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The Immortal Death of Mishima

Grave_of_Yukio_Mishima

Mishima’s grave, Tama Cemetery in Fuchu, Tokyo

5,511 words

When Yukio Mishima arose on the morning of November 25th, 1970 he knew that it would be his last day on Earth. It was the deadline for completion of his novel, The Decay of the Angel, the fourth book in his tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility. He placed the completed manuscript, sealed in an envelope addressed to his publisher, on a table. Mishima had given intimations that the completion of the tetralogy would be the culmination of his life’s work. A month before his death he wrote to his future biographer, “Finishing the long novel [The Sea of Fertility] makes me feel as if it is the end of the world.”[1] The previous night he had left a note on his desk saying, “Human life is limited, but I would like to live forever.”[2]

He had spent some time preparing for his last day. Just the week before, there had been a major exhibition of his life held in Tokyo. One hundred thousand people viewed the exhibition, a token of Mishima’s popularity. Only Mishima, and a few of his most trusted comrades, knew that the exhibition was also a valediction. Prominently on display was Mishima’s 16th-century samurai sword, made by Seki no Magoroku, which he would be taking with him on the morning of November 25th to stage an attempted coup d’etat.

Mishima’s co-conspirators in the plan were four members of his private army, the Tatenokai, or Shield Society. This small corps (about 100 men) was formed with the stated intention of protecting the Emperor and, due to Mishima’s prestige, was allowed to use official military facilities for its training purposes. Mishima had arranged a meeting with General Mashita on the morning of the 25th and the group of five men was escorted to his office in the Ichigaya military base in Tokyo. There they took the general hostage and demanded that all the soldiers present at the garrison be assembled on the parade ground to listen to a speech given by Mishima. Mishima delivered his halting speech to a chorus of jeers from the assembled soldiers. He concluded with the patriotic chant, “Long live the Emperor!”

Retiring back to the general’s office he concluded that, “They did not hear me very well.” He then stripped to the waist and knelt down. Again shouting, “Long live the Emperor!” he stabbed himself in the abdomen with a short sword. This was the ancient samurai form of suicide by disemboweling: hara-kiri or seppuku. He pulled the blade across his stomach spilling blood into his lap until his intestines poked out of the deep cut. His second-in-command, Masakatsu Morita, then attempted to behead Mishima to relieve his agony, as had been agreed beforehand. Morita aimed a blow but missed the neck, cutting deeply into Mishima’s back. Another blow also missed the neck and a third, though on target, failed to sever the head. Another of the Tatenokai, Hiroyasu Koga, then took over and sliced Mishima’s head from his body. Morita then attempted an unsuccessful seppuku, barely penetrating his skin, and Furu-Koga cut his head off.

mishimalastdayMishima’s act of seppuku was the first to take place in Japan since the end of the Second World War, when hundreds of Japanese subjects committed seppuku in the grounds of the Imperial Palace to apologize to the Emperor for having lost the war. Many of the combatants in the Pacific also committed seppuku rather than suffer the dishonor of being captured by the Americans. Mishima’s suicide was radical and atavistic; it was a complex gesture both culturally and individually; and, ultimately, despite the confusion surrounding his act, it ensured that he would make his mark on eternity.

The Japanese Prime Minister, on hearing the news of Mishima’s death commented that, “He must have been kichigai, out of his mind.”[3] This judgement had more to do with the political establishment’s sense of embarrassment at Mishima’s anachronistic act than anything else. The point was expressed more clearly by the writer Nobuko Lady Albery: “It was a political embarrassment as well because just when Japan was on the point of becoming a member of the advanced industrialized nations whom we have copied so doggedly all those years; and then, here comes this writer killing himself as if the clock were put back two centuries.”[4]

In order to understand Mishima’s radical suicide it is necessary to understand the context of suicide in Japanese society, and the specific meaning of seppuku as a form of suicide. It is also necessary to consider Mishima’s own ideas concerning ritual death; ideas which are a complex mix of the traditional and the idiosyncratic.

