I'd hardly remembered there was such a term as "ritual suicide." It's not something one hears with any frequency anymore, and I seemed to have left it to decay from disuse in the bottom of my memories. When my wife's jest brought it back to my mind, I turned to her and replied that if I were to commit ritual suicide, it would be in honor of the era of Meiji, in honor of the spirit of a bygone age. My reply, of course, was likewise in jest, but I also felt that I'd gleaned new meaning from an archaic and disused term.
Another month went by. On the night of the Imperial Funeral, sitting in my study as usual, I listed to the sounding of the cannon. It seemed to say, with resounding finality, that the days of Meiji were gone forever. It was telling us too, as I thought on it later, that General Nogi had left us forever. When the extra edition of the paper arrived and I read of events, I instinctively repeated the words "ritual suicide" to my wife.
I read in the paper what General Nogi had written before his death. Since losing his banner in the Satsuma Rebellion, he'd wished to die by way of atonement. When I read these words, I reflexively put my fingers to work, counting out the years he'd lived with this wish. The Satsuma Rebellion had occurred during the tenth year of the Meiji reign, so thirty five years had passed from then until now. General Nogi, it seems, had for thirty five years waited for the right time to die. I wondered, for such a man, which was the greater anguish, those thirty five years of life or the instant of death when the dagger pierced his flesh.
It was two or three days later that I finally resolved to end own life. Just as General Nogi's motives for dying were not fully known to myself, my own reasons for dying may well be unclear to you. If that is the case, I expect it can't be helped. The passing of time puts distance between us. Or perhaps it's better said that we each enter this world with our own unique dispositions. I've tried through this narrative, to the best of my ability, to reveal to you my own peculiar self.