Hara-kiri - the spirit of Japan

Hara-kiri - the spirit of Japan

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Almost one million people die in Japan every year. In other words, people die every 31 seconds. Some people die because of illness. Some people die because of car accident. Some people commit suicide. There are many kinds of death in this world. I believe most of those deaths are disconsolate and absurd. However, the honorable but unbelievable death existed in Japan in the middle ages. We call that hara-kiri. Hara-kiri is basically an act of killing your self by cutting open your stomach with a sword, performed especially by the warrior, to avoid shame or losing honor. Before I start talking about hara-kiri, I need to explain about the history of Japan.
Japanese society has a history of only 120 years since shedding its feudal system. The origin of feudal system is more than 1,000 years ago, so it is still underlying thought of Japanese. Hara-kiri performed especially by the warrior called samurai as indicated above. The samurai were the members of the military class, the Japanese warriors. Samurai employed a range of weapons such as bows and arrows, spears and guns, but their most famous weapon and their symbol was the sword. Samurai were supposed to lead their lives according to the ethic code of bushido ("the way of the warrior"). Strongly Confucian in nature, Bushido stressed concepts such as loyalty to one's master, self discipline and respectful, ethical behavior.
There are many reasons to commit hara-kiri. For example, after a defeat, some samurai decide to commit hara-kiri rather than being captured or dying a dishonorable death. Japanese culture sometimes called “shame culture” as oppose to the Western “guilt culture.” According to this thought in western countries, the absolute moral standard of guilt is the principle of people’s behavior, but in Japan, the behavior is ruled by the external feeling of shame. Particularly for samurai in the feudal period, being put to shame in public was as good as being dead. These are examples of hara-kiri from Japanese history.
In 1580, Bessho Nagaharu who governed southern part of Japan and his men were cut off from their food supply in a beleaguered castle by their enemy for 20 months. At last, Bessho ran out of provisions. The longer he stayed, the more men were starved to death, and it was a taboo to surrender at that period. However, there was one way to save his men and avoid shame of surrender.

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Bessho asked the enemy not to kill his men in exchange for hara-kiri by Bessho himself.
Hara-kiri is not just suicide as you may easily be able to imagine. Hara-kiri is traditional, legal, and ritual system. Early men thought that the spirit of human exist in the stomach. This is why they cut their stomach instead of throat or heart. Hara-kiri was act for samurai to expiate his crime, apologize for his mistake, avoid the shame, be a victim to save his family, and prove his justice. It is courtly suicide and no one could have done that without tremendous calmness of mind and composure of action.
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