Thursday, January 24, 2013
Monarchist Profile: Yukio Mishima
After graduation his first job was with the Ministry of Finance but he found it frustrating and exhausting and soon quit to focus on his literary career. His work began to gain notice, soon around the world and by the age of 24 he had received his first nomination for the Nobel Prize and was able to travel around the world. His literary work is not our focus here but there are some common themes throughout which illustrate his broader world view. His conception of beauty is one such theme. In “Spring Snow”, for example, he wrote, “Dreams, memories, the sacred--they are all alike in that they are beyond our grasp. Once we are even marginally separated from what we can touch, the object is sanctified; it acquires the beauty of the unattainable, the quality of the miraculous. Everything, really, has this quality of sacredness, but we can desecrate it at a touch. How strange man is! His touch defiles and yet he contains the source of miracles.” He often wrote of perfect beauty as a terrible, destructive force, though not always in the negative way most would assume. As he grew older he also became rather frustrated at the young people around him and their disconnect from the values and culture of their own past. In “After the Banquet” he wrote, “Young people get the foolish idea that what is new for them must be new for everybody else too. No matter how unconventional they get, they’re just repeating what others before them have done.”
Mishima was very alarmed by the growing leftist and communist movement in the universities of his time, which sought to destroy the traditional Japanese spirit (as they do all such national traditions everywhere) and he did not shy away from stating that the war in Manchuria in the 30’s was an example of how actively anti-communist Japan had been. He deplored how outside influences in the culture were overriding traditional values, ideals and even works of art but he was never a simple reactionary but rather favored a fusion of the old and the new in a way that could be seen as very in keeping with what Japan had been through in the past. Mishima wanted a return of, if not the warrior spirit as it had been before the war, at least a proper respect and appreciation for it as he felt like the denial of this by the post-war pacifists was not only harmful but not even genuine. He greatly admired the old samurai image of the warrior that was, at once, brutal and elegant. Heads were also turned when he spoke with admiration of the old custom of ritual suicide of hara-kiri or seppuku and said rather dejectedly that there was no such thing as a heroic death in the world anymore.