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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 11:36 am    Post subject: kirisute gomen Reply with quote
This is the Edo-period rule that was supposed to allow any bushi to cut down any commoner whom he thought had been insolent or disrespectful. This rule is cited by so many modern Westerners on the Internet and elsewhere; it is almost as if there were lots of samurai testing their swords on poor, defenseless commoners throughout Japanese history. Shocked

However, this idea of samurai randomly doing their sword-testing on oppressed peasants and commoners is a myth, I have found. My understanding is that kirisute gomen was supposed to be used VERY seldomly. If a samurai were to cut down a commoner without thinking, it was very likely that he would -- at the very least -- have had to engage in a new career as a starving ronin. And more likely, he would have been sentenced to death.

Comments?
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 12:22 pm    Post subject: Re: kirisute gomen Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
This is the Edo-period rule that was supposed to allow any bushi to cut down any commoner whom he thought had been insolent or disrespectful. This rule is cited by so many modern Westerners on the Internet and elsewhere; it is almost as if there were lots of samurai testing their swords on poor, defenseless commoners throughout Japanese history. Shocked

However, this idea of samurai randomly doing their sword-testing on oppressed peasants and commoners is a myth, I have found. My understanding is that kirisute gomen was supposed to be used VERY seldomly. If a samurai were to cut down a commoner without thinking, it was very likely that he would -- at the very least -- have had to engage in a new career as a starving ronin. And more likely, he would have been sentenced to death.

Comments?


I think (but could definitely be wrong) that the PDF article I sent you sometime last year about blood revenge might have some info on this - if you have it lying around you should take a look - I'm a few thousand miles from my computer right now so I can't check, but I'd be interested to see if it has any info on this.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Kitsuno that PDF articles sounds rather interesting. Do you still have a copy of it?
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I have a copy. Do you want me to foward a copy to you? Send me a PM and let me have your email.

Kitsuno, I'll check out the article again on the subject of kirisute gomen. But it's surprising how many Internet articles mention this, as if it were a common, everyday event happening. Confused
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:18 am    Post subject: Re: kirisute gomen Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
I think (but could definitely be wrong) that the PDF article I sent you sometime last year about blood revenge might have some info on this - if you have it lying around you should take a look - I'm a few thousand miles from my computer right now so I can't check, but I'd be interested to see if it has any info on this.
I just went through the article. There were no direct references to kirisute gomen, but there was an incident described where the two daughters of a farmer were given training and sanction by a daimyo because their father had been cut down by one of the daimyo's retainers. In this case, it looks as though the daimyo did not approve of the samurai's having cut down the farmer, so he helped the farmer's two daughters avenge their father's death. A duel was set up after the two daughters had completed their training and the daughters killed the samurai, thus successfully avenging their father. This incident that was later made into a kabuki play.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hai.. such as Tameshi? or O-tameshi -A Samurai who performed the testing of the Shogun's swords
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I'll let you Google that. However, I'm almost certain that most sword-testing, even of a Shogun's sword, was done on straw dummies or dead bodies of executed criminals. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that some samurai tested swords on condemned criminals, but I believe that this is fictional.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
I'll let you Google that. However, I'm almost certain that most sword-testing, even of a Shogun's sword, was done on straw dummies or dead bodies of executed criminals. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that some samurai tested swords on condemned criminals, but I believe that this is fictional.
No, swords, as in those of the Shogun or other high ranking folks, were tested on condemned criminals--as in beheadings. After the sword was used to cut off the head, the body would often be used to test different cuts. The Yamada family held the heredity post of "kubi-kiri" in the Tokugawa Bakufu. And yes, the manga "Samurai Assassin" is a piece of fiction about one of the Yamada Asaemons.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I thought it was the dead bodies of condemned criminals that were typically used, often tied or staked down over a mound of earth, in various positions, one on top of the other. Hence the concept of 'how many bodies' a sword can cut through in a single stroke. I believe this is where the term 'dodan' in modern cutting comes from, though now it is done on stacks of wara or rolls of goza omote, and usually has less to do with the sword than the swordsman (see this thread on Sword Forum).

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
, the manga "Samurai Assassin" is a piece of fiction about one of the Yamada Asaemons.


I was reading the manga - "Samurai Excutioner"
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hi Obenjo Kusanosuke, I think any samurai would abhor having his sword defiled by the decapitation of a common criminal, this was done by heimin. Even the test cutting of dead bodies had a stench about it, pun intended. However certain test cutting was done to prove sharpness and smiths were ranked by the results, owazamono, wazamono etc. I have a sword with this in kinpun and states thus; "Yotsu Do Setsudan" (4 bodies cut at torso). As to surreptitious test cutting on the innocent, it happened I think but not as often as portrayed in fiction. There are people who believe they are above the law in all times and societies. John
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
In the film RONINGAI, one of the ronin has the distastful job of sword-testing on dead criminals. The clan samurai all look down on him because, as a lowly ronin, he is the one who has to take this job that no respectable samurai would ever have.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
shin no sen wrote:
Hi Obenjo Kusanosuke, I think any samurai would abhor having his sword defiled by the decapitation of a common criminal, this was done by heimin. Even the test cutting of dead bodies had a stench about it, pun intended. However certain test cutting was done to prove sharpness and smiths were ranked by the results, owazamono, wazamono etc. I have a sword with this in kinpun and states thus; "Yotsu Do Setsudan" (4 bodies cut at torso). As to surreptitious test cutting on the innocent, it happened I think but not as often as portrayed in fiction. There are people who believe they are above the law in all times and societies. John


