Tuesday, August 3, 2010


The Japanese author Yukio Mishima (Kimitake Hiraoka,1925-1970) died in bizarre circumstances, after failing abysmally to get the nation’s military to mutiny in a coup d’etat. 

Mishima was obsessed with grand notions of Japan’s imperial destiny, and had formed his own far right wing private army, called the “Tatenokai”, or Shield Society. 
On 25 November 1970, he and several Tatenokai members went to Tokyo's Ichigaya military base, ostensibly to take part in a routine training session there, as had been permitted by the base commanders. 

But this time they took General Mashita, one of the top echelon of the Japanese military command, as their hostage, and Mishima demanded to address the troops. This was finally agreed to, but the assembled troops greeted his exhortation that they overthrow the national government, with laughter and jeering.
Returning to the general's office, Mishima committed seppuku, or ritual self-disembowelment, and asked another member of his group to behead him. This did not prove easy. Several strokes of Mishima’s samurai sword were required, with him suffering appalling wounds, including a partially severed head, before it was finally removed. The man who had attempted it, Masakatsu Morita, then asked for his own head to be cut off, and another member of the group complied. 
When police burst into the general’s barricaded office, they found a charnel house with two beheaded corpses, as well as the captive general and three surviving members of the Tatenokai. 

Given Mishima’s reputation as a novelist and playwright, the news stories that followed the startling events became a sensation in Japan and internationally.  
Mishima had failed to qualify for military service during World War II, and worked in an aircraft factory. He studied law after the war, and found early success with his autobiographical novel Confessions of a Mask (1948), exploring his homosexuality. He followed it with The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956), and The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (1963). His magnum opus was the four-volume The Sea of Fertility, which lamented the loss of "traditional Japanese values" in the rush to modernise and Westernise. 
By the time of his death, at just 45, Mishima had written 40 novels and 18 plays, as well as scores of volumes of stories, essays and other works, and had been mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize. He had also founded the Shield Society, and practised a stern regime of physical fitness and martial arts with his followers. He had also surprised many people by marrying. 
On his final day, after his wife had left their suburban home to take their two children to school, Mishima prepared the final chapters of the last volume of The Sea of Fertility for pick-up by the publishers, dressed and took out his samurai sword, and drove off to his fate in his small white Toyota Corolla.

From my book "Dead Famous: Deaths of the Famous and Famous Deaths".


  1. Remember the incident well. It became the subject of a film later in the 1970s. Mishima concerned himself at length with seppuku (ritual suicide), but most artists/writers don't engage in it with such explicit political purpose, not even Hemingway.

  2. Mishima's death sent tremendous shock through the Japanese society back then. I remember the incident quite well, too. I was at the primary school.All the teachers were in shock!

    Of course, I didn't understand the meaning of his suicide mission, but felt sad that he was laughed and teased at while he made his last speech from the balcony.

    Much later the movie 'Mishima' was made With Ken Ogata plyaing Mishima. I saw the film in Australia, but leaned that Mishima's widow was dead against the release in Japapn.

  3. My parents had a complete set of Mishima's novels. As a child, I had no idea what those books contained... and I probably wouldn't have been able to understand the difficult language he used in his writings! And now, having read many of his books, I'm quite surprised that my parents had the books -- which makes me wonder if they ever read them? - miki

  4. 愛情是一種發明,需要不斷改良。只是,這種發明和其他發明不一樣,它沒有專利權,隨時會被人搶走。.................................................................