Yukio Mishima

Japanese author (1925-1970)

Yukio Mishima (January 14, 1925November 25, 1970) was the pen name of Kimitake Hiraoka, a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor, model, film director, nationalist, and founder of the Tatenokai.

At no time are we ever in such complete possession of a journey, down to its last nook and cranny, as when we are busy with preparations for it.


QuotesEdit

 
What transforms this world is — knowledge.
 
When you look at the world with knowledge, you realize that things are unchangeable and at the same time are constantly being transformed.
  • What transforms this world is — knowledge. Do you see what I mean? Nothing else can change anything in this world. Knowledge alone is capable of transforming the world, while at the same time leaving it exactly as it is. When you look at the world with knowledge, you realize that things are unchangeable and at the same time are constantly being transformed. You may ask what good it does us. Let's put it this way — human beings possess the weapon of knowledge in order to make life bearable. For animals such things aren't necessary. Animals don't need knowledge or anything of the sort to make life bearable. But human beings do need something, and with knowledge they can make the very intolerableness of life a weapon, though at the same time that intolerableness is not reduced in the slightest. That's all there is to it.
    • The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1959).
  • There is something that even now strikes me as strange. Originally I was not possessed by gloomy thoughts. My concern, what confronted me with my real problem, was beauty alone. But I do not think that the war affected me by filling my mind with gloomy thoughts. When people concentrate on the idea of beauty, they are, without realizing it, confronted with the darkest thoughts that exist in this world. That, I suppose, is how human beings are made.
    • The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1959).
 
By means of microscopic observation and astronomical projection the lotus flower can become the foundation for an entire theory of the universe and an agent whereby we may perceive the Truth.
  • I've never done much, but I've lived my whole life thinking of myself as the only real man. And if I'm right, then a limpid, lonely horn is going to trumpet through the dawn some day, and a turgid cloud laced with light will sweep down, and the poignant voice of glory will call for me from the distance — and I'll have to jump out of bed and set out alone. That's why I've never married. I've waited, and waited, and here I am past thirty.
    • Ryuji, the sailor in The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea (1965), p. 38.
  • According to Eshin's "Essentials of Salvation," the Ten Pleasures are but a drop in the ocean when compared to the joys of the Pure Land.
    • "The Priest of Shiga Temple and His Love" in Death in Midsummer, and Other Stories (1966), p. 59.
  • By means of microscopic observation and astronomical projection the lotus flower can become the foundation for an entire theory of the universe and an agent whereby we may perceive the Truth. And first we must know that each of the petals has eighty-four thousand veins and that each vein gives eighty-four thousand lights.
    • "The Priest of Shiga Temple and His Love" in Death in Midsummer, and Other Stories (1966), p. 61.
  • Just let matters slide. How much better to accept each sweet drop of the honey that was Time, than to stoop to the vulgarity latent in every decision. However grave the matter at hand might be, if one neglected it for long enough, the act of neglect itself would begin to affect the situation, and someone else would emerge as an ally. Such was Count Ayakura's version of political theory.
  • We tend to suffer from the illusion that we are capable of dying for a belief or theory. What Hagakure is insisting is that even in merciless death, a futile death that knows neither flower nor fruit has dignity as the death of a human being. If we value so highly the dignity of life, how can we not also value the dignity of death? No death may be called futile.
    • Yukio Mishima on Hagakure : The Samurai Ethic and Modern Japan (1977) as translated by Kathryn Sparling, p. 105; Mishima's commentary on the sayings of Yamamoto Tsunetomo.
  • ‘The human body is the work of art. It doesn’t need artists.’ But the artist replies: ‘Okay, let’s say you’re right. What good does your sweating and grunting do. Even the most beautiful body is destroyed by age. Where is beauty then? Only art makes human beauty endure. You must devise an artist’s scheme to preserve it. You must commit suicide at the height of your beauty.’~ w:Kyoko’s House

