November 25th, 2012

andrew potter

Literary Heritage: Yukio Mishima (January 14, 1925 – November 25, 1970)

In his quest for masculinity, Yukio Mishima mythologized himself both in his life and his writings, culminating in his ritual suicide.

On November 25, 1970, Mishima attempted a military coup d'état at the Ichigaya, Tokyo, headquarters of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces aided by four young men, selected "cadets" of his "private army." Mishima expected the Self-Defense Forces to support his belief in the need to revise the Japanese constitution; they would unite with his private military group, the "Shield Society" (whose constituents were right-wing young men), in order to establish a mobilized National Army.

He tried to appeal to their nationalism, saying that the coup would "restore Japan to her true form" and bring back the Imperial reign and military system, both of which had been abolished after World War II. The members of the Self-Defense Forces simply laughed at him. Failing in this coup attempt, he killed himself on the spot.

This incident consequently puzzled the world not only because an internationally renowned writer committed suicide, but also because he employed seppuku (or harakiri, disemboweling himself), which was difficult to associate with modern democratic Japan. How could such an intelligent and perspicacious man like Mishima be unaware of the anachronism of a military coup d'état?

His actions generated a furor of interpretation. Some suspected this incident was in reality a pretext to attain his lifelong desire to live and die by the code of the samurai, for whom male bonding and death had the most value. In this interpretation, the Shield Society was merely a vehicle to this end.

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Citation Information
Author: Nakao, Seigo
Entry Title: Mishima, Yukio
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated October 12, 2007
Web Address
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date November 25, 2012
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates
Forbidden Colors (“Kinjiki” in Japanese: the word “kinjiki” is not only a euphemism for homosexual but also means "forbidden colors," those colors permitted only to various ranks in the Heian royal court described by Murasaki, whose pen name means violet or purple, the color of secret passions.) kicked off my Yukio Mishima Period, which was a natural outgrowth of my fascination with Japanese literature (and movies), a fascination I shared with my sorely-missed friend Susan Sontag--" the godmother of “Mawrdew”; it's a long story!--who often brought me a new Japanese novel to add to my collection when she came to dinner. It was thrilling to read about the universality of my love of men, as well as to meet characters bravely accepting--not without great struggle--living outside the social norm, for this was pre-Stonewall. Also, the central character, Yuichi, is a great beauty who battles against his desires. Years later, while working in publishing, I read some modern romantic gothic novel--a form my mother loved and which I supplied her by the dozens--where the Jane-Eyre secret was not a crazy wife in the attic but--GASP!--a queer husband!! (There was actually a spate of these.) So, “Gaywyck” was born in 1977 as a way of proving that genres have no genders and romantic love is democratic realm not a het's kingdom. (The book was rejected by over 30 publishers and the editor who eventually bought it had to be convinced that gay people wanted romance: "If they want romance why hasn't anyone ever written a gay romance?" she asked me.) Like Yuichi, my Robert Gaylord is exquisitely gorgeous but has NO crisis when he falls in love with Donough Gaylord whose secrets in the attic generate enough grief for anybody. Their love is not the issue for Robert. He is only concerned with their happiness, not easily won but lasting forever in all fairy tales. --Vincent Virga
Embracing Japanese Empirical repression and using it for self power is what Yukio Mishima is famous for, and The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea is the best book, in my opinion, of this dichotomy. --Blair Mastbaum
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