An author, essayist and critic, Kimitake Hiraoka, famously known as Yukio Mishima, was one of the significant postwar writers of the 20th century. With a penchant for writing from an early stage of his life, Mishima became famous as a writer at the young age of 24. His repertoire includes forty novels, eighteen plays, twenty books of essays and twenty books of short fiction. He also directed a film and was also interested in modeling and body building. However, his involvement in politics which ultimately led him to conduct ritual suicide, created a lot of conjecture. According to his biographer, the unsuccessful coup the writer formed to reestablish the Emperor of Japan, was a well-planned scheme as he knew the failure of the coup would allow him to perform ‘seppuku’ or ritual suicide. After his death, it has been speculated that the author wanted to an honorable death by committing seppuku and coup was nothing but a ploy. Nevertheless, he is considered one of the greatest writers to have emerged from Japan who became successful internationally. His style of writing was varied, ranging from over-embellished to simple approach and his themes would often deal with contemporary life and traditional Japanese elements. On the whole, as a writer, he touched almost all the aspects of life and society, both in the conventional and modern contexts. Learn more about him the article below.
Childhood & Early Life
Yukio was born to Azusa Hiraoka, who worked a government official and Shizue. His early childhood was spent in his grandmother Natsuko’s care, who separated him from his family and raised him in the aristocratic household of Prince Arisugawa Taruhito.
When he was six he attended the Gakushūin, the Peers' School in Tokyo and when he was twelve he returned to his parents. By this time, he had also begun writing stories.
Soon he became famous in his school and when he submitted his short story ‘Hanazakari no Mori’ to his school’s literary magazine, he achieve a lot of appreciation and in 1944, it was published in the form of a book.
He published two more writings and was recruited by the Imperial Japanese Army to serve in World War II, but was later disqualified for having wrongly diagnosed with tuberculosis.
He graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1947, following which he received a job in the Finance Ministry of the government.
Mishima abandoned the promising government job to focus on his writing career within a year of his employment. In 1946 he went to see Yasunari Kawabata, a famous writer and showed his ‘Chūsei’ and ‘Tabako’. Upon, Kawabata’s recommendation ‘Tabako’ was published in ‘Ningen’, a literary magazine.
He began writing his first novel ‘Tōzoku’ the same year and it was published in 1948.
His second novel ‘Confessions of a Mask’ based on homosexuality was published in 1949 and was an instant success. It was followed by a number of essays published under the title ‘Kindai Bungaku’.
Soon he gained international recognition as a writer, after some his books were translated into English and published. He travelled to Greece where leraned about the legend of Daphnis and Chloe and wrote his 1954 book ‘Shiosai’ basing on that.
In 1956 his ‘The Temple of the Golden Pavilion’, a fictional account of the burning of the famous temple in Kyoto him was published.
Apart from writing, he was also interested in acting and starred in the 1960 film, ‘Afraid to Die’ (Karakkaze Yarō).
The 1966 film ‘Yukoku’ or ‘Patriotism’ was a silent, black-and-white film in which he starred as well as directed it. He was also in many other films, which include ‘Black Lizard’ and ‘Hitokiri’.
His novel ‘Confessions of a Mask’ (Kamen no Kokuhaku) became extremely famous and made him a celebrity. The book, which is semi-biographical, describes homosexuality as undesirable and needs to be kept hidden, to avoid embarrassment. The novel was so successful that it found a place in the ‘50 great books one should have read’ by George Walsh.
Awards & Achievements
Mishima was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times, out of he a greater chance to win in 1968, but lost it to Yasunari Kawabata, a fellow-writer and good friend.
Personal Life & Legacy
The author married Yoko Sugiyama on June 11, 1958 and had two children, a daughter and a son with her. However, his sexual orientation was always questioned because he used visit gay bars in Japan.
Apart from writing, he had great interest in natural body building for which he underwent weight training. He was also a ‘kendo’ expert, a modern Japanese martial art.
In 1967 he registered in the Ground Self Defense Force and later formed a ‘Tatenokai’, a private military group or society of young students with knowledge of martial arts. They society was made to protect and reinstate the powers of the Emperor of Japan.
On November 25, 1970, the author turned revolutionary visited the Ichigaya Camp of the Self-Defense Forces of Japan, with four Tatenokai members, and they tied the commanding officer to the chair and listed their demands.
In order to address the soldiers below, Mishima went to the balcony from where he delivered a speech. However, his speech was scorned by the soldiers and Mishima, unable to bear shame committed ‘seppuku’, a ritual suicide, by stabbing himself.
This famous Japanese author, who was even nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, became a militant later in his life and committed seppuku, a ritual suicide after his coup failed.