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Seppuku is an ancient Japanese ritual widely known throughout the world. It was the act of stomach-cutting, or harakiri, and was a way of suicide originally reserved for the samurai. In order to die with honor instead of at the hands of enemies, a samurai would take a short blade and cut into their abdomen, and slice it open from left to right. It was also a form of capital punishment performed when a warrior had brought shame to themselves and their family. In many ways, it’s how they repented for their failures and defeats, taking full responsibility and maintaining the honor of their name with the ultimate sacrifice.
As morbid as it may sound, one Japanese confectionery store has gained fame for making desserts themed after this form of “suicide by disembowelment.” Called Seppuku Monaka, the sweet Japanese delectables made of thin mochi wafers filled with azuki bean paste, are shaped to resemble a stomach that has been cut wide open. Pretty gruesome if you think about it.
Seppuku Monaka is sold at the 104-year-old shop Shinshodo in Shinbashi, Tokyo. The current owner is Yoshihisa Watanabe, and is the 3rd generation of proprietors. He came up with the idea to make these delicious but somewhat gory desserts 20 years ago, when he discovered that the location of his store was the same area as where the shogunate had ordered Asano Naganori to commit seppuku back in 1701.
Despite the fact that his wife and over 100 of his customers were strongly against the idea, he decided to make a product themed after the famous event anyway.
The desserts weren’t much of a hit, until one manager from a stock brokerage came to buy a consolation gift for a client he wanted to apologize to. When Watanabe jokingly mentioned that his Seppuku Monaka might make for a good gift, the manager bought it, and lo and behold, returned one week later to reveal that the client loved them, and wholeheartedly accepted his apology.
Now the store sells anywhere from 2,000 to 7,000 Seppuku Monaka on any given day, either indicating that there are thousands of people who are seeking forgiveness every day, or that although the ritual has long vanished, the seppuku theme of the desserts still fascinate the people of Japan.
Location: 4-27-2 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Hours: Monday-Friday: 9AM~8PM/Saturday: 9AM~5PM