The Legacy of Yukio Mishima

In every generation, there seems to be at least one person that is blessed with the talent to make amazing art. To mention some people that fall under this list, there are the likes of Van Gogh, Di Angelo, Jose Rizal, and many others that were able to contribute works of art that became the standard for these types of artwork themselves. In Japan, there was a man that seemingly deserved to be placed on this list as well and that man is Kimitake Hiraoka or Yukio Mishima.

By Shirou Aoyama [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Biography of the Earlier Years in Yukio Mishima’s Life

Yukio Mishima’s real name is Kimitake Hiraoka. He used the name Yukio Mishima as a pen name when he started his writing career. Before all that happened though, Yukio was just like any other kid born in Japan. He was born on January 14, 1925, in an old district of Tokyo called Yotsuya which is known as Shinjuku. His father was a government official while his mother was a principal in the Kaisei Academy.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yukio did not spend a lot of his childhood years with his parents though because at a very young age, his grandmother, Natsuko, took him under her care until he was 12 years old. Although he was not allowed to go out and play with the other kids because of his weak body, during the time with his grandmother, he learned a lot about the aristocratic life because his grandmother was a granddaughter of a feudal lord in the Hitachi Province, once upon a time.

Since he was kept indoors a lot, he also spent a lot of time with his female cousins. A boy spending formative years in that environment is bound to develop some feminine characteristics and this did not sit well with his father when he was returned to them at age 12. His father, being a person that was part of the government, naturally leaned towards military discipline and he tried to shake out the femininity out of Yukio in harsh ways like holding him to the side of a speeding train as well as destroying Yukio’s first manuscripts to imprint the idea that literature was a feminine thing.

Yukio learned to write in the school he enrolled in Tokyo when he was 6 years old. During his time in school, he was a certified book worm, reading works of Japanese authors as well as foreign authors like Oscar Wilde and a like. He was a smart kid and it showed with how he was able to master multiple languages like German, French, and English.

His intellect was showcased all the more when he submitted a short story entitled “Forest in Full Bloom” for the Gakushuin literary magazine. He was still very young when this happened and despite the young age, he was able to create a story that described his feelings about how his ancestors still live within him. His teachers, obviously impressed with his work, passed his work to an even bigger literary magazine. It was during this period in time that his teachers thought of coining his pen name for him to protect him from any danger he might get into because of his writing.

Having a pen name did not protect him fully because he was still bullied by his peers for being into writing. Instead of turning his back on his talent to avoid these problems though, he embraced it all the more by using those experiences as motivation and inspiration for his works. An example of such was in the year of 1954 when he confessed to his rugby team that he was also part of the literary society. He was bullied for his act of bravery and from this experience, he wrote the story Shi o Kaku Shonen which translates to “The Boy Who Wrote Poetry”.

Despite being forbidden by his father to write, Yukio still did so behind his father’s back. His mother, on the other hand, supports him and protected him from his father. His mother would even be the first to read his works. Having his mother on his side the way she did made it easier for Yukio to pursue what he really wanted in life. Eventually, though, his father would give in to his son’s wishes and this was made clear when his father agreed to let him Yukio resign from his position in the Finance Ministry to focus on his writing.

The Part of Yukio Mishima’s Life Where He Wrote Quotes, Poems, Stories, Movies, and Books like Patriotism, Confessions of a Mask, and Sun and Steel

From the way Yukio Mishima wrote in his younger years, it comes as no surprise that he was able to create numerous works of literary art. He had the talent of putting his experiences into words and by reading his words, he, somewhat, lets you see his inner soul.  Having that talent alone is immensely commendable already but this guy also had the talent to put himself in other’s shoes and convey the thoughts and feelings of whom ever he is writing about as if he were them.

A literary work he entitled “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion” is proof of this talent. In this novel of his that he published in 1956, there is a pavilion that was said to be there since the year of 1400 and had been saved from any harm or destruction. Then came an acolyte with a stutter that fell in love with the beauty of the pavilion. He was so in love with it that it came to a point in the story that he acolyte declined a young foxy lady because his thoughts returned to the pavilion.

