Yukio Mishima

By: Tucker Cummings
January 14, 2013

Though I’m a voracious reader, I first encountered prolific author YUKIO MISHIMA (Kimitake Hiraoka, 1925–1970) through film. Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985) is set on the last day in Mishima’s life, mere hours before he and his private army tried to retake the country in the name of the emperor. Mishima, who wrote over 40 books, as well as over a dozen Kabuki and Noh plays, was nominated three times for a Nobel Prize in Literature. As a child, his father forbid his son from writing, and so it was that Mishima nursed two passions in secret: his love of language, and his homosexual desires. At one point, he nearly married Michiko Shouda, who went on to become Empress Michiko. His works run the gamut from the avant-garde sci-fi tale Utsukushii hoshi (Beautiful Star) to Kamen no Kokuhaku (Confessions of a Mask), a semi-autobiographical tale about a young boy coming to terms with his homosexuality. He was also a talented actor and movie director; his Black Lizard (1968) is particularly great, while 1969’s Hitokiri is haunting in hindsight, thanks to its theme of disillusionment and references to ritual seppuku. In the end, Mishima’s call to action went ignored by his countrymen; and he took his own life by seppuku. It was a fitting death for a man who had become disillusioned by the materialism of modern Japan, and ached for a return to traditional Japanese ways — yet it was a tragic end for a 45-year-old who had so much left to give.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Garry Winogrand, Slick Rick, and John Dos Passos.

READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).