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Ritual Suicides During feudal Japan 1192-1868 ritual suicides played an important part of the code of bushido and the discipline of the samurai warrior class Seppuku is the Japanese formal name for ritual suicides and hara-kiri is the common language term Hara-kiri which literally means stomach cutting is a very painful method of self-termination This was an almost unheard of practice until the emergence of the samurai as a warrior class in Japan The Japanese as most people were more interested in living a good healthy life than a painful self-ritual death But the introduction of Buddhism with its theme of the transitory nature of life and the glory of death that such a development became possible When samurai actually performed seppuku it was clearly a demonstration of their honor courage loyalty and moral character The reasons for seppuku could have been ordered by their masters as punishment or chosen by themselves instead of a dishonorable death at the hands of an enemy When performing hara-kiri on the battlefield it was done with very little formal preparation but on the other occasions when ordered by a feudal lord or the shogun seppuku was a very formal ceremony requiring certain etiquette witnesses and considerable preparation The great Leyasu Tokugawa who founded the Japans last great Shogunate dynasty in 1603 eventually issued and edict forbidding hara-kiri Some lords chose not to follow the edict but eventually it died out Honor for the samurai was more important than life and in many cases self-destruction was regarded not simply as right but as the only course to take Some other reasons a samurai would commit seppuku were to show contempt for an enemy to protest against injustice as a means to get their lord to reconsider an unwise or unworthy action and as a means to save others If sentenced to death it was a privilege to execute the sentence on ones own body
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