In Japan suicide has never been the taboo act that it traditionally is in the West. Since the advent of Christianity, suicide in the West has been forbidden by the Church and often also by law. This taboo against suicide stems from Augustine who argued that life, being a gift from God, is not to be taken away, even by one’s own hand. This taboo was enshrined in law and continues to cast a dark shadow into modern times. As recently as 1969 a teenager was birched in the Isle of Man for attempting to commit suicide.[5] And it is still the case that official investigations into suicides will try their best to remain euphemistic about the cause of death:

Religious and bureaucratic prejudices, family sensitivity, the vagaries and differences in the proceedings of coroners’ courts and post-mortem examinations, the shadowy distinctions between suicides and accidents – in short, personal, official and traditional unwillingness to recognize the act for what it is – all help to pervert and diminish our knowledge of the extent to which suicide pervades society. . . For suicide to be recognized for what it is, there must be an unequivocal note or a setting so unambiguous as to leave the survivors no alternatives: all the windows sealed and a cushion under the dead head in front of the unlit gas-fire.[6]

In addition to the religious taboo against suicide there are other significant differences in the perception of suicide in Japan and the West. Suicide in the West is now generally seen as a mental health issue, and the potential suicide is treated as a psychological problem. This diagnosis tends to come from a deeper assumption that the problem lies at the level of the individual. In Japan there is a much stronger sense of social belonging so that it is perfectly possible for someone to commit suicide for reasons that have more to do with social standing. There is a specific type of suicide that is seen to represent atonement for a social or legal misdeed (whether real or perceived). This type of suicide is known as inseki-jisatsu.

Suicide after a social scandal is called inseki-jisatsu (suicide to take responsibility for a scandal) in Japan, but the inseki-jisatsu occurs regardless of whether the person is guilty or guiltless. Inseki-jisatsu is caused by a sense of disgrace. Those who commit inseki-jisatsu think that a scandal related to them adversely affects a community which they belong to, and that the scandal disgraces their names regardless of the truth of the scandal. . . Inseki-jisatsu occurs in Japan because the Japanese people tend to possess a strong sense of belonging to their community, and they cannot imagine losing the community which forms their identity. After the inseki-jisatsu, people usually do not blame the people who have committed suicide. . . because blaming the dead is thought to be disrespectful in Japan.[7]

Whereas in the West suicide is a shameful, forbidden act, in Japan there is a long tradition of the honorable suicide. For a Japanese person suicide can be a means of making amends or redeeming himself. Suicide can also serve to make amends for another person. Inseki-jisatsu can sometimes be carried out by employees who wish to cover up for their bosses’ corruption. The suicide will thus remove a key witness whilst at the same time atoning for any sense of scandal. This is considered to be a noble act because it allows for the good name of one’s community to remain intact. The ultimate honor, in this context, is to die for the Emperor. Most famously, the kamikaze pilots in the Second World War were eager to give their lives in service to the Emperor. To be chosen for such a suicide mission was considered a great honor.

This cultural distinction between Japanese and Western attitudes to suicide also extends to “murder-suicides”:

A Japanese mother (in Los Angeles) attempted to drown herself and her two children in the sea in 1985. The mother survived, but her two children died. This mother was prosecuted for murder, and the mother was regarded as an egoistic mother who killed her children without necessity in the USA. However, Japanese society was sympathetic to the mother. The mother and her children were treated as an expression of alteregoism, and it was thought that the children could not live happily without a mother even if they were not killed. Mothers who killed their children and then attempted suicide are usually not punished severely in Japan while in the USA those mothers are severely punished for the murder of their children.[8]

Even though Japanese society has changed rapidly and has become increasingly Westernized it is still affected by its historic attitude towards suicide. According the World Health Organization, Japan has the highest suicide rate of any developed country at almost 26 per 100,000 people.[9] About a quarter of suicides in Japan are motivated by financial concerns, and the number has been increasing since the global financial crisis in 2008 led to a contraction of the Japanese economy. Often, suicide is considered an honorable solution to debt because life insurance payments will cover the amount owing. Thus, social stigma is banished and the person’s good reputation remains unblemished.

