Yesterday, along with Akumi’s uncle Tadashi, we visited her grandmother
at a rest home. She’s a spunky 90 year old woman and gives me great
insight into where Akumi gets her rebellious nature from. We took her
for a walk and I jumped onto a thin railing. Her reflex wasn’t to wave
me down for my safety, it was to reach out as if to push me off and
cause me to crack my skull. We made sure to push her wheelchair to the
edge of the river as if to push her in. We all had a good laugh
Afterwards we walked over to the uncle’s house. Akumi refers to him as
the “Harley Davidson” uncle as he rides a Harley and is in love with the
Harley brand. He was wearing Harley jeans and a Harley cap. When we
arrived at his place, he showed us his 200 year old Katana.
The Katana in its case. Tadashi made the stand himself.
It’s a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Every two weeks he cares for it
with a strict regimen to ward off rust and keep its beauty. Should he
require a sharpening (which probably won’t be required) it costs $100
per centimeter to sharpen properly. It’s a collector’s item worth over
$8000 made by some guy named Hattori Hanzo (ok, the Hattori part isn’t
Tadashi shows us the engraving on the hilt and a matching monograph in
a collector’s book.
Tadashi explained to us that Samurais went to great lengths to take care
of their swords and a good way to get yourself killed back in the day
was to carelessly handle or knock down a Samurai’s sword. That would
invite a fight to the death. Only then did Tadashi let me handle the
Katana and I took great care to show it the respect it deserved.
Displaying the ferocity and skill that would have made me a great
samurai. Or samurai fodder.
Tadashi has a sense of humor similar to my dad’s. He told us that when
he’s unable to care for himself, he’d prefer to commit seppuku than
waste away in a rest home. My dad always tells us that when he can’t
wipe himself, drive him out the backwoods of Alaska and let him loose
for the bears to find him.
When a samurai was dishonored, he would commit Seppuku in order to
regain his honor. Today, dishonoring oneself is a sport displayed on
Sometimes this is referred to as Hara Kiri, though Tadashi tells us that
Seppuku is the correct term. Hara Kiri and Seppuku are the same
characters in Japanese, but they have two different ways to pronounce
The act of seppuku required the samurai to essentially dissect himself
with a katana while another Samurai chopped his head off to finish the
deed. The sword the other samurai used was specially made for this
purpose as just any sword will not do. To test the sword (see, “test
first” is not a new thing) they piled dead decapitated bodies one on top
of the other, in what must’ve been a pleasant ritual, and then attempted
to cut through as many as they could with one strike of the katana.
Afterwards, the katana was carefully engraved to document the number of
bodies it cut through. Thus a “three body” sword meant it cut through
Tadashi showed us a picture of a sword with an etching of “Three Body
Sword” on one side. On the other side it said “After re-engineering,
Four Body Sword”. I want to know where they got all these bodies for
testing. I’d hate to be the QA department for a seppuku katana.
In the next two pictures, Tadashi demonstrates Seppuku.
Step 1, insert the blade here. Be sure to disinfect first.
Step 2, slash across here. Be sure to cut into the major organs.
Doesn’t that feel nice?
For women who had been shamed, they would often kneel down to commit
seppuku and were permitted to lean into the blade, bracing the hilt on
the ground if they did not have the strength to cut themselves.