Yukio Mishima

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Yukio Mishima was a famous Japanese author and playwright from Tokyo. His real name was Kimitake Hiraoka. He was born on January 14, 1925 in Shinjuku, Tokyo and committed suicide on November 25, 1970.

He was considered by many to be one of if not the most important Japanese novelist in the 20th century.


Early Life

Born in Yotsuya, Tokyo (which eventually became part of the Shinjuku District), Kimitake Hiraoka was a government official who was anti-literature. In order to write without his father knowing, he changed is name to Yukio Mishima which translates to “The Man that Chronicles Reason.”

He was raised mostly by his grandmother, Natsu Nagai, who was a member of a Samurai family. He was excused from World War II after he lied about having Tuberculosis, which, according to many, weighed heavily on his soul throughout the remained of his life.

Once the War was over, he went to Tokyo University where he studied Law. After he finished he worked for the finance ministry for a while before dedicating himself solely to writing. Thanks to the help of a short story writer named Kawabata Yasunari, Yukio Mishima got his first work published in several different magazines by 1946, and by 1949 his first major work was completed, known as “Confessions of a Mask.”

“Confessions of a Mask” was a story about a man struggling to come to terms with his own homosexuality. The story was considered largely autobiographical.

Literary Career

Mishima published several works over the course of his life. His major works were:

  • Confessions of a Mask
  • Thirst for Love
  • Forbidden Colors
  • The Sound of Waves
  • The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
  • Kyoko’s House
  • After the Banquet
  • The Sailor who fell from Grace with the Sea
  • Silk and Insight
  • Acts of Worship
  • Madame de Sade
  • Patriotism
  • Death in Midsummer (short stories)
  • Way of the Samurai
  • My Friend Hitler (plays)
  • Sun and Steel
  • Spring Show (The Sea of Fertility I)
  • Runaway Horses (The Sea of Fertility II)
  • The Temple of Dawn (The Sea of Fertility III)
  • The Decay of the Angel (The Sea of Fertility IV)

Many of these stories played with the idea of masochism, homosexuality, and war. He was considered a visionary in these areas and his work has been translated several times and was chief role behind several movies. In addition, he wrote 18 plays, a total of 40 books (including those listed) and 20 different short stories.

Personal Life

Private Life

Mishima’s sexuality was always in question, and though it was assumed he was homosexual, there are hints that he may either not have been homosexual or may have been actively bisexual. Mishima had a wife and two children.

Presumably due to the guilt he felt from avoiding World War II, Mishima enlisted in the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force in 1967 – at the age of 42. He also created the Tatenokai (a private militia determined to give back power to the emperor). Despite his work in the militia, Mishima continued to write both books and plays.


Yukio Mishima committed a ritual suicide on November 25th, 1970. He and a group of 4 others from his Tatenokai group went to the Eastern command of Japan’s Self-Defense forces and locked themselves inside. From there, Mishima gave a impassioned speech with the hopes of restoring power in Japan to the emperor. The soldiers present laughed at him, and after he finished the speech he committed seppuku – a ritually suicide where one plunges a sword into their stomach and moves the blade back and forth in order to kill the individual slowly. Afterwards one of the members of the Tatenokai gave Mishima the ritual beheading.

It is thought that Mishima’s seppuku had been long planned, and the coup de tat that he had been planning was actually an excuse for him to commit the seppuku, because he already had prepared the money for the defense trial of the other Tatenokai members as well as the death poems he left around the hall.

His Mentor, Yasunari Kawabata, committed suicide 2 years later.

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