It is necessary to bear in mind this important difference of attitude between Western societies and Japan when considering Mishima’s suicide. He came from a tradition that was capable of understanding the sense of honor that could be associated with suicide. Within this culture of honorable suicide, seppuku is considered as a particularly noble act. Seppuku was the traditional form of suicide practiced by the samurai, so it is associated with great courage and aristocracy. The degree of courage needed to carry out this act is both immense and self-evident. According to Toyomasa Fusé, a renowned expert on the subject:

Of all types of suicide, seppuku is considered to be the most painful. Since the lower abdomen has heavy muscle linings and fats, even the sharpest blade would not be able to pierce it easily. It is said that the deepest thrust of the sharpest blade could not be more than 7 cm deep. A samurai committing seppuku is expected to stab the left side of his abdomen first and then slit it open sideways. In the process he will also cut and slit the internal organs, causing excruciating pain. It usually takes hours before one dies successfully, thereby prolonging the excruciating pain and requiring a superhuman courage and perseverance. It is understandable, then, that this form of suicide had become a way of dying and a badge of courage for a proud warrior class such as the samurai in Japan.[10]

Mishima’s autopsy found that he had a cut five inches long and up to two inches deep across his abdomen.[11] His seppuku was evidently carried out according to the superhuman standards set down by the samurai, and would have required great physical strength as well as courage. If anything, Mishima’s seppuku is even more remarkable for the fact that he was not trained to carry it out. His biographer, Henry Scott Stokes, interviewed two of Mishima’s martial arts teachers who both confirmed that he was not trained to carry out seppuku. One commented that his wrists were stiff and that he was unable to hold his kendo sword correctly, whilst the other said that Mishima had asked him for details of how to carry out seppuku, on the pretext that he was to write something on the subject.[12]

In fact, Mishima had written a description of seppuku in gruesome detail some years earlier. In the short story, Patriotism, he describes a young officer who is unwilling to act against his former comrades who had taken part in the Ni Ni Roku rebellion. In order to maintain his honor, the officer commits seppuku:

The lieutenant aimed to strike deep into the left of his stomach. His sharp cry pierced the silence of the room. Despite the effort he had himself put into the blow, the lieutenant had the impression that someone else had struck the side of his stomach agonizingly with a thick rod of iron. For a second or so his head reeled and he had no idea what had happened. The five or six inches of naked point had vanished completely into his flesh, and the white bandage, gripped in his clenched fist, pressed directly against his stomach. He returned to consciousness. The blade had certainly pierced the wall of the stomach, he thought. . . With only his right hand on the sword the lieutenant began to cut sideways across his stomach. But as the blade became entangled with the entrails it was pushed constantly outward by their soft resilience; and the lieutenant realized that it would be necessary, as he cut, to use both hands to keep the point pressed deep into his stomach. He pulled the blade across. It did not cut as easily as he had expected. . . By the time the lieutenant had at last drawn the sword across to the right side of his stomach, the blade was already cutting shallow and had revealed its naked tip, slippery with blood and grease. But, suddenly stricken by a fit of vomiting, the lieutenant cried out hoarsely. The vomiting made the fierce pain fiercer still, and the stomach, which had thus far remained firm and compact, now abruptly heaved, opening wide its wound, and the entrails burst through, as if the wound too were vomiting. Seemingly ignorant of their master’s suffering, the entrails gave an impression of robust health and almost disagreeable vitality as they slipped smoothly out and spilled over into the crotch. . . Blood was scattered everywhere. The lieutenant was soaked in it to his knees, as he sat now in a crumpled and listless posture, one hand on the floor. . . The blade of the sword, now pushed back by the entrails and exposed to its tip was still in the lieutenant’s right hand. It would be difficult to imagine a more heroic sight than that of the lieutenant at this moment, as he mustered his strength and flung back his head.[13]

Mishima was viscerally aware of the gory reality of seppuku even if he was not formally trained to carry it out. He was not naïve about what seppuku would entail. But at the same time he did have a very romantic view of seppuku, glorifying it as an aesthetically pleasing, divinely sanctioned, and heroic death.

Guido Reni, St. Sebastian, c. 1616

Guido Reni, St. Sebastian, c. 1616

His fascination with the aesthetic aspects of violent death was first presented in his autobiographical novel Confessions of a Mask, published when he was 24 years old. In this work, Mishima recounts finding an art reproduction of Guido Reni’s St. Sebastian amongst his father’s books. As he looks at the picture of the male nude penetrated by arrows he becomes overwhelmed with sexual arousal, filled with “pagan joy,”[14] and for the first time in his life he masturbates, ejaculating into his hand. This conflation of homosexual arousal, artistic aestheticism, bloody violence, and youthful death would remain important concerns of Mishima’s throughout his life.

