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Yukio Mishima - Japanese Author and Political Activist

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 government’s 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 Waves.
  • 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 no Kiku.


  • 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 (Volume Two).
  • 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)
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