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The Last Moment of a Loyal Life: Hara-kiri and Honor Ideology in Meiji Japan

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Title: The Last Moment of a Loyal Life: Hara-kiri and Honor Ideology in Meiji Japan
Author: Farina, Nicholas
Advisor: Smith, Paul Jacov
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of History
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2010
Abstract: On September 13, 1912 Nogi Maresuke, a prominent Japanese general, put on a Western-style military uniform and posed to have his picture taken. Several hours later, he removed the uniform and put on traditional Japanese clothes. He drew a sword and cut his stomach open from left to right, removed the sword and cut himself from the bottom up, and then impaled himself. Nogi had committed "junshi", the traditional Japanese practice of following one's master into death. For Nogi, that master was Emperor Mutsuhito, whose funeral on that very day signaled an end to the Meiji era, and an end to traditional Japan. I will evaluate how the westernization of Japan and the move away from traditional honor ideology in the Meiji period can be seen through the lens of ritual suicide. The exploration will begin with a study of traditional Japanese honor ideology, and the roots of ritual suicide ("Hara-Kiri", or "Seppuku") within this ideology. From there, the focus will shift to the Satsuma Rebellion, in which samurai fought to reclaim the rights that they had lost to modernization, and which ended with myriad instances of ritual suicide. The Satsuma period will be shown as a midway point in the transformations to Japanese society in the Meiji Period. General Nogi's suicide in the final moments of the Meiji Period, and the reactions from all corners of Japanese culture, will illustrate the last point in the Meiji-era trajectory towards modernization, and away from honor ideology.
Subject: Seppuku
Subject: Japan -- Social life and customs -- 1868-1912
Subject: Honor -- Japan
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2010FarinaN_HConly.pdf Thesis (Haverford users only) 2.722Mb PDF
2010FarinaN(Abridged).pdf Abridged Thesis 1.779Mb PDF
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Farina, Nicholas. "The Last Moment of a Loyal Life: Hara-kiri and Honor Ideology in Meiji Japan". 2010. Available electronically from

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