Mishima’s sense of “pagan joy” whilst masturbating over the painting of Sebastian is apt, as Sebastian has long been both an unofficial patron saint of homosexuals and an honorary pagan. It has long been recognized that depictions of Sebastian can attract inappropriate sexual attention. In the early 16th century a particularly lifelike depiction of a nude Sebastian by Fra Bartolomeo had to be removed from the church where it had been on display because women were admitting through the confessional that it was inspiring them to sinful thoughts.[15] More recently Derek Jarman filmed a quasi-pornographic life of Sebastian, which fell foul of the censors due to its graphic content.

The historical Sebastian was a captain in the Praetorian Guard who promulgated Christianity and actively sought to convert others to that faith. He was originally a favorite of the Emperor Diocletian, but when he fell from grace due to his religious activities he was ordered to be executed. He was tied up and shot at with arrows. Although the iconography depicting his martyrdom is usually associated with this scene, he did not actually die from his wounds. He was rescued and nursed back to life by a woman, St. Irene. Sebastian then denounced the Emperor and was clubbed to death as a punishment.

The fact that Sebastian was a favorite of Diocletian but then, later in life, denounced him provides an interesting parallel with Mishima’s own life. When he was a boy, Mishima was awarded a silver watch by Emperor Hirohito for his academic achievements. As was customary for the Japanese, Mishima worshiped the Emperor. But following Japan’s defeat in 1945, Hirohito was forced by the Americans to renounce his divinity. In a speech to the nation, he stated that the Emperor was not divine, and that the Japanese were not superior to other races. For many Japanese, particularly Right-wing nationalists, this was an unacceptable humiliation. Mishima was later to write a story in which the ghosts of kamikaze pilots return from the dead to berate the Emperor for renouncing his divinity. In Japan, criticism of the Emperor was a severe social taboo. Despite Mishima’s avowed, indeed somewhat extreme, Emperor worship, he became a controversial figure in Japan for this criticism of the Emperor.

Mishima saw the Emperor as a fixed, solar principle in whom was embodied the sacred potential of the Japanese people. Like Sebastian whose denunciation of Emperor Diocletian was motivated by knowledge of a higher principle, allegiance to which was more powerful than allegiance to life, Mishima’s criticism of Hirohito was inspired by the realization that the Emperor was a divine presence, and that this divinity was the source of ultimate meaning. His allegiance is primarily to this numinous presence and only secondarily to the person of the Emperor. “Why did the Emperor have to become a human being?” he asks in Voices of the Heroic Dead. And, like Sebastian, Mishima was willing to die in service to this ultimate metaphysical allegiance.

Mishima was later to write a sort of aesthetic manifesto, Sun and Steel, in which he described how his role as a writer had become inadequate, and how he sought fulfillment through the cultivation of the body. As Mishima saw it, words had led him towards a certain conception of beauty; but due to the temporal corrosiveness of words which could only reveal beauty by segmenting reality into semantic chunks – and thereby presenting a succession of endings to the continuity and purity of life – the pursuit of literature was no longer sufficient to his ambition. He equates intellectual activity with nocturnal and weak pursuits, and he contrasts this with the practice of physical development which is solar and strong. Through this physical development he is able to aspire to an ideal form, one that can achieve a greater sense of purity than merely spiritual or intellectual development.

Because Mishima has come to see literature as hamstrung in its pursuit of beauty, due to the temporal and subjective constraints that delimit its scope, he turns instead to the body as a means of approaching the ideal. As in Confessions of a Mask, written almost twenty years earlier, he sees the death of the idealized, youthful body as a sort of perfection: “Here lies the mysterious significance of an early death, which the Greeks envied as a sign of the love of the gods.”[16] The ageing process becomes a sort of falsification, as it is a degeneration of youth, beauty and purity. Mishima has come to see youthful death as a means of cheating this degeneration; of retaining purity; and of conferring immortality.

