YUKIO MISHIMA Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Yukio Mishima , was the public name of Kimitake Hiraoka (Hiraoka Kimitake), (January 14, 1925 - November 25, 1970), a a Japanese author and rightist political activist, notable for both his nihilistic post-war writing and the circumstances of his suicide.


Early life


Mishima’s early childhood was greatly influenced by his grandmother, Natsu. She separated Mishima from his family and raised him virtually as her own until he was 12. She was sick with sciatica yet controlled much of his upbringing and limited his interactions with his siblings and parents. She encouraged his interest in Kabuki theatre and entertained him with fairy tales and other fantastic stories. She also fostered in Mishima a yearning for a familial grandeur that had ostensibly been lost. Mishima spent much of his childhood shut indoors, playing with dolls or making origami creatures with his three female cousins. He cared for his Grandmother more frequently as her health worsened, and developed a precocious interest in books.


Schooling & Early Works


At 12, Mishima began to write his first stories. He read voraciously the works of Wilde, Rilke, and numerous Japanese classics. Mishima did well at the elite Peers School, becoming a member of the editorial board in a literary society at the school. He was invited to write a short story for the prestigious literary magazine, Bungei-Bunka (Art and Culture) and submitted, Hanazakari no mori (A Forest in Full Flower).


The story was published in book form in 1944 to commercial success and critical oblivion in war-torn Japan. He attempted to enlist in the Japanese Army during World War II but was turned down after doctors misdiagnosed him with tuberculosis. He graduated from the University of Tokyo 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.
Postwar Literature


Mishima began his first novel, Tozoku (Thieves), in 1946 and published it in 1948. It was followed up by 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. The novel was extremely successful and made a celebrity out of Mishima, at the age of 24.


Later works and activities


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. He continued to build his physique, studied martial arts, and swordsmanship. At the end of the decade, he formed the Tatenokai (Shield Society), composed primarily of young rightist students who studied martial principles and physical discipline under Mishima’s tutelage. Mishima’s demeanor and attire reflected his new devotion to hyper masculinity.


His workout regimen of three sessions per week was not disrupted for the final 15 years of his life. His devotion to his physicality perhaps led to his increased productivity as a writer. His writing gained him international celebrity and a sizable following in Europe and America, as many of his most famous works had been translated into English. It was speculated in an article that ran in New York Times Magazine that he was to win the Nobel Prize at last.


Ritual Suicide


On November 25, 1970, Mishima and members of the Tatenokai took over Ichigaya Camp, the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. Mishima had written a manifesto and designed plans to articulate its contents. His followers bound the Commandant and barricaded his office. Mishima had written out a list of demands and had them painted on a banner, which he later hung from the balcony leading out of the Commandant’s office. Mishima stepped onto the balcony to address the gathered soldiers below. He intended to inspire them to help his troops stage a coup d’etat and restore the Emperor to his rightful place. He succeeded only in irritating them and was mocked and jeered for his efforts. They were unable to hear him and he aborted his planned speech after only a few minutes. He stepped in from the balcony and ritually committed seppuku, finalized by his ritual decapitation by Tatenokai Masayoshi Koga .




Much speculation has surfaced regarding Mishima’s seppuku. At the age of 45, he was considered to be at the peak of his literary powers. He had just completed the final book in his Sea of Fertility tetralogy and was recognized as perhaps the most important living Japanese novelist. He wrote 40 novels, 18 plays, 20 books of short stories, and at least 20 books of essays as well as one libretto.


He had also starred in several films, directing himself in his Yukoku (Patriotism). His later political agitation was expressed through his fervent identification with traditional Japanese values as represented by Emperor Hirohito and the symbolism of Feudal Japan. One of Mishima’s most influential essays, Bunka boeiron (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.