With its complex, refined ritual and unadulterated brutality, seppuku, is surely one of the most fascinating (and horrifying) ways to commit suicide. Maybe you already read what committing seppuku is like as far as methods, tradition, and history are concerned, but you're still curious. After all, in your last minutes, as you disembowel yourself, what does seppuku feel like (other than extreme pain)? Well, wonder no more, because the following list will let you know what it might feel like to experience death by seppuku. It goes without saying, but be warned: the contents are graphic, much like the guts that flop from your stomach when you cut yourself open, like fish thrown from the ocean onto a boat.
Seppuku dates back thousands of years, and has been used as a means of suicide well into the modern age. It is steeped in tradition, honor, and a sense of self-responsibility and redemption many of us will never grasp. It's also incredibly painful and complicated, and takes a lot of self control. We don't recommend trying it for yourself (duh).
If you're still wondering what dying from seppuku is like, read on for all the gory details.
There Will Be a Feeling of Calm Before the StormPhoto: Criterion Collection
To be clear, there are many ways of committing seppuku, depending on the situation and time period. This list focuses on the most traditional method, which involves two people and a lengthy ritual beforehand.
Said ritual, which involves drinking sake and writing poetry, among many other things, is designed to prepare you for seppuku, and put you in a calm, accepting, meditative state of mind. You'll be in a serene setting, surrounded by those you respect and chose to oversee your death. You'll reflect on your life, its fleeting nature, and the ultimate irrelevance of most aspects of existence, as you prepare yourself to die.
In a way the pre-ritual and act of committing seppuku is, in the juxtaposition of esoteric beauty and graphic, violent ugliness, a perfect encapsulation of the dueling natures of Japanese aesthetics. The preparation and mindset sound very peaceful, considering you're about to drive a giant knife right into your abdomen.
You'll Have to Force Yourself to Make the First CutPhoto: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi / Public Domain
Regardless of how calm you are, it takes a lot of effort to skewer yourself with a samurai blade. Fear does a lot of things to the brain and body, even if you're not conscious they're happening. For instance, fear of having to stab yourself may create a reaction in your brain that sends chemicals to your heart and muscles. Your heart rate will increase, your muscles will tense, and your breathing may speed up.
This is an autonomic response. There won't be much you can do about it. The tensing of your muscles may make it difficult to get the stabbing done, though this doesn't really matter, because if you're committed to performing seppuku, you're going to have to do it no matter what. It will require all your effort.
You'll Feel Intense Pain, Though Maybe Not ImmediatelyPhoto: Kunikazu Utagawa / Public Domain
It might go without saying, but stabbing yourself is going to hurt. Especially because you'll be stabbing yourself through the intestines with a war weapon. It may be the most intense pain you've ever felt, though it won't hit right away. People who have been stabbed say you don't feel pain immediately, though you do feel impact, like a punch.
Once the pain hits, stab victims report a pain so intense they wish they were dead. For those committing seppuku, that wish soon comes true.
Your Internal Organs Are Going to Get Sliced Apart
Once you've got the knife in, tradition dictates you slit open your belly, sometimes with two separate cuts. This splits your stomach cavity open, exposing your internal organs, and cuts the organs themselves. There don't seem to be any first hand accounts as to what this feels like, because those who have their organs sliced up don't usually survive. However, women have had their bellies cut open for C-sections, a few sans anesthesia. One woman said the pain was so great she gritted her teeth so hard one of them broke.
During the Civil War, some soldiers underwent surgery without anesthesia after being wounded on the battlefield. Accounts described the brutality of such procedures, some of which involved slit-open stomachs. Soldiers were given something to bite on, as a way of dealing with the pain, and surviving artifacts, such as bullets with teeth marks in them, show just how painful it was.