The problem for Mishima was that at the time he was writing Sun and Steel he was no longer a young man. He had missed his opportunity to be conscripted to an early death during the Second World War. In order to achieve an ideal physical form, and so recapture the perfection of youth, Mishima takes up bodybuilding. The weights come to embody the principle of steel: a counterpoint to human flesh that confers a condition of hard immortality. By fashioning his body in this way, he is able to create a form that is somehow an unveiling of a deeper truth: “By its subtle, infinitely varied operation, the steel restored the classical balance that the body had begun to lose, reinstating it in its natural form, the form that it should have had all along.”[17] Like a sculptor, he reveals the perfect form that lies inherent in the uncarved stone. And thus, in diurnal, solar, physical activity, Mishima finally creates the sculpted form that will provide a fitting sacrifice for the Emperor. This sacrifice will allow his form to retain its recreated perfection for eternity.

The attempt to achieve an aestheticisation of the body, and an elevated sense of purity, ran concurrent with Mishima’s lifestyle which was, in many respects, deeply embedded in the Kali Yuga. His homosexuality was notable in Japan at that time, if not for its practice then for his literary depiction of it. Indeed, there was no term for homosexuality in Japanese:

In the modern idiom, one might say he was “outed as gay,” but circa 1950s Japan lacked a conceptual term that linked sexual practice to identity in this capacity. Likely for this reason Mishima felt it necessary to coin the first word of its kind, danshokuka, which translates to the effect of “man lover person.” This neologism, presented in the novel Forbidden Colors (1954), starkly broke away from traditional Japanese notions of sexual orientation in favor of a more Western construction of the self.[18]

In Confessions of a Mask, Mishima describes the masturbation fantasies he had as a teenage boy. These involve a great deal of torture, blood, and cannibalism, always inflicted on young men. The literary expressions of his homosexual desire were always explicit and morbid, and seem to jar with his fanatical pursuit of an idealized purity. Further to this, he posed for a series of somewhat avant garde photographs, collected in the book Torture by Roses. He also posed for photographs as Saint Sebastian, modeled on the Reni painting he described masturbating over in Confessions. And, he starred in a number of downmarket gangster films. His house was very large and styled as a Western colonial house at a time when Japanese houses tended to be small and modest, and of an Eastern character. So, in many respects he was unusual in being very interested in and influenced by contemporary Western tendencies whilst at the same time developing an increasingly extreme view of Japanese purity.

All of this leads many observers to conclude that the Right-wing nationalism that Mishima adopted in the 1960s, culminating in his formation of the Tatenokai and attempted coup d’etat, was another mask that he wore, one that provided him with a convenient pretext to commit the suicide that he had aestheticised and eroticised for so long. Whilst it would be foolhardy to try to identify the “real” motives of such a complex man, it is still possible to see that this argument is inadequate to the facts. One critic who follows this line of thought declares that Mishima’s suicide was, “the ultimate in literary irony.”[19] A rereading of the extract quoted above concerning the physical effects of performing seppuku should give appropriate context to thoughts of an ironic suicide. A person does not cut out his intestines as an act of literary irony.

Yet, at the same time, Mishima’s embrace of nationalism was somewhat problematic. In Runaway Horses, the second novel of his final tetralogy, he tells the story of Isao, a Right-wing nationalist intent on sparking an Imperial revolution. Isao is a fanatic inspired by a book, The League of the Divine Wind by Tsunanori Yamao. In The League of the Divine Wind, the story is told of a group of nationalist samurai who objected to the reforms of the Meiji restoration, such as commerce with foreigners and the prohibition on wearing a sword. They attempt to instigate a revolution to cleanse Japan of these impurities. When the revolution fails, each of the men commits seppuku. Isao is utterly enchanted with this book and gathers together a group of like-minded nationalists who attempt to follow the example of the League of the Divine Wind. His intent is to carry out a series of assassinations and attacks on infrastructure, then to commit seppuku. His idea of seppuku is utterly romantic: “Before the sun. . . at the top of a cliff at sunrise, while paying reverence to the sun. . . while looking down upon the sparkling sea, beneath a tall noble pine. . . to kill myself.”[20] When the Lieutenant to whom he describes this ideal points out that it is not possible to choose the exact circumstances of one’s death the text continues: “Isao gave no heed to the Lieutenant’s words. Subtle discourse, exegesis, the ‘on the one hand this, on the other that’ approach – all these were foreign to his way of thinking. His ideal was drawn upon pure white paper in fresh black ink. Its text was mysterious, and it excluded not only translation but also every critique and commentary.”[21]

