Yukio Mishima (January 14, 1925 - November 25, 1970) was a Japanese
author and political activist. Born Kimitake Hiraoka, Mishima wrote novels,
plays, essays, poems, and a libretto. Mishima is notable for both his
nihilistic post-war writing and the circumstances of his suicide.
Mishima was the son of Azusa Hiraoka, deputy director of the Ministry of
Fisheries in the Agriculture Ministry, and Shizue Hara. His early childhood
was greatly influenced by his grandmother, Natsu. She separated Mishima from
his family, and encouraged his interest in Kabuki theatre and in the idea of
an elite past.
Mishima did well at the elite Peers School, belonging to a literary
society there. He was misdiagnosed as having tuberculosis and escaped
service during World War II. He graduated from Tokyo University in 1947 with
a degree in jurisprudence, and worked as an official in the governments
Finance Ministry. He resigned his position within a year in order to devote
his time to writing. He wrote Kamen no kokuhaku (Confessions of a Mask), an
autobiographical work about a young latent homosexual who must hide behind a
mask in order to fit into society.
His most important essay, Bunka beiron (A Defense of Culture), argues
that the Emperor was the source of Japanese culture, and to defend the
Emperor was to defend the Japanese Culture. He formed his own private army,
the Tatenokai (Shield Society), to protect the emperor.
During the 1960s, Mishima wrote some of his most successful and
critically acclaimed novels, acted in films, and was nominated three times
for the Nobel Prize.
On November 25, 1970, Mishima and members of the Tatenokai took over the
headquarters of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in Tokyo. He requested that
the army listen to his speech, but the soldiers were not interested in his
cause. Having failed in his attempt, Mishima and one of his followers
committed seppuku (hara-kiri).
A film, Mishima, was made in 1985 by director Paul Schrader, with music
by Philip Glass.
- Shincho Prize from Shinchosha Publishing, 1954, for The Sound of
- Kishida Prize for Drama from Shinchosha Publishing, 1955.
- Yomiuri Prize from Yomiuri Newspaper Co., for best novel, 1957, The
Temple of the Golden Pavilion.
- Yomiuri Prize from Yomiuri Newspaper Co., for best drama, 1961, Toka
- Kamen no kokuhaku (Confessions of a Mask, 1948). English translation
by Meredith Weatherby, New Directions, 1958.
- Ai no Kawaki (Thirst for Love, 1950). English translation by Alfred H.
Marks, introduction by Donald Keene, Alfred A. Knopf, 1969.
- Kinjiki (Forbidden Colors, 1954). English translation by Alfred H.
Marks, Secker and Warburg, 1968 (Volume One); Berkley Publishing, 1974
- Shiosai (The Sound of Waves, 1954). English translation by Meredith
Weatherby, Alfred A. Knopf, 1956.
- Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, 1956). English
translation by Ivan Morris, Alfred A. Knopf, 1959.
- Utage no ato (After the Banquet, 1960) English translation by Donald
Keene, Alfred A. Knopf, 1963.
- Gogo no eiko (The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, 1963).
English translation by John Nathan, Alfred A. Knopf, 1965.
- Hojo no umi (The Sea of Fertility, 1964-70)