Hokijiri 箒尻 – The Punishment Cane

The hokijiri (箒尻) is a Edo-period (1603-1868) punishment implement used for disciplining criminals. It was either used alone on the criminal who was bound and either lain prone or on his knees, or it was used in conjunction to other torture and punishment methods such as pressing and suspension.

From the Ueda City Digital Archive website the following description of the hokijiri can be found:

手前の箒尻は、江戸時代に敲(たたき)や拷問に用いた棒。割竹2本を麻糸で包み、その上を観世紙繕(かんぜこより)で巻いている。

From it’s appearance, the hokijiri is a bar used for beating (tataki; 敲) and torture in the Edo era. Two wrapped bamboo lengths are rolled over in paper string (kanzekoyori; 観世紙繕).

The kanji that are used to describe the hokijiri actually link to it’s history.

‘Houki’ (箒), literally means “bamboo broom”, as it is made up of the components for ‘broom’ (帚) and ‘bamboo’ (竹), making the kanji for “bamboo broom.” The second kanji requires a bit more of an inference: read as ‘shiri’ (尻), it is made up of the number ‘nine’ (九), of which the form implies impacting something in a verbal sense. While the second radical, ‘shikabane’, or ‘katashiro’ (尸) refers to a “corpse” in a modern sense, but in the edo period referred to the sacrum or buttocks area of the body. Thus the noun ‘hokijiri’ can be understood to be referring to “a bamboo broom that was wrapped for the purpose of striking the body.”

hokijiri-detail
Closeup of the braiding detail on the Hokijiri.

At some later time, the bamboo broom appears to have been substituted with a bamboo cane, and thus the softer fabric at the end sticks out as opposed to the bristly end of a bamboo broom. I cannot say for sure why this was substituted, possibly due to making the item particularly for this purpose instead of being an adapted item. The information on this is rather scarce.

In Edo-period punishment and torture, the process of discipline had four stages, of them the first was to have the criminal bound and flogged in a practice called Muchiuchi (Flogging; 笞打ち). This hokijiri was used to beat the suspect on his shoulders or back until the blood flowed, at which point an assistant would rub sand into the wound to stop the bleeding. Then the beating would be continued at another spot on the back, lower down. The other three torture practices will be written about at a later time. (Cleaver 1999)

There were other arrangements of punishment, but they are either situational, varied, or poorly documented.

Nowadays, one of the only places that one may see the hokijiri in use, would be in a certain kind of Japanese rope bondage (Kinbaku; 緊縛) derived from these punishment and torture methods called semewaza (torment skills; 責技) as practiced by contemporaries such as Akira Naka. Though this is an exceedingly rare practice, and even within that, it is rare to see this sort of performance.

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Sources:

Cleaver, Richard. In The Good (?) Old Days. (1999)

2 Replies to “Hokijiri 箒尻 – The Punishment Cane”

  1. The interesting thing about the Hokijiri is that the pain transfers directly to the muscle and bone. We recreated the Four Tortures of Edo Japan; with only a few modifications to prevent permanent injury, doing all four tortures in one long night. A lot of planning (a years worth) and safety measures were employed before attempting them. I wrote about the experience as i was the one on the receiving end and there were several photographs taken. The account is available on my Fetlife profile: kotori_kim (kansas city MO)

    Like

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