November 25, 1970: Japanese Coup Leader Commits Seppuku!


A Brief History

On November 25 in 1970, Japanese author, Yukio Mishima (a nom de plume), a man with multiple nominations for the Nobel Prize for literature, attempted a coup d’etat in Japan!

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find an incredibly accomplished man, writer of novels, plays and poems, as well as directing plays and movies, acting and modeling, fascinated by politics of the right wing and veneration of the emperor. Mishima created his own emperor protecting/venerating militia he called Tatenokai, some sort of martial arts private mini-army like something a warlord would have in a Bruce Lee film! In an attempt to restore absolute rule by the emperor, Mishima and a small cadre of followers seized a military headquarters, tied up the commanders, and addressed the soldiers, announcing the coup.  Alas!  Mishima’s exhortations were for naught, and the soldiers jeered and booed. Facing this not totally unexpected result, Mishima then committed ritual suicide, seppuku, slicing open his own belly and having an attendant behead him with a sword. After several unsuccessful attempts, the attendant deferred to a second attendant who cut of the stubborn head and then did the same for the first attendant, who meanwhile had also disemboweled himself!  Anticipating the strong possibility of failure, Mishima had already prepared his pre-seppuku traditional poems, causing some speculation that the coup was just an excuse for the suicide. Actually named Kimitake Hiraoka, Mishima wrote under his pen name, and beyond the accomplishments listed above, also was known as a body builder in Japan.

Historical Evidence

This remarkable man is remembered today by multiple books about his life, as well as a BBC documentary and a play.

The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima (Paperback)

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Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War.

  • James S

    Well, if you absolutely have to die, I suppose this is at least a cool way to go. By this I mean nobody should ever commit seppuku.

  • KRT

    As we learned in class about the Japanese ritual suicide, it is understandable why we could see this occurring in the 20th century. Japanese are well known for many traditions and they are mainly in the form of honoring yourself and family. So I can see why he would feel the need to preform this ritual to regain honor because of his failures in life. But hopefully others who feel the need to preform this ritual will find someone who is been acquainted with katana and could cleanly cut of their head.

  • Ty Rodgers

    As KRT stated, the traditions and rituals of the Japanese are very prominent still today. I think that Seppuku should be remembered by 21st “century-ans” as a practice of love for ones country. The idea that people should go back to using Seppuku is not one that I support. As with most parts of history, I feel it is important to know the past in order to avoid the bad and acknowledge the good.

  • Angela Reed

    I don’t think that It has occurred during the 21st century, and if it has I haven’t learned about it! I think we should practice it so we have a grasp on Japanese culture, but not on humans!

  • Ashley Arthur

    I agree with Angela it is definitely something we need to practice but not on humans. It would definitely be interesting to learn that aspect of the Japanese culture and I would definitely want to learn it.

  • JLS

    No, I do not think it should be practiced.

  • Karl Paulik

    I do not think this should be practiced, however every country has their own culture and traditions that are mainly focused around the belief of after life and the honor of the family. If a group of people wish to practice this type of act i do not think it should be prevented.

  • Lia Hart

    This practice does not have any place in the 21st century because no one should ever commit suicide.

  • Justin D.

    I don’t think this has any place at all in the 21st century people can redeem there self and do great things and not just end it for some ancient beliefs they can honor there family by life and not death.

  • rf

    I would hope this isn’t still practiced, but I’m sure in some places it is still honored.

  • Titus Rice

    There is a forest in Japan called Aokigahare aka the Suicide
    Forest; it is at the base of Mount Fuji. Hundreds of people go there every year
    to commit suicide. The mountain is belived to be a gateway to heaven and in
    ancient Japanese legend is the place where the goddess fugi first came down and
    inhabited Japan.

  • Brandon Yurick

    I believe to us, as an american culture it is easy to see this as cowardice, but knowing a little bit about japan history it is a very honorable way to go.

  • Jake Woolf

    To each their own; if someone wants to go out this way, why not let them? Let it have whatever place in modern times it is given by people who view the practice as a potential go-to.

  • History Student

    Hey, we learned about this practice in today’s class!

  • Alex Colucy

    A failed seppuku seems like a bad dream come true. Slowly bleeding to death would be a terrible way to die.


    Whether it was a ritual suicide or just an excuse to commit suicide… it was the right thing to do in his mind. I personally, would rather go out fighting! — DAVID

  • Daryl Walsh

    There was another incident where the Japanese were also committing suicide but I can’t quite put my finger on it….hmmm. I can picture his suicide ala Kill Bill style with the fountains of blood.

  • Cody

    According to some of their history, I guess it’s an honorable & “better” way to go

  • Lucy Lin

    interesting article! I can’t believe he committed seppuku

  • E.S.

    This is insane. Lets brake this down. First he is an artist of sorts. He tries to over through the military. He then rips out his stomach then get beheaded….. people are amazing

  • Michelle tuck

    Why on earth did he have someone chop off his own head? That may be the most undignified thing to do. It is not enough to slice his own belly open, for good measure lets just chop my head off. Crazy!

  • Tom Kubrak

    I feel like they should not use seppuku because that was probably was their downfall as samurais. Everyone makes mistakes so there should be no reason to kill of yourselves. Since none of them are perfect, they will all have to die.

  • Bobby Beran

    this is an act no one should ever commit all it does is end someones life early. they can achieve so much more.

  • Mike Rinicella

    The word Coup d’état is very interesting because when I usually hear this word I automatically think that a certain military force is going to attack their own reasons to prove a point.

  • Patrick Roder

    Its disturbing that after slicing his stomach open, the attendant couldn’t execute his job..

  • Corey McComas

    As posted in a comment of mine on another article, I don’t agree with the whole idea of seppuku. But I found this specific case to be really interesting that 1. he is thought to have used the coup as an excuse for this suicide and 2. how he attempted to kill himself, and then had someone finish the job by beheading him. I don’t understand how it was still considered this honorable suicide when someone else was the one who actually took the last step to killing him.

  • Gino Iacampo

    So when the Mishima is committing suicide and has someone else help him out… Shouldn’t the helper make sure he does it right instead of not exactly cutting his head off correctly? Especially when he was someone of great popularity. He probably suffered a little more than he wanted to.

  • Matt Chojnacki

    This is wild that someone so well accomplished committed ritual suicide because of his failed coup

  • Alec Kopsick

    What is with the Japanese obsession with committing suicide for ritual or in war.

  • NS

    Hearing about this story for the first time, I immediately thought that he was trying to make a statement. An individual with his knowledge knew exactly what he was doing but it obviously did not go according to his plan. I can imagine he wanted to go a little easier than that, but he probably still accomplished his goal of making a statement so I suppose his mission succeeded.

  • Ben Nevers

    It seems he made such a great attempt only to end up committing suicide.

  • Alex Guthrie

    Why not just behead him to begin with?

  • Alec Ciferno

    Seppuku seems like and incredibly painful way to die.

  • Ken Robinson

    While I admire people who practice honorable customs, this ritual takes things a little too far!

  • Anthony Jasany

    I love the rituals and culture of countries like Japan and China, but Seppuku is just ridiculous.