His passion had become an obsession and the only way the acolyte named Mizoguchi could break free from this obsession was to destroy the passion. It was not a hasty decision he made because he ended up contemplating about it for quite some time. One night, he recalled a message that ultimately pushed him to decide to push with his plan to burn down the temple.

Mizoguchi burnt it floor per floor and then ran to the hill outside, lit a cigarette, and watched his passion burn. This novel seemingly had a dark twist because of this destruction brought about by a supposedly holy man to a pavilion none the less, but if you look at it from other possible perspectives, the man simply did what he had to do to free himself and get another chance at life.

If you were to single out a literary work that showed off his skills to convey his own personal experiences in words, a lot of people would definitely be thinking about “Confession of a Mask” but there is another his story called “Patriotism”. He wrote this in 1960 but it wasn’t published until a year later.

This story revolves around the life of Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama and his wife, Reiko. It is set in the year of 1936 when a mutiny against the Imperial Army occurred and was then called the Ni Ni Roku Incident. The story’s events take place within just 3 days which are from February 26 to February 28.

Takeyama leaves on the morning of the 26th and comes back on the night of the 28th. When he gets back home, he is met by his wife bearing news that he would be leading a unit the next day to kill the mutineers from the incident. He immediately became distraught upon hearing the news because he knew that most of the mutineers were his friends.

Incapable of making the decision to either be loyal to the Emperor or to his friends, he tells Reiko that he will commit the traditional rite of seppuku that night. Knowing about her husband’s dilemma, she immediately offers to join him in the act as well. For those of you who don’t know, seppuku is the technically the rite to an honorable death by taking your own life.

When he wrote this literary work, it was unclear how it displayed his experiences but later on, a connection would be made to the latter part of his actual life due to certain events. Regardless of this fact, his writing skills and how he was able to illustrate in words all the events that he describes in this story was amazing. It impressed enough people for it to be made into a movie that Yukio would also direct in the year of 1966.

The Latter Part of Yukio Mishima’s Life That Involved His Speech and the Movie You Can Watch That Narrates It All

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yukio was able to do a lot in his lifetime. He wrote great books that will live on forever. He starred in and wrote great movies that can still also be appreciated in the years to come. He even wrote classical plays for the theatre. With this being said, this man could easily be considered a literary genius.

It is one thing for the public to think of you as one of the most important Japanese authors of the 20th century. It’s another thing have actual awards to show that your work is appreciated in the literary profession scene. Yukio Mishima had both. This man won the Shincho Prize from Shinschosha Publishing in the year of 1954 for writing “The Sound of Waves”. He won the Kishida Prize for Drama from Shinschosha Publishing in the year 1955 for writing “Termites’ Nest”. He was also a finalist for the Nobel Prize in Literature in the year of 1963 and there were so many more awards he won throughout the years of his career.

Many say that all his works of writing did have a piece of him in it and since a majority of his writing was about Imperialism and such subjects mentioned above, in the year of 1970, it was brought to life. On November 25 of that year, Mishima attempted a coup with 4 other comrades and they took the commandant of the Eastern Command of the Japan Self-Defense Forces as a hostage in the Tokyo headquarters.

After gaining control over the commandant, Mishima attempted to sway more people to their cause through a speech that he shouted at the balcony of the headquarters. In this speech, he talked about how not joining his cause was an act that goes against their very existence due to the post-war constitution that prohibited Japan from having an army and basically forbid war. He failed to persuade anyone and so he conducted the rite of seppuku himself with the help of his comrades. There are also other speculations about Yukio’s death because on the day of his coup, he also just passed the final pages of his last literary work called “Sea of the Fertility tetralogy”

This can all be seen in a biographical film made entitled “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters” made by Paul Schrader. This film showed all the main events of Mishima’s life in a way that connected all of it to why and what he did. He essential followed his heart and simply followed through with his true beliefs which, in a way, is courageous and admirable.

Considering that Yukio lived for only 45 years, it’s jaw-dropping to realize that he was able to write 34 novels, nearly 25 books of short stories, nearly 35 books of essays, and about 50 plays which are still exclusive of his one film. It was both a blessing and a curse because if his character were any different, he might have lived on but his works of great literature might have never been born into the world.