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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #557  (Vol. 11, No. 48)  This edition is for the week of November 22--28, 2010.

"127 Hours"  by Mike Smith
"Tangled" by Mike Smith
Show Review: Renninger's Antique Extravaganza 2010  by ED Tucker
November's Album of the Month: Smashing Pumpkins Teargarden By Kaliedyscope V.2  by Terence Nuzum
Yukio Mishima  by Jason Fetters
Movie Notes .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Yukio Mishima

November 25th 1970, Japan was shocked when a popular celebrity author committed suicide inside the Tokyo Headquarters of the Self Defense Force. Imagine if Stephen King or John Grisham demanded that the president should have more power and took key military figures hostage, then used a gun to blow his head off, and you get an idea of how big this event was. Even today, many Japanese view Mishima only in terms of his suicide and how crazy he was. That does a disservice to Mishima and his literary legacy that puts him right up there with the best writers of the world.

Kimitake Hiraoka, Mishima's pen name, was a quiet and shy bookish boy who was taken from his family at a young age by his tyrannical grandmother who kept him inside. This went on for years until his mother and father took Mishima back. His father was a government official who enjoyed torturing the young child by putting the boy up near a speeding train. Also, his father would raid his room to destroy his books and writings.

However, nothing could stop Mishima from writing and his first novel called Thieves debuted in 1946 that was quite naturally about young aristocrats inspired to suicide. Suicide would be a major theme throughout Mishima's writing. Anyone who knew him could see that. Most people thought Mishima was merely eccentric and acting out a death wish in the same way a child pretends to be shot and falls down dead while playing cowboy and Indians. No one dreamed of what would occur in 1970.

Mishima's next novel turned him into a celebrity writer at 24 with Confessions of a Mask, also in 1948. Soon he became an international author with his popular books being translated in English and other languages. Three times he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature and lost to his mentor and friend, Kawabata Yasunari in 1968.

As Mishima's popularity grew, he became obsessed with curing his thin body and so he started going to the gym to build himself up. After years of grueling workouts, he finally shed his former puny self and reemerged rippling with muscles. He also practiced Kendo, Japanese swordfighting, and obtained a high rank.

Despite all his literary output, Mishima did have a dark side that came out while he was on the set of his acting debut in Afraid to Die. Mishima played a member of the Yakuza (Mafia,) who has just been released from prison, he kidnaps a rival member's girlfriend and slaps her. It was supposed to be a pretend slap, except Mishima really slapped actress, Ayako Wakao, several times to make the scene look real. After filming Afraid to Die, Ayako never worked with Mishima again.

Once again, Mishima became obsessed and this time it was right-wing politics that heavily influenced his later literary output. He enlisted in Japan's Self Defense Force, just to endure basic training. He also built his own private army called The Shield Society. The Shield Society consisted of highly intelligent young men who swore to uphold the power of the Emperor and to willingly die for their cause. Following World War II, the Emperor was stripped of all power and Japan was under Western rule and influence. Mishima wanted to restore power to the Emperor and get rid of Western influence.

On the morning of November 25th, 1970, Mishima finished writing his final novel called The Decay of the Angel. A car arrived outside his home to pick him up. Mishima was dressed in a military uniform and carried a sharp samurai sword with him. Inside the car, he went over the final plans with his Shield Society. They drove to the Self Defense Forces' Tokyo headquarters. Inside, Mishima used his celebrity status to get into an office where he held top officials hostage. The Shield Society barricaded the door.

Mishima stepped outside to speak to the troops. Amidst boos and shouting, he said his final words in his manifesto that said power should be restored to the Emperor and that Japan was weak and easily manipulated by Western nations.

After his last speech, Mishima walked back inside the office. A member of the Shield Society stood behind Mishima, ready to behead him if anything should go wrong. Mishima removed his military uniform to expose his stomach. Taking his short sword, he plunged the blade into the left side of his stomach. Then he drew the blade across to the right and finally pulled the blade up. Mishima attendant, Masakatsu Morita, could not behead Mishima after several attempts. Hiroyasu Koga was asked by Morita to complete the task and Koga beheaded Mishima.

Today during the week of Mishima's seppuku and death, we can still celebrated his greatest novels that have stood the test of time and are read for enjoyment and studied at colleges worldwide. Some of his best novels translated in English are Confessions of a Mask, The Sound of Waves, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, and his final masterpiece, called The Sea of Fertility that includes Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn, and his final novel, The Decay of the Angel.

For a in-depth look at Mishima's life, I would like to suggest Mishima: A Biography by John Nathan, Mishima: A Vision of the Void by Marguerite Yourcenar, and The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima by Henry Scott Strokes.

There is also an excellent biopic from Criterion called Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters directed by Paul Schrader. The Criterion version is interesting with documentaries and interviews.

Also available from Criterion is Patriotism which is a dry run for Mishima's actual seppuku (ritual suicide.)

Finally, you can see Mishima acting as a gangster in Afraid to Die.

Happy Holidays and pick up a good book to read!

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.