Religion, Seppuku, and the Way of the Samurai  



In Book eight of Taiko, Hideyoshi and Muneharu face problems with the terms on which peace between their two armies will be established. Muneharu’s commitment to seppuku saves two armies from going to war and ultimately displays the Confucian relationship of friend to friend, a concept that could never happen in the Western World.

Due to the dominance of Christianity in the Western world, a public display of suicide would never equate to respect or powerful leadership. The Christian faith perceives suicide as a sin as grave as murder, harming the soul of the one who kills. An example of the disgrace and cowardice suicide had brought on in modern Western leadership would be Adolf Hitler, notorious leader of Nazi Germany during World War II. Although the leadership of Muneharu greatly contrasts Hitler’s implementation of mass genocide across Europe, both represent imperialist powers of an older world. Muneharu’s suicide displays sacrifice, something more akin to the way in which a soldier would sacrifice himself for the greater good of his people. He states, “‘No matter what you say… I will not let you or anyone else commit seppuku in my place’” (678). This humble and sacrificial offering is even respected by his opponent, Hideyoshi. When he sees Muneharu’s severed head he states, “ ‘such a pity… Muneharu was an excellent samurai.’ He had never appeared more moved” (680). This display of respect from Muneharu’s enemy (Hideyoshi) is a great gesture manifesting the Confucian relationship between friend and friend. The high level of mutual respect between the two great leaders could only be found in an Eastern context. In addition to Hideyoshi’s Confucian relationship with Muneharu, the Mori army shows one of father to son: the Mori army is swept up by a great solemnity and sorrow, showing high respect for their elder leader.

It is evident throughout this chapter that Confucian relationships are still to be respected within a war-time context. Hideyoshi’s respect for Muneharu and the response of the Mori army regarding Muneharu’s sacrifice shows brotherly companionship even in a time of war. It appears that in Western civilization, the black and white nature of pervasive Christian values could never embody the respectful nature Confucianism permits in a war-like setting.

Chan, Cindy. “Foundational Texts of Confucianism.” Epoch Times. The Epoch Times, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2014.
Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1992. Print.
Creative Commons License
Religion, Seppuku, and the Way of the Samurai   byLaurel Wiebe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at