Harakiri (1962 film)

Harakiri (1962 film)

Infobox Film
name = Harakiri

writer = Shinobu Hashimoto
Yasuhiko Takiguchi
starring = Tatsuya Nakadai
Rentaro Mikuni
Shima Iwashita
Akira Ishihama
director = Masaki Kobayashi
producer = Tatsuo Hosoya
distributor = Shochiku
music = Tōru Takemitsu
released = September 16, 1962 (Japan)
runtime = 135 min.
country = Japan
language = Japanese
amg_id = 1:94319
imdb_id = 0056058

"Harakiri" (Japanese: 切腹, "Seppuku") (1962) is a Japanese film directed by Masaki Kobayashi. The story takes place between 1619 and 1630 during the Edo period and the reign of the Tokugawa shogunate. It tells of a ronin, Hanshiro Tsugumo, who instead of committing "seppuku" (better known in the West by the colloquial term "harakiri") after his lord was deposed, was ordered to stay alive in order to care for his daughter and grandson as well as his son-in-law, the son of another samurai who had committed the ritual suicide.


At the start of the film, Hanshiro Tsugumo shows up at the house of a feudal lord, Kageyu Saito, looking for a suitable place to commit seppuku. At the time, it is told, it was fairly common for disgraced samurai to make the same request, or threat, in order to receive a pittance from the lord of the house. To discourage Hanshiro, Kageyu Saito recounts the story of another ronin, Motome Chijiiwa, who made the same request earlier in the year and was forced by the samurai retainers of the house to go through with the threat. Tsugumo is not discouraged, however, and looks determined to prove that he isn't making idle threats.

While getting ready for the suicide, Hanshiro Tsugumo recounts his tale to Kageyu Saito and his retainers. His lord's house was considered a threat and toppled by forces of the shogunate. His friend, another samurai, committed seppuku and left Tsugumo to look after his son, who it turns out was Motome Chijiiwa. With the responsibility of looking after Chijiiwa and also his own daughter Miho, Hanshiro is unable to choose the 'honorable' way to end his life, and instead has to live in poverty and work menial jobs in order to support his family.

When they get older, Motome Chijiiwa and Miho Tsugumo end up getting married and have a son, Kingo, but still live on in poverty. When Miho and Kingo get ill, they can't afford the services of a physician and Chijiiwa comes up with the plot of threatening to commit seppuku at a lord's house with previously seen results. With no money, Miho and Kingo end up dying from their illnesses.

Before coming to Kageyu Saito's house, Hanshiro Tsugumo tracks down three retainers of the house, Hikokuro Omodaka, Hayato Yazaki and Umenosuke Kawabe, who he blames for the deaths of his family. Instead of killing them in combat, he disgraces them by cutting off the topknots of their hair.

After finishing his story, Hanshiro Tsugumo is attacked by the retainers of the furious lord Kageyu Saito. He has to fight all of them off alone, killing four while slowly succumbing to his wounds. Finally, as a new group of retainers arrives armed with guns, Tsugumo commits seppuku to avoid being killed by them.


The film presents a negative view of the emerging feudal system at the beginning of the 17th century, depicting the hypocrisy in the flimsy pretext of honor exhibited by the "daimyo". At the time, "harakiri" was seen as a means to retain one's honor after a disgrace, better even than doing good deeds.Fact|date=September 2007 The vanity of the feudal lord's counsellor Kageyu Saito is also shown: the outward appearance of honour is shown to be more important to him than real honour. He orders the retainers disgraced by Hanshiro Tsugumo to commit "seppuku", and makes sure that those who were slain and who had their topknots cut off by Hanshiro are written off as casualties to illness so that his house would not appear weak.


The film was entered in the competition category of the Cannes Film Festival in 1963. It lost the "Palme d'Or" to "The Leopard", but received the 'second prize': Special Jury Award.

Main cast

*Tatsuya Nakadai - Hanshiro Tsugumo
*Rentaro Mikuni - Kageyu Saito
*Shima Iwashita - Miho Tsugumo
*Akira Ishihama - Motome Chijiiwa
*Tetsuro Tamba - Hikokuro Omodaka
*Ichiro Nakaya - Hayato Yazaki
*Yoshio Aoki - Umenosuke Kawabe

External links

*imdb title|id=0056058|title=Harakiri
* [http://www.criterion.com/asp/release.asp?id=302&eid=431&section=essay Criterion Collection essay by Joan Mellen]
*cite web |url=http://www.jmdb.ne.jp/1962/cl002980.htm|title=切腹 (Seppuku)|accessdate=2007-07-16|language=Japanese|publisher=Japanese Movie Database

###@@@KEY@@@###succession box
title=Special Jury Prize, Cannes
tied with "The Cassandra Cat"
before="The Trial of Joan of Arc"
tied with "L'eclisse"
after="Woman in the Dunes"

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