John,
You are right and wrong. Laughing I'd just like to point out that the Yamadas WERE INDEED the official executioners of the Bakufu in Edo and were no mere low ranking heimin. This is not fiction and I kid not. The Yamadas also tested the sharpness of blades in the traditional manners and was rewarded handsomely for it.

Off the top of my head, I'd recommend reading Hillsborough's Samurai Sketches for a couple of stories about the last Yamada to hold the executioner post in the Bakufu.

Cheers,

Obenjo
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
MexSamurai wrote:
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
, the manga "Samurai Assassin" is a piece of fiction about one of the Yamada Asaemons.


I was reading the manga - "Samurai Excutioner"


I'm delighted to hear the you were reading the manga "Samurai Executioner". Do you care to enlighten us on how your reading of pulp manga fiction contributes to this conversation? Or is this just another random interjection? Laughing
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Last edited by Obenjo Kusanosuke on Sat Mar 15, 2008 7:09 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hi, Being only slightly familiar with Yamada Asaemon about whom much fiction has been written, bear with me. I know he was a sword tester for the Shogun as well as for the famous smith Kotetsu. He also served as kaishaku for samurai ordered to commit haragiri, but did he behead the common criminal? Kaishaku is an honourable position even if the haragiri is feigned and the beheading in essence an execution rather than a mercy. Do you have more info, I am genuinely curious? John
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 3:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
If Hillsborough’s writing can be trusted as accurate and not too fantastic (as was often the case in “Ryoma”), he makes reference in Samurai Sketches to Yamada Asaemon VI and the killing of common criminals. So I guess that yes, even the official sword tester for the Shogun, would indeed execute common criminals by beheading and then test swords on their corpses.

One story involves the execution by beheading of a man whose crime was adultery—he slept with the wife of a dry goods shop owner. Another story deals with the testing of a sword on a LIVE condemned criminal. The sword testing was for a Bakufu official who was a favored retainer of the Shogun’s cousin. The testing of a sword on a live condemned prisoner was indeed a very rare and gruesome occurrence.

Also, Hillsborough writes about Yamada Asaemon VIII, who continued the role of Edo executioner up into the Meiji period. The guy was allowed to wear two swords on the job as late as 1879, three years after the wearing of samurai swords was banned. The story deals with the execution of Takahashi Oden, a beautiful woman who became notorious for a brutal murder.

While the above mentioned stories are a little morbid, "Samurai Sketches" gives very good insight into the Bakumatsu period and is my favorite among the three books that Hillsborough has published.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks for that. I am surprised that Yamada Asaemon (whichever generation) actually did the beheading of the common culprits and was not just officiating. There were a few official executioners, which makes me wonder if this was more standard than I know. Gives me something to research a little more anyway. John
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 5:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Glad to be of help.

Wave- are there any movies that you've seen that can share some more light on this topic?Just Kidding

Mex- What about "Samurai Executioner"? Razz
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Wave- are there any movies that you've seen that can share some more light on this topic?Just Kidding
Nope. None I can think of. Are there any books, other than SAMURAI SKETCHES that you have read that can shed any more light?

As far as using films as a "source:" Yes, I love jidai-geki and they are fun to watch. But they are FICTION. However, when non-fiction historical sources aren't available (in English, because of my illiteracy in Japanese), then I sometimes look at jidai-geki. Not as reliable sources in themselves, but they can raise questions. Some jidai-geki -- the Zatoichi films, 99.9999% of the ninja films, the Tange Sazen films, the Miyamoto Musashi films -- are quite obviously complete fiction. Others are also fiction, but MAY contain just enough information to try and find reliable historical sources for doing further research.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 8:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hi, Although there are many films that use scenes of 'kirisute gomen' I'm not convinced about how often it really occured. Execution of the common criminal though, has documentation. For those condemned of rank, most were given the opportunity to commit haragiri assisted by a kaishaku. The common criminal...hmmmm. Here is some text from : Ooms, Herman. Tokugawa Village Practice: Class, Status, Power, Law. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1996 1996

"Documents drawn up on the occasion of transfers of lords in Shinano in the 1580s and 1590s refer to already existing service relations between kawaya sogashira[*] or kawata toryo[*] (heads or leaders of leather workers) and lords whom they provided with leather goods and for whom they also performed policing duties such as guarding prisons,
Teraki, Kinsei buraku , 25-26.
Banba, "'Buraku' no keisei," 9-11.
Ibid., 21-23.

