Second Draft

Shout It Out? Unlikely

Posted in Research,WorldBuilding by Michael Skeet on Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spent rather too much time, recently, on my back as a result of the influenza. One of the things I did to entertain myself, while my head throbbed and the world spun, was to watch a borrowed copy of the “Shogun” miniseries from three decades ago. It was the first time I’d seen “Shogun” since its initial airing, and I discovered that a lot of what I thought I remembered about it was, well, wrong.

But I’m not writing to complain about my memory. What was I writing about? Oh, yeah. There was one thing that suddenly made me say “Hmmmm…” as I watched. And it wasn’t the historical inaccuracy (First use of firearms in battle in Japan in 1600? Really?) No, it was one of those things that likely wouldn’t have occurred to me at all if my brain had been working properly. I was watching the big set-piece, leading up to the drippy heroine getting herself blowed up real good, and shortly after the villainous samurai had stabbed his third or fourth minion in the back, I found myself wondering…

How did they clean up all the blood?

Srsly, people. Killing was supposedly anathema to Buddhists (Jill says samurai just automatically expected to go to hell) and blood and death were serious defilement to Shintoists. So when there was some sort of treachery, and blood was spilled (despite what most TV and movies would have you believe, sword wounds could bring out tremendous amounts of blood in a short time; watch the remarkable ending of Sanjuro to get an idea), how did it get cleaned up, and did everybody have to leave the house/mansion/castle until it could be purified again?

I’m pretty sure that the answer to the second question is Yes, though I’ve never seen reference to it. Even in Throne of Blood, where there’s specific reference to a bloodstain that still disfigures a room, there’s no description of the cleaning process.

As for the first question, the logical persons to do the cleaning were Burakumin. But what self-respecting samurai would have those people in his house?

As I said, it’s perplexing. Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments. (In the meantime, I’m feeling much better now, I apologize for my prolonged absence, and I’m looking forward to getting back to writing again.)


4 Responses to 'Shout It Out? Unlikely'

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  1. Allan Goodall said,

    Since it was a fascinating question, I took it upon myself to check my books. I don’t have anything really covering this. I have a book on seppuku, but it doesn’t go beyond the participants leaving the room.

    So, I went to the Tangency forum on and posed the question.

    The consensus was that someone, probably the servants, would remove the items that could be destroyed, which would be a quite a few. These items would be burned. Then, the servants would wash up the blood. After the house is physically clean, a Shinto priest would purify the site and go through a purification ritual with the occupants (including the servants). That ritual is what cleans the servants after having performed such an unclean act.

    One poster had an interesting take on it. He suspected that the samurai would tell the servants, essentially, “Get it done” and then leave until after the work was done. The servants, in response, would hire burakumin to clean the place. Sure, the samurai wouldn’t want them in his house, so he would simply make it understood that he didn’t want to know how the job was done. The burakumin would clean the house, and then the Shinto priest would purify the house (which included purifying it from the visit by the burakumin).

    One last thing: someone suggested that if the house was the site of a horrible event (a massacre, for instance), the house might not be purified, but burnt to the ground, and a garden grown over top with a new house built on another part of the property.

    I hope this helps!

  2. Michael Skeet said,

    Thanx huge amounts, Allan. I had suspected some of this, but it’s nice to get some confirmation. I confess I had forgotten how frequently Japanese houses were rebuilt, even mansions, so I hadn’t considered that option.

  3. Allan Goodall said,

    You’re quite welcome.

    I plan to use this in a scene in the adventure I’m going to include with The Silver Pavilion. That is, when I finally write The Silver Pavilion! I’m thinking it will be this fall. Godlike: The Black Devils Brigade just went out to the playtesters, and now I’m working on my 3 chapters for Godlike: Operation Torch. And, it looks like they want me to write Godlike: The Battle of the Bulge. Whew!

  4. Michael Skeet said,

    Please promise me that Telly Savalas will not be involved in the Battle of the Bulge game, and that Tigers won’t be represented by M-48s…

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