Runaway Horses (1969)Edit

 
I want to make a poem of my life.
  • How oddly situated a man is apt to find himself at the age of thirty-eight! His youth belongs to the distant past. Yet the period of memory beginning with the end of youth and extending to the present has left him not a single vivid impression. And therefore he persists in feeling that nothing more than a fragile barrier separates him from his youth. He is forever hearing with the utmost clarity the sounds of this neighboring domain, but there is no way to penetrate the barrier.
    • Runaway Horses (1969), as translated by Michael Gallagher (1973).
  • as a man grows older the memory of his youth begins to act as nothing less than an immunization against further experience. And he was thirty-eight. It was an age when one felt strangely unready to say that one had lived and yet reluctant to acknowledge the death of youth. An age when the savor of one’s experiences turned ever so slightly sour, and when, day by day, one took less pleasure in new things. An age when the charm of every diverting foolishness quickly faded.
    • Runaway Horses (1969) pg - 46
  • The purest evil that human efforts could attain, in other words, was probably achieved by those men who made their wills the same and who made their eyes see the world in the same way, men who went against the pattern of life's diversity, men whose spirits shattered the natural wall of the individual body, making nothing of this barrier, set up to guard against mutual corrosion, men whose spirit accomplished what flesh could never accomplish.
    • Runaway Horses (1969), as translated by Michael Gallagher (1973).
  • All my life I have been acutely aware of a contradiction in the very nature of my existence. For forty-five years I struggled to resolve this dilemma by writing plays and novels. The more I wrote, the more I realized mere words were not enough. So I found another form of expression.
    • As quoted in Mishima : A Life in Four Chapters (1985).
  • I want to make a poem of my life.
    • As quoted by Mishima's biographer, Henry Scott-Stokes in the documentary Yukio Mishima : Samurai Writer (1985)
  • He'd been mistaken in thinking that if he killed himself the sordid bourgeois world would perish with him.
    • "Raisin Bread", quoted in 三島由紀夫短編集: Seven Stories, translated by John Bester (2002), p. 21.
  • As he saw it, there was only one choice — to be strong and upright, or to commit suicide.
    • "Sword" ("Ken"), quoted in 三島由紀夫短編集: Seven Stories, translated by John Bester (2002), p. 46.
  • Human beings — they go on being born and dying, dying and being born. It's kind of boring, isn't it?
    • "Sword" ("Ken"), quoted in 三島由紀夫短編集: Seven Stories, translated by John Bester (2002), p. 67.
  • Within those confining walls, teachers — a bunch of men all armed with the same information — gave the same lectures every year from the same notebooks and every year at the same point in the textbooks made the same jokes.
    • "Cigarette" ("Ta- bako") story, quoted in 三島由紀夫短編集: Seven Stories, translated by John Bester (2002), p. 110.
  • Held in the custody of childhood is a locked chest; the adolescent, by one means or another, tries to open it. The chest is opened: inside, there is nothing. So he reaches a conclusion: the treasure chest is always like this, empty. From this point on, he gives priority to this assumption of his rather than to reality. In other words, he is now a "grown-up."
    • "Cigarette" ("Ta- bako") story, quoted in 三島由紀夫短編集: Seven Stories, translated by John Bester (2002), p. 110.

Confessions of a Mask (1949)Edit

As translated by Meredith Weatherby (1958) ISBN 0-8112-0118-X
 
My "act" has ended by becoming an integral part of my nature, I told myself. It's no longer an act.
  • I finally decided it was about time to put an end to the business and led a wild flight into the house. The female soldiers came running after me, giving a continuous fusillade of bang-bang-bang's. I clutched at my heart and collapsed limply in the center of the parlor. "What's the matter, Kochan?" they asked, approaching with worried faces."I'm being dead on the battlefield," I replied, neither opening my eyes nor moving my hand.I was enraptured with the vision of my own form lying there, twisted and fallen.There was an unspeakable delight in having been shot and being on the point of death. It seemed to me that since it was I, even if actually struck by a bullet,there would surely be no pain.
    • P.18
  • The years of childhood...My memory runs head-on into a scene that is like a symbol of those years. To me as I am today, that scene represents childhood itself, past and irrecoverable.When I saw the scene I felt the hand of farewell with which childhood would take its leave of me. I had a premonition at that instant that all my feeling of subjective time, or timelessness, might one day gush forth from within me and flood into the mold of that scene, to become an exact imitation of its people and movements and sounds; that simultaneous with the completion of this copy, the original might melt away into the distant perspectives of real and objective time;and that I might be left with nothing more than the mere imitation or, to say it another way, with nothing more than an accurately stuffed specimen of my childhood.
    • P. 18
  • Actually the action called a kiss represented nothing more for me than some place where my spirit could seek shelter.
    • p. 115.
  • At no time are we ever in such complete possession of a journey, down to its last nook and cranny, as when we are busy with preparations for it. After that, there remains only the journey itself, which is nothing but the process through which we lose our ownership of it.
    • p. 118.
  • Is there not a sort of remorse that precedes sin? Was it remorse at the very fact that I existed?
    • p. 144.
  • My "act" has ended by becoming an integral part of my nature, I told myself. It's no longer an act. My knowledge that I am masquerading as a normal person has even corroded whatever of normality I originally possessed, ending by making me tell myself over and over again that it too was nothing but a pretense of normality. To say it another way, I'm becoming the sort of person who can't believe in anything except the counterfeit.
    • p. 153.
  • I received an impassioned letter from Sonoko. There was no doubt that she was truly in love. I felt jealous. Mine was the unbearable jealousy a cultured pearl must feel toward a genuine one. Or can there be such a thing in this world as a man who is jealous of the woman who loves him, precisely because of her love?
    • p. 208.
  • I had long since insisted upon interpreting the things that Fate forced me to do as victories of my own will and intelligence, and now this bad habit had grown into a sort of frenzied arrogance. In the nature of what I was calling my intelligence there was a touch of something illegitimate, a touch of the sham pretender who has been placed on the throne by some freak chance. This dolt of a usurper could not foresee the revenge that would inevitably be