― 280 ―
performing executions, cleaning castle grounds, checking the entering and exiting travelers at way stations, and so on.[73]"

and

"The information that follows comes from ibid., 5-15. As a general rule, the execution of criminals was not associated with kawata executioners and guards in medieval times. There is mention of an execution performed by a kawaramono in 1488 (Watanabe, Mikaiho[*] buraku , 139). "

and

"After leather workers were forced to relocate to the castle towns, they were often moved to the outskirts as the towns' population expanded (this occurred, for example, in Kaizu, Sunpu, Odawara, and Kanazawa). The reasons were in part functional, for their work as prison guards or executioners or post attendants for checking travelers made it necessary for them to resettle outside the town; in part economic, the outskirts being inferior locations; and part cultural, having to do with notions of pollution.[77] "

This is the kind of documentation that lead me to the above conclusion. John
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
shin no sen wrote:
Hi, Although there are many films that use scenes of 'kirisute gomen' I'm not convinced about how often it really occured.
That's why it's frustrating to come across so many Western online sites that mention kirisute gomen as a common phenonemon -- as if all of these samurai were just having a good time lopping off poor, oppressed commoners. Confused

The very few truly reliable history sources I've been able to read have said that kirisute gomen was quite rare in practice. Unfortunately, because I'm not a professor or graduate student of Japanese history, I've not been able to get access to sites such as JSTOR, that contain history studies that are more reliable than the common-place ones that are full of mythology.

Thanks for all of your information (and references) on executions. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
As far as using films as a "source:" Yes, I love jidai-geki and they are fun to watch. But they are FICTION. However, when non-fiction historical sources aren't available (in English, because of my illiteracy in Japanese), then I sometimes look at jidai-geki. Not as reliable sources in themselves, but they can raise questions.
You are kidding, right? You keep stating your illiteracy in Japanese. So, how does explain the fact that most people who participate in detailed discussions about topics here in the S-A obtained their knowledge from reading books in English?

And as for using "Samurai Sketches" as a source to provide info that the Shogun's sword tester and executioner did sometimes dispatch common criminals, I don't see a problem with this. At least I READ a book (in English that is readily available) which is a heck of a lot better than digging for truths by hitting "play" on the remote control.

Sheesh. I'll tell you what. I'll go easy on you and reel history (although it is fun to do so, and you do take it well) if you could go one whole month of posting about historical issues without once referencing a film you saw. Every time you do this, it detracts from some fine points you are indeed trying to raise.

I dunno. It's a daunting challenge. Are you up for it? Just Kidding Of course, posts in the Samurai Film forum are exempt. Wink
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Wave Tossed wrote:
As far as using films as a "source:" Yes, I love jidai-geki and they are fun to watch. But they are FICTION. However, when non-fiction historical sources aren't available (in English, because of my illiteracy in Japanese), then I sometimes look at jidai-geki. Not as reliable sources in themselves, but they can raise questions.
You are kidding, right? You keep stating your illiteracy in Japanese. So, how does explain the fact that most people who participate in detailed discussions about topics here in the S-A obtained their knowledge from reading books in English?
Confused I'm not sure what you are trying to say here. I do know that many people here cite Japanese-language books. I get much of my education from reading the posts that cite Japanese-language books.
Quote:
And as for using "Samurai Sketches" as a source to provide info that the Shogun's sword tester and executioner did sometimes dispatch common criminals, I don't see a problem with this.
Neither do I. I see nothing wrong with using SAMURAI SKETCHES and I don't recall where I said that there was anything wrong with this book; I was just wondering if you had more sources than just this one. I think I'll look into this book myself.
Quote:
At least I READ a book (in English that is readily available) which is a heck of a lot better than digging for truths by hitting "play" on the remote control.
Believe it or not, I do actually READ books myself. I just completed my latest research project for the Samurai Archives Journal; I'm doing my final proof-reading before I send it on to Kitsuno. My annotated bibliography for this article (yes, of BOOKS, that I've READ, as well as online sources) is 3 pages long. It includes 15 books, plus many, many articles. Now before you faint from disbelief, I hope that you pick up a copy of the forthcoming Samurai Archives Journal so you can READ my article. Better yet, I hope that you consider writing your own article for this esteemed publication, if you haven't already done so.
Quote:
Sheesh. I'll tell you what. I'll go easy on you and reel history (although it is fun to do so, and you do take it well) if you could go one whole month of posting about historical issues without once referencing a film you saw. Every time you do this, it detracts from some fine points you are indeed trying to raise. I dunno. It's a daunting challenge. Are you up for it? Just Kidding Of course, posts in the Samurai Film forum are exempt. Wink
I'll take you on -- IF you can go one month without yielding to the temptation of nitpicking other peoples' modes of discussion. Confused I'm sure that refraining from imitating Lord Kira will be a most daunting challege for you, but I think you can prevail. Twisted Evil Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 9:43 pm    Post subject: kiri sute gomen Reply with quote
It was fairly rare
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