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Foreign money drives and goads people, and pseudo-humanism becomes a necessity for making a living. The world is shrouded in hypocrisy while physical force and manual labor are despised. Youthful generations feel suffocated by torpor, sloth, drugs, and meaningless fights, yet they all move along the prearranged path of mundanity like meek sheep. People think about making money, even small amounts, for which they degrade their own value. Private cars multiply, whose stupid high speed renders people soulless. Tall buildings mushroom while the righteous cause and moral principles collapse, and the glittering glass windows of those buildings are just like fluorescent lights of implacable desires.

Eagles flying high in the sky and break their wings, and the immortal glories are sneered at and derided by termites. In such a time, the Emperor has become a human. Mishima expressed this view via the collective voice of the spirits of the martyrs, that the Emperor has assumed a duality of image, one being the last sacred embodiment of the national myth, and the other being one kind smiling grandfather presiding over the economic rationalism of the current age, and it is the latter, the protector of the daily routines of the post-war Japan, that Mishima found intolerable, as the voice of the martyr spirits makes quite clear:.

The reign of His Majesty has been dyed in two different colors. The period of the bloody red color ends with the last day of the war, and the period of the ash grey color begins from that day. The immortality of our deaths is thus desecrated. Low voices as if murmuring could be heard across my room in the midnight. The voices seemed to be from a group of men.

When I held my breath to listen carefully, I found they were the voices of the dead soldiers who had participated in the 2. In the summer of the same year Voices of the Spirits of Martyrs was published, Mishima went to Kumamoto Prefecture on Kyushu Island, South Japan, and this trip would prove to have a decisively catalyzing effect on the consolidation of the nationalist and traditionalist ideology that guided his later literary and political actions, provided the urge for the writing of his final work The Sea of Fertility , and eventually paved the way for his suicide.

New laws were promulgated by the Meiji government: the former Shizoku Samurai aristocrats were prohibited from carrying swords in public places, a sacred and unalienable right in their eyes, marking their distinguished status from the masses. They were also forced to change their hairstyles cutting off the buns at the back of their heads.

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These were the direct causes to the Insurrection of Shinpuren in the ninth year of the Meiji period. The members of Shinpuren were so thoroughly alienated and infuriated by the Meiji government that they went to comical lengths to reject modernity. For example, when banknotes replaced traditional metal coins, they refused to touch them with their hands, picking them up with chopsticks instead. They made long detours to avoid walking under electrical wires.

If no detour was possible, they would cover their heads with a white paper fan and pass hurriedly under the wires. They cast salt on the ground after meeting anyone dressed in western garb. This group, consisting of about men, launched a night-time attack on the Kumamoto garrison. The garrison troops were caught off guard and initially panicked. But they regrouped and started to fire volleys of bullets into the armor-wearing, sword-wielding Shinpuren warriors storming at them. The samurai fell one after another, and altogether warriors died in the battle or committed seppuku after sustaining serious wounds, including a dozen or year-old teenagers.

It was indeed a sad and heart-wrenching story. Why were they willing to die to protect their right to carry samurai swords?

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It is hard to comprehend it by the commonsense of our de-spiritualized modern age. The rebellion was mocked by newspapers in Tokyo as an anachronism even at the time, let alone in post-War Japan. Nevertheless, the Shinpuren samurai believed they were serving the cause of righteousness and justice, and it was their spotless sincerity and combination of faith and action that deeply impressed Mishima. The following passage his comment on Shinpuren in a dialogue with Fusao Hayashi[8]:. Talk about the thoroughness of thinking, when thinking expresses itself in an action, there are bound to be impurities entering it, tactics entering it, and human betrayals entering it.

This is the case with the concept of ideology in which ends always seem to justify means. Yet the Shinpuren was an exception to the mode of ends justifying means, for which ends equal means and means equal ends, both following the will of gods, thus being exempt from the contradiction and deviation of means and ends in all political movements. This is equivalent to the relation between content and style in arts.

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I believe there also lies the most essential, and in a sense the most fanatical sheer experimentation of the Japanese spirit Yamatodamashii. As hinted previously, the trip to Kumamoto and the examination of the historical record of Shinpuren gave Mishima a model and meaning for his future suicide. I went to Kumamoto recently to investigate the Shinpuren and was moved by many facts pertaining to it. Among those I discovered, one that struck me particularly was that one of the leaders of theirs named Harukata Kaya died a heroic death at the same age as I am now.

It seems I am now at the ceiling age of being a hero. The historical background of the novel was set in early s.

