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Keppan – The Blood Seal


Guido
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We often see in jidai geki (period dramas) how samurai put a bloody thumb-print seal (血判 keppan) below their name on a document in order to strongly express sincerity about the content; this was done on petitions, vows, confidential agreements, and so on. For instance, Ōishi Kuranoske (the leader of the 47 ronin) wanted to confirm the members' commitment by asking them to return their pledges blood-sealed.

 

The method shown in movies and on tv is that the wakizashi is pulled out of its saya a few inches, and the left thumb is pressed down on the edge. I always wondered why it was done that way, besides looking really cool, of course  8). We all know how many nerve endings our fingertips have, and how painful it is to get a cut there; it also takes forever to heal. And from a more practical standpoint, one gets blood on the blade, and might be impaired to handle a sword properly with the injured thumb.

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While going through the book 日本刀の総合美 nihontō no sōgōbi by 飯山嘉昌 Iiyama Yoshimasa, I found out that we’re indeed – and again - a victim of Hollywood (or, in this case maybe Tōei Studios): in reality the kozuka/kogatana was used to make a small cut on the top of the ring finger, and then the thumb was put on the wound to transfer the blood. Kind of cumbersome, and completely lacking the coolness factor, but makes perfect sense.

post-12-0-88900500-1544690459_thumb.jpg

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Guido, I really enjoyed the revelation of the real keppan technique. Thanks for that snippet.

 

Guido also wrote:

> We all know how many nerve endings our fingertips have, and how painful it is to get a cut there; it also takes forever to heal.

 

Well. maybe I'm a person of whom it could be said "no sense, no feeling", but I have had a severe cut to my thumb that laid it pretty much open and took 5 stitches (sutures for the medically inclined) to right the wrong.  This was a sword cut due to a blade stuck in the saya that "came with a rush" and my thumb impacted the ha and in a twinkling it was sliced open.  I thought I could bandage it up myself without my wife knowing (Oh, the shame!), but it became pretty clear that this was an ER job.  Now to the point - I felt no pain whatsoever.  None at all.  I was quite amazed, but there you have it.  The healing was I thought the usual length. AND as is oft said on the Board "This post is worthless without a picture", so here it is:

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I might add that was the same thumb that I nearly severed with a log splitter some months before, cutting the bone right through at an angle just in front of the first joint.  Again, I felt no pain at all, even right to the operating table after a day of waiting for a place in the plastics theatre.  Out of respect for sensitive souls I will spare yo'all the photo of the near severing.

 

BaZZa.

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Interesting that the ER didn't use cyanoacrylate (super glue) to seal up your wound, BaZZa. I nicked myself doing noto some years ago, & the ER doc said that it was the cleanest cut he had ever seen. A couple of drops of glue, & I was out the door. Paying the price of not paying attention! :o

 

Thanks for the keppan info, Guido.

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Well, I'm guessing they didn't use superglue because of the nature of the cut.  It was a sliced open flap and it bled profusely.  The Dr put in three stitches and it was still weeping so he put in another two.  I guess it was flooding too much for superglue to even get a hold...  At home "just after" I tried bandaids by wrapping them in a direction to keep the cut closed, but after three goes and being "washed away" each time I gave up and had Jenny drive me to the ER.

 

Steve, I just LOVE your keppan suggestion...  I'll have to refer this to a lawyer mate of mine!

 

BaZZa.

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