100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

General Commits Suicide During Japanese Emperor’s Funeral

The Emperor Komei died in 1867 at 36 years old and his 16 year old son Mutsuhito became Emperor Meiji. With the guidance of reforming politicians, Emperor Meiji oversaw Japan becoming a modern power and overcame the warring lords who reluctantly acceded to his wishes. In July 1912 Emperor Meiji died after 44 years on the throne.

Crown Prince Yoshihito will become Emepror Taisho. His reign will begin the Taisho era.When the emperor Meiji died he was placed in a room when the Dowager Empress and others took their farewells before the body was placed in a coffin that night. All court activity was suspended for 5 days and daily rituals were held for the next two weeks. Members of the court treated him as if he were still living including bringing him 3 meals a day. On the 14th day the body was transferred to a mortuary hall and displayed with sacred objects including a sword. For the next 2 weeks the new emperor and others pay respect and on the 28th day the deceased emperor’s posthumous name is announced by the new emperor On the 30th day telegrams from world leaders are read aloud.On September 13, 1912 the new Emperor paid his respects for the last time and a ceremony enshrined his spirit in a room in the palace. In the evening the coffin is taken out and placed on a hearse pulled by 5 oxen. The mortuary parade consisted of 300 persons carrying torches, drums, gongs, banners, bows, shields, and lances. The procession was joined by an army band. The streets had been covered with sand and decorated with white-and-black cloths and lanterns. When the arrive at the funeral site a long procession of last rites, salutes, offerings, and funerary eulogies started.
General Nogi was a war hero who had defeated the Russian army in the Siege of Port Arthur in 1905 which helped Japan become the first Asian nation to defeat a Western power in war. 50,000 Japanese soldiers lost their lives in the 5month battle including General Nogi’s two sons.  On September 13, 1912 the night of the Emperor’s funeral General Noji has his picture taken standing in front of his home in dress uniform. Him and his wife entered their home where she tied her legs together and then committed seppuku, ritual suicide by cutting her jugular vein with a dagger. She had tied her legs to prevent her body from assuming an indecent posture in death. General Noji then committed seppuku by plunging a sword into his abdomen and pulling it horizontally. A second nearby quickly severed his head. After the Russo-Japanese war Noji had asked Emperor Meiji for permission to kill himself to atone for the huge number of casualties his troops had suffered, but the Emperor had refused to saying that the General would have to remain alive at least during the emperor’s own lifetime. With the Emperor’s death Noji felt he could regain his honor. The Japanese nation is shocked at Noji’s actions thinking they had left such rituals behind in the last century.

General Noji in full military dress before his ritual suicide
September 13, 1912

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