Isao is committed to the purity of the act rather than the contingencies of its enactment or the likelihood of its success. For him, it is essential that there must be the possibility of ultimate meaning in life, and for him this meaning is effected through the figure of the Emperor. What can be seen as a pathological suicidal impulse is, in fact, rather more subtle than that. Isao cannot countenance living in a Japan that has become corrupted through internal venality and imported decadence. For him, the Emperor is the point of singularity around which all else must orbit for life to have meaning. His revolutionary act is exoterically aimed at purifying Japan and resisting the encroachment of the foreign barbarians, but esoterically it is aimed at achieving the realization, the immanence, of the existence of an ultimate principle:

And the greatest sin is that of a man who, finding himself in a world where the sacred light of His Majesty is obscured, nevertheless determines to go on living without doing anything about it. The only way to purge this grave sin is to make a fiery offering with one’s own hands, even if that itself is a sin, to express one’s loyalty in action, and then to commit seppuku immediately. With death, all is purified. But as long as a man goes on living, he can’t move either right or left, or take any action whatever, without sinning.[22]

As Runaway Horses unfolds, Isao appears more and more as a misguided figure. He is continually coming up against the reality of the contingencies of life that jar with the beautiful ideal he has constructed for his own life. His father betrays him to the police before his group are able to carry out their attacks. His father reasons that Isao is a naïve idealist who lacks pragmatism, “There’s such a thing as the favorable moment. Determination alone counts for nothing. Thus I have to conclude that my son is too young. The necessary discernment is still beyond him. . . Rather than take action, the best course is to achieve results without acting.”[23] This assessment is a fundamental misunderstanding of Isao, and by extension, of Mishima.

The interesting thing about Runaway Horses is that the character of Isao is an exact analogue of Mishima in many respects. At the time of writing the book Mishima himself was in the process of forming a small corps of Right-wing nationalists who would attempt a similar, albeit less murderous, rebellion. It is also certain that Mishima was already committed to the idea of carrying out seppuku as the climax to this action. Many critics have dismissed Mishima’s politics as silly and suggested that the formation of the Tatenokai and the assault on Ichigaya were merely elaborate pretexts for the performance of Mishima’s seppuku. The characterisation of Isao tends to support this analysis as it shows that Mishima has moved on from the idealised and romantic notions of heroic seppuku that he depicted in Patriotism. Instead, we can read Isao as Mishima’s attempt to detach himself somewhat from the naïve idealism he had previously described. Unlike the officer in Patriotism, Isao is unable to achieve the death that he had envisaged. He exists in a messy world of contingency, and when he finally commits seppuku he must do so hastily, before being captured. This leads some to conclude that Mishima was far too sophisticated to really believe in the ideals of the Tatenokai, and that he simply exploited them for his own narcissistic ends.

There is some plausibility to this view but it is crucial to understand that the Tatenokai and attempted coup were not incidental to Mishima’s intentions but were the apposite vehicle for them. He was sincere in his Right-wing nationalism and in his wish to re-establish samurai values and he was willing to die for this cause. Yet at the same time he realized that there would be no chance of his miniscule, poorly trained army succeeding in their coup. This disjunction between the purity of his idealized ambition and the pragmatic possibilities open to him also encompasses the various personal and artistic proclivities that seem out of sync with his uncompromising aesthetic of death and Emperor worship, such as his homosexuality and sadism. It would appear that his awareness of weakness, decadence and egotism was no barrier to his grasp of numinous purity. And in death he was able to transcend all of these things and realize perfection. Isao, despite not being able to commit seppuku in the manner he had dreamed of, nonetheless experiences a profound and victorious vision in death: “The instant that the blade tore open his flesh, the bright disc of the sun soared up and exploded behind his eyelids.”[24]

Lying behind all of Mishima’s diverse interests was a deeper imperative to establish the reality of an ultimate source of meaning, beyond human contingency. For Mishima this principle was embodied in the Emperor. The siege of Ichigaya was undertaken with a sincere motive but the external, real world, outcome of the event was always going to be a matter of secondary importance. The incidental details of his suicide, including his lifelong preparation, were arranged with a superior artist’s eye for the dramatic. But all of this was in service to a greater idea, one which could only be realized through transcending contingency. With his death he was able to sacramentalize his life and achieve a final victory by touching the face of the divine. As the note read, “Human life is limited, but I would like to live forever.”

