Suicidal Honor: General Nogi and the Writings of Mori Ōgai and Natsume Sōseki
On September 13, 1912, the day of Emperor Meiji's funeral, General Nogi Maresuke committed ritual suicide by seppuku (disembowelment). The revered military hero's wife joined in his act of junshi (following one's lord into death). The violence of their double suicide shocked the nation. Doris Bargen, in the first half of her book, demonstrates that the deeper significance of Nogi's action must be sought in his personal history, enmeshed as it was in the tumultuous politics of the Meiji period. In the second half of Suicidal Honor, Bargen turns to the extraordinary influence of the Nogis' deaths on two of Japan's greatest writers, Mori Ogai and Natsume Soseki. Ogai's historical fiction is a profound meditation on the significance of ritual suicide in a time of historical transition.
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Anything But Seppuku
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Page 16 - In the open space around the body of the king they bury one of his concubines, first killing her by strangling, and also his cup-bearer, his cook, his groom, his lacquey, his messenger, some of his horses, firstlings of all his other possessions, and some golden cups; for they use neither silver nor brass.
Page 22 - When a man dies, there have been cases of people sacrificing themselves by strangulation, or of strangling others by way of sacrifice, or of compelling the dead man's horse to be sacrificed, or of burying valuables in the grave in honour of the dead, or of cutting off the hair, and stabbing the thighs and pronouncing an eulogy on the dead (while in this condiXXv. 32. tion). Let all such old customs be entirely discontinued. A certain book says : — ' No gold or silver, no silk brocades, and no coloured...
Page 18 - It is a very painful thing to force those whom one has loved in life to follow him in death. Though it be an ancient custom, why follow it if it is bad ? From this time forward, take counsel so as to put a stop to the following of the dead.