Persona, A Biography of Yukio Mishima by Naoki Inose | | Booktopia

One needs to learn the value of the martial arts to be pure and noble. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole.

Huge Nihility: The World View of Yukio Mishima

We acknowledge and remind and warn you that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure. The complete review 's Review :. The picture English-speaking readers can form of the author is thus generally limited to a small sampling of his work and the near-overwhelming awareness of how he did himself in at a relatively young fifty-five; two early biographies both , by John Nathan and Henry Scott-Stokes, as well as the Paul Schrader film add some background and color, but are also limited in their coverage and insight.

This biography is, in the main, not the freshest either -- it was first published in Japan in -- but in this version, an "expanded adaptation in English" by Sato Hiroaki, certainly the most comprehensive; for now and some time it looks likely to stand as the definitive Mishima-biography. One gets a clear picture here of how Mishima's personality was shaped in childhood under the early influence of a domineering grandmother who watched over the infant, allowing, for example, Mishima's mother Shizue little contact beyond the strictly regulated and timed, with a watch nursing-schedule.

As Mishima himself acknowledges, the circumstances including also his ill health in childhood, and near-death episodes led to him: "acquiring an odd personality". If the grandmother was the dominant influence, the occasional glimpses of father Azusa's pedagogic efforts seem similarly extreme, such as dangling him in front of oncoming trains the child surprising his father by proving imperturbable -- a passionlessness that seems to have marked him throughout his life.

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Despite his odd upbringing, Mishima -- in many ways a traditionalist -- seems to have remained very close to his immediate family throughout his life his parents both outlived him. Unfortunately, Persona falls a bit short in making clear how this continuing relationship evolved and functioned.

So, for example, a mention of Mishima, in , handing: "the manuscript to Shizue to read, as he routinely did with his writings" comes as a complete surprise, because there's been practically no mention of either parent being involved to this extent with his writing. Mishima's talents were recognized by elders early on, and he published his first book at the height of the Second World War -- in a first printing of four thousand, remarkable enough in a time of paper shortages and a focus on other priorities.


One forgets the environment he matured in: at his college graduation he was the top graduate in the literature department, and received for that honor a silver watch as well as: "three German novels with the Nazi Hakenkreuz embossed on each from the German ambassador who attended the ceremony". As the use of the word 'Hakenkreuz' suggests, Sato remains too close to Japanese usage in some of his translation; in English one of course always uses the word 'swastika'.

Regrettably, Inose does not record what those three books were Mishima -- always industrious and prolific -- established himself as a witer quickly avoiding the fate of following his father into civil service. One difficulty with the sheer mass of his output -- which would come to thirty-four novels and almost seventy plays, aside from many stories, essays, and incidental pieces right down to reporting extensively about the Tokyo Olympics for several newspapers -- is in integrating that into any story of his life.

Inose largely steers clear of literary interpretation -- with a few notable exceptions -- and much of Mishima's work remains undiscussed in any detail -- somewhat frustrating for English-language readers who have no access to the many untranslated works. By and large, it is the most significant novels and plays that have been translated as well as short pieces such as the one translated as Patriotism that figure most prominently, along with some tantalizing glimpses of some still-untranslated work. In some cases, the connection to Mishima's life is self-evident, as in the early Confessions of a Mask ; elsewhere Inose's focus is more on the research the almost always punctilious Mishima did in preparation for his books.

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  7. Inose makes clear how packed Mishima's schedule consistently was -- which included generally sleeping very late past noon and long nights working -- but it still amazes how much he accomplished, both writing and simply experiencing. Mishima was socially and physically very active. Bodybuilding seems to have been yet another manifestation of his obsession with being fit -- and something he repeatedly notes separated him from most writers, who paid little attention to the temple of their bodies.

    Mishima's odd sexual life is given considerable room here, yet remains somewhat mystifying. He appears to have been sexually very active, pursuing and sleeping with both men and women -- and making little effort to hide his predilections. Abroad he sought out gay bars and the like -- though not always finding what he'd bargained for: Donald Richie reports about one New York expedition in search of the gay scene: There were several such in Greenwich Village, I had heard, and so we set out and eventually located one named Mary's.

    There we sat over our drinks and watched middle-aged men talk like women. This was something neither of us had expected and it was not very interesting. Strangely enough, Inose later reports Mishima inviting someone to the same place five years later, saying: "Let's go to a bar I save for special occasions.

    No doubt, Mishima's domestic married life was likely unusual -- and perhaps largely peripheral to his working life, embraced only out of a sense of tradition -- but among the more disappointing aspects of Persona is that one gets very little sense of it, whatever it was.