Notes

1. Henry Scott Stokes, The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima (Peter Owen, 1975), p.235.

2. Ibid., p. 234.

3. Ibid., p. 51.

4. The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima (supplementary documentary on Mishima: A life in Four Chapters), 2008, DVD, The Criterion Collection.

5. A. Alvarez, The Savage God: A Study of Suicide (Penguin Books, 1971), p. 66.

6. Ibid., p. 106.

7. Aya Maeda, “How suicide has been conceived in Japan and in the Western World: Hara-kiri, Martyrdom and Group Suicide,” in Erich A. Berendt (ed.), Facing Finality: Cognitive and Cultural Studies on Death and Dying (University of Louisville Press, 2009), p.100.

8. Ibid., p. 102.

9. Rob Gilhooly, “Inside Japan’s ‘Suicide Forest’,” The Japan Times, June 26, 2011.

10. Toyomase Fusé, “Suicide and Culture in Japan: A Study of Seppuku as an Institutionalized Form Of Suicide,” Social Psychiatry, 1980, 15, pp. 57-63.

11. Scott Stokes, The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima, p. 51.

12. Henry Scott Stokes, “Headless in Ichigaya: Yukio Mishima’s Legacy,” 2006, Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

13. Yukio Mishima, Patriotism (New Directions, 1966), pp. 45-51.

14. Yukio Mishima, Confessions of a Mask (Panther Books, 1972), p. 37.

15. Richard A. Kaye, “‘Determined Raptures’: St. Sebastian and the Victorian Discourse of Decadence,” Victorian Literature and Culture, 1999, 27(1), p. 27.

16. Yukio Mishima, Sun & Steel (Secker & Warburg, 1971), p. 68.

17. Ibid., p. 24.

18. Matthew Chozick, “Queering Mishima’s Suicide as a Crisis of Language,” Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, 15 October 2007.

19. Peter Abelsen, ‘Irony and Purity: Mishima’, Modern Asian Studies, 30(3), pp. 651-79.

20. Yukio Mishima, Runaway Horses (Vintage Classics, 2000), p. 125.

21. Ibid., p. 125.

22. Ibid., p. 188.

23. Ibid., p. 315.

24. Ibid., p. 421.

Source: The original version of this essay was published in a Black Front Press volume on Mishima. This version is to be reprinted in a Ravenshalla Arts compilation of writings by Christopher Pankhurst.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted August 20, 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    One conquers Time only through a self-chosen Death. And/Or by creating a cultural artifact of transcendent quality. Mishima evidently did both. Quite a Man.

  2. Karen
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I have most of Mishimas’ books and his short stories, he’s a wonderful writer and he captures the essence of Evolas’ Man. But Andy Warhol in his diaries gives a very different view of his character, a sissy.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      Sissies kill themselves with sleeping pills. They don’t disembowel themselves.

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    Summoning the Gods

    Hold Back This Day

    The Columbine Pilgrim

    Confessions of a Reluctant Hater

    Taking Our Own Side

    Toward the White Republic

    Distributed Titles

    Tyr, Vol. 4

    Reuben

    The Node

    Axe

    Carl Schmitt Today

    A Sky Without Eagles

    The Way of Men

    Generation Identity

    Nietzsche's Coming God

    The Conservative

    The New Austerities

    Convergence of Catastrophes

    Demon

    Proofs of a Conspiracy

    Fascism viewed from the Right

    Notes on the Third Reich

    Morning Crafts

    New Culture, New Right

    The Fourth Political Theory

    Can Life Prevail?

    The Metaphysics of War

    Fighting for the Essence

    The Arctic Home in the Vedas

    Asatru: A Native European Spirituality

    The Shock of History

    The Prison Notes

    Sex and Deviance

    Standardbearers

    On the Brink of the Abyss

    Beyond Human Rights

    A Handbook of Traditional Living

    Why We Fight

    The Problem of Democracy

    Archeofuturism

    The Path of Cinnabar

    Tyr

    The Lost Philosopher

    Impeachment of Man

    Gold in the Furnace

    Defiance

    The Passing of a Profit & Other Forgotten Stories

    Revolution from Above