuku carried out as capital punishment did not necessarily absolve the victim's family of the crime. Depending on the severity of the crime, half or all of the deceased's property could be confiscated, and the family stripped of rank.

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