"I don't think they heard me very well."
March 31, 2006 10:52 PM   Subscribe

Yukio Mishima led a remarkable life: in addition to being an internationally renowned writer, he was also an actor, a filmmaker, a gay icon, a bodybuilding exhibitionist(possibly slightly NSFW), and leader of a paramilitary organization. Yet, all of this is often overshadowed by the even more remarkable way he ended his life. [more inside]
posted by a louis wain cat (32 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
There are many theories as to why he commited seppuku, but no definite answers. (an attempt to track down his second was a failure.) A movie about his life was released in 1985. The New York Times has a page of articles about him, as well as one by him. And you can read his short story "Patriotism" here. (warning: contains graphic and detailed description of seppuku.)
posted by a louis wain cat at 10:52 PM on March 31, 2006

I can attest to the movie being quite good, if somewhat strange. The final scene with his failed appeal to the army was very well executed.
posted by Ryvar at 11:08 PM on March 31, 2006

I never knew that the subject in those Hosoe photographs were Mishima! I also remember reading 'The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea', and being absolutely disoriented afterwards, like I couldn't walk...

Great FPP!
posted by provolot at 11:15 PM on March 31, 2006

yes -- the movie has a killer philip glass soundtrack. there is something strange about the DVD release though - the VHS release was narrated by roy schieder, and the DVD release by someone else... with (to my ear) a less pleasing voice. also the DVD release seems to be missing at least one scene that's on the VHS version.

i read "spring snow" for a class in high school and from there was motivated to read almost all of his works. he was truly a great author.
posted by joeblough at 11:19 PM on March 31, 2006

Glory, as everyone knows, is bitter stuff.
posted by Wolof at 11:21 PM on March 31, 2006

hey, congrats on your first FPP, very nicely done.
posted by edgeways at 11:30 PM on March 31, 2006

tangential previous post
posted by hortense at 11:31 PM on March 31, 2006

What passes for NSFW around these parts just pisses me off to no end.
posted by filchyboy at 11:35 PM on March 31, 2006

Good stuff indeed. Great first FPP!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:44 PM on March 31, 2006

This is an awesome FPP. Thank you a louis wain cat. A crazy story I hadn't heard before..
posted by jba at 12:31 AM on April 1, 2006

also, incredibly disturbing. :-)
posted by jba at 12:50 AM on April 1, 2006

The Temple of the Golden Pavillion is a brillilant book, also one of the most disturbing I've ever read. Based on a true story of the burning of the Zen temple of Kinkakuji in Kyoto in 1950 by a young monk. The insecure monk became obessesed with destroying the Temple because it was too beautiful. Really a compelling story.

Thanks for reminding me that I need to read more Mishima.
posted by sic at 1:00 AM on April 1, 2006

Really great post, alwc. I've been meaning to investigate Yukio Mishima for yonks - never got past being fascinated with his life story.
posted by jack_mo at 2:07 AM on April 1, 2006

"Spring Snow" is one of the only books that has made me cry, and "Sailor Who Fell From Grace" is breathtaking. Thanks for the post--a truly fascinating character!
posted by ghastlyfop at 5:03 AM on April 1, 2006

"Spring Snow" is one of the only books that has made me cry

"Patriotism" always gets me crying. I never realized that there was so much i didn't know about Mishima. Great post.
posted by amro at 6:25 AM on April 1, 2006

Where have I heard this before? It's the first Metafilter search result for "mishima," fer chirssakes.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:51 AM on April 1, 2006

Mishima's death was a perfect example of why you shouldn't let your love life affect your decision of who chops off your head. Morita may have been a charming conversationalist, a sensitive carer, and great in the sack, but when it comes to getting your head chopped off, he should have put his sword in the hands of the kendo expert (Furukoga) instead.
posted by Bugbread at 7:10 AM on April 1, 2006

And you can read his short story "Patriotism" here.

I had never read anything quite like that before. Thank you.

posted by blacklite at 7:20 AM on April 1, 2006

Mishima (and Haruki Murakami, for that matter) makes me wish I could read Japanese.
posted by malaprohibita at 8:26 AM on April 1, 2006

posted by Drexen at 9:38 AM on April 1, 2006

Thanks. I only recently found out about Mishima while looking for information on Patrick Sylvestre.

It's the first Metafilter search result for "mishima," fer chirssakes.

Sorry, are you contending that this is a double? Your post seems to be mainly about Mishima's suicide and other odd suicides. This is more of a general interest post about him.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:39 AM on April 1, 2006

The attitudes towards Mishima in Japan are very, very interesting. A friend of mine was raised extremely traditionally somewhere in the south, and she says that debates still rage over whether he was a true patriot, or a dangerous crank.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:57 AM on April 1, 2006

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I had some first-FPP jitters, but it looks like the post turned out okay. I spent a fair amount of time putting it together- Mishima's such a fascinating character, and I wanted to do him justice.

filchyboy: heh. Sorry about that. I could picture some really, really uptight workplace having a problem with the Sun and Steel cover, and so I figured better safe than sorry. In retrospect, though, that warning probably wasn't necessary. Chalk it up to those first-FPP jitters...

adamgreenfield: I did see your post, but I figured basically what PinkStainlessTail said. I probably should have had a "previous discussion of Mishima here" link to it at the end of my post, though.
posted by a louis wain cat at 10:29 AM on April 1, 2006

There's a great section about Mishima in Panati's Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything and Everybody. Here's an excerpt:
The endings of few people are as clearly prefigured in their life and work as was Yukio Mishima's final act. he had fantasized suicide as a child, written about it as an adult, and enacted ritual seppuku onfilm. no ending of a famous figure was more predictable or rehearsed.

His end was, in a way, seeded in his beginning. Born on November 14, 1925, to a father who deeply admired Hitler and Nazism, Kimitake Hiraoka later took the pseudonym Yukio Mishima, which he scripted in Japanese so that the characters also read "mysterious devil betwitched with death." As he liked to tell friends, "It's eerie, but that's the way to write my name."

He was raised by his paternal grandmother, an ailing, embittered invalid who kept Mishima in her darkened sickroom until he was twelve. She nurtured the boy, frail and introspective, on legends of medieval Japan. It was a story-book world of violence, pageantry, and nobly inspired suicides that the lonely Yukio hungrily absorbed, finding it infinitely more colorful and compelling than the real world around him.

For amusement he drew pictures of handsome knights dying of battle wounds. And he was appalled to learn that a martyr whose picture he mooned over was not a man, as he had thought and eroticized about, but a boyish-looking French girl named Joan. From that revelation onward, Mishima hated the sight of women in mannish attire and forbade his wife to wear slacks.

Sex and death were bizarrely fused in his mind by age twelve. He then had his first orgasm, fantasizing on a picture of St. Sebastian bound and pierced by arrows, an incident he featured in his first novel, Confessions of a Mask, published in 1949 when he was twenty-four. Partly autobiographical, it served as Mishima's homosexual coming-out, and once out publicly, the now famous young writer became notoriously promiscuous.

Mishima's ritualistic death is eerily prefigued in his 1966 short story "Patriotism." And when it was made into the film Yukoku, Mishima directed and playe dthe lead, literally living out his fate of four years later. Mishima wrote of the character, a lieutenant, who has just ripped open his gut with a knife:
The five or six inches of naked point vanished completely into his flesh...

He returned to consciousness. The blade had certainly pierced the wall of his stomach, he thought. It was difficult to breathe, his chest pounded, and in some deep distant region which he could hardly believe was part o fhimself, a fearful excrutiating pain came welling up as if the ground had opened to disgorge a boiling stream of molten lava...

So this was seppuku!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:20 AM on April 1, 2006

great post.
posted by jann at 2:09 PM on April 1, 2006

malaprohibita : "Mishima (and Haruki Murakami, for that matter) makes me wish I could read Japanese."

Mishima is much, much easier to read in English. From what I gather, most Japanese read Mishima with his book in one hand, and a dictionary in the other.

Civil_Disobedient : "Kimitake Hiraoka later took the pseudonym Yukio Mishima, which he scripted in Japanese so that the characters also read 'mysterious devil betwitched with death.'"

Oh, great, now my image of Mishima is all shot to hell. In Japan, young hoodlum types ("yanki"), while notorious for their stupidity (as with young hoodlums anywhere), have a pronounced tendency to rewrite common words with different homonymous characters signifying death and hardcoreness. For example,
宜しく (pronounced "yoroshiku"), which is a hard to translate but quite benign word, is written by Yanki as 夜露死苦 (using the characters for "night dew death suffering").

So now I have this image of Mishima Yukio (characters normally used are "三島由紀夫", using characters for "three island method/cause record man", his yanki-like version being "魅死魔幽鬼夫", using characters for "fascinate/bewitch death devil mysterious ogre man") sitting out in front of a convenience store, smoking and spitting, glaring at customers, and talking with his friends about how much he hates school and cops.
posted by Bugbread at 5:26 PM on April 1, 2006

Good post. Spring Snow is sitting half-done on my floor while I try and get my essays done.
posted by maledictory at 8:43 PM on April 1, 2006

As far as John Palmer's attempt to reach Koga goes, it seems Palmer is quite familiar with Japan but undermined his own hopes. It's like he was subconsciously trying not to succeed. He made his wife translate all sorts of flourid English prose into Japanese -- who knows how well -- when he should have gone about it in a more subtle way. Seems to me he'd have met Koga there in the end if he had politely arranged the meeting instead of sending all those faxes full of intense emotion. Then, when he finally met the guy he could have unleashed his torrent of writerly curiousity in the guy's face. As it stands I think he bungled the job.
posted by ktoad at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2006


My understanding is that "The Temple of the Golden Pavillion" was inspired by the true event of a monk burning Kinkakuji. However, I believe that the plot and themes of the book were not related to the actual motivations of the actual monk.

It's an amazing book, nonetheless.

posted by digibri at 11:16 PM on April 2, 2006

I knew about Mishima, but I didn’t know this much. Nifty.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:57 PM on April 3, 2006

I like Gary Brecher's piece on Mishima and his army.
posted by dansdata at 9:56 AM on April 5, 2006

I don't know if anyone's still reading this, but I came across this article which has some more interesting information about Mishima's suicide. I'm not sure I agree with the theory it presents for why he did it, though. (Basically, that he commited suicide because he felt his career was a failure- from what I know about him, I think he would have ended his life by seppuku no matter what.)

Also, it seems they do know what Koga's up to these days- on the last page, it mentions that he's now a Shinto priest at a shrine on the island of Shikoku. Which makes me think that ktoad upthread was right about Palmer botching the attempt at getting an interview...
posted by a louis wain cat at 6:00 PM on April 5, 2006

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