The Life of Yukio Mishima Essay

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Yukio Mishima is a pseudonym of Kimitake Hiraoka, a famous Japanese novelist, playwright and short story writer, actor and social activist, Radical and aesthete, who is considered to be one of the most talented and influential Japanese artists of the 20th century. Mishima was a very prolific writer, who worked in various literary styles and genres and whose creative legacy amounts to more than hundred literary works including 40 novels, 18 plays and screenplays, as well as traditional Kabuki and Noh style theatre dramas, etc.

Mishima was born in Tokyo in 1925 to a family of aristocratic samurai ancestry. Future writer was raised by his paternal grandmother, Natsuko Hiraoka, who separated the little boy from his mother for some years. She was a very tough and authoritarian woman, who was keeping the boy in severe discipline. At the same time, she developed in the heart of her grandson a true love for Japanese and European cultures, as well as for theatre, literature and art: in particular, for the works of Izumi Kyoka. He was back to the family at the age of 12.

Being a student of the Peers School, Mishima started writing the first stories inspired by his favorite Japanese classic writers and Oscar Wilde. Some of this works were published in school magazine and received positive reaction from students and teachers. But, unfortunately, his father, a governmental officer, was strictly against such literary exercises of his son. Therefore, couple of years later Mishima decided to take a pen-name in order not to be revealed by his anti-literary parent. After finishing high school Mishima studied law in Tokyo University.

In 1947 after the graduation he worked as an official in the Ministry of Finance, but a year later he made up his mind to resign and completely dedicate himself to writing. His first conceptual work, a semi-autobiographic novel Kamen no kokuhaku (Confessions of a Mask), which was exploring the difficulties of homosexual culture in Japanese society, was published in 1949 and marked a start of bright career and great worldwide popularity of Mishima. In his works Mshima was discussing the issues of love, death, suicide, human beauty and sexuality, personal and religious values, etc.

The novels which are the most known in America and Europe include The Sound of Waves (1954), The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956), After the Banquet (1960) and, finally, the trilogy The Sea of Fertility (1969-71), which describes the fall of Japanese culture in the beginning of the 20th century. His writing style can be characterized with unique presentation and paying a lot of attention to details, along with engaging some exclusive allegories and elements of paradoxes.

But certainly, Yukio Mishima was greatly esteemed on his own lands for his numerous theatre plays. With his pieces The Damask Drum, Hanjo, Kantan and others, he is supposed to be the first writer of modern times who worked in old-fashioned Noh theater style. Several dramas, including Madame de Sad and My Friend Hitler, were written in modern genre Shingeki. Besides, Mishima wrote a number of plays in traditional Kabuki style, which requires some special talent and very rich cultural background.

It is necessary to mention that traditional Japanese values were of great importance for Mishima, influencing significantly his life and works. He was particularly disturbed by global imagination about Japan as a nation of flower arrangers, so he devoted his life to reviving of bushido, the traditional code of conduct and values of samurais. Also, he was a fierce antagonist of any Westernization of Japan, arguing in public to spend every effort on preserving Japanese culture and traditions. (Schoenberg & Trudeau).

As a real Japanese patriot, Mishima had a reputation for discipline, order and self-organization. He used to work on his literary masterpieces from sunset to dawn, spending the daytime in his various social activities. Mishima was three times nominated for the Noble Prize for Literature. He died in November 1970, committing a spectacular ritual suicide seppuku after his unsuccessful speech against the existing pro-American Japanese constitution and anti-emperor regime.


¢ Liukkonen, P. (2003). Yukio Mishima 1925-1970. Pegasus. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto, Finland. Retrieved May 29, 2007, from . ¢ Schoenberg, T. L. & Lawrence J. Trudeau (Eds.) (2006). Mishima, Yukio:  eNotes. com. Retrieved May 29, 2007, from . ¢ Yukio Mishima. (2005, November 18). UXL Newsmakers. 5-6 (1): 87-88. ¢ Yukio Mishima: A 20th Century Warrior. (1995, January March). New Dawn Magazine. 29 (1): 23-24.

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