A Samurai's Guide to Harakiri

Suicide is not to be taken lightly—especially in Japan, where it has a long (and bloody) tradition. In Japan, samurai committed seppuku (切腹 or "ritual suicide") if enemies captured them or if they defiled the samurai code.


The ritual suicide, also called "harakiri" (腹切り), was performed in front of an audience, and samurai sliced open their stomach—hence "hara" (stomach or 腹) "kiri" (cutting or 切り)—with a short blade called a tantou, moving the dagger from right to left. Their intestines would then spill out onto a small tray, and the samurai was then decapitated. In some instances, the samurai was not decapitated and died from blood loss or shock.

As this illustration points out, there were different styles of disembowelment: single-line disembowelment (ichimonji-bara), crosswise disembowelment (jumonji-bara), crosswise disembowelment in modified T-shape (henkei jumonji-bara), and vertical disembowelment (nambu-bara). The above Japanese illustration depicts these four types as well as pointing out how the blade should cut into the flesh.

A throwback to a very different time in Japan, seppuku was a gruesome and an agonizing ritual that many samurai willingly carried out in order to restore lost honor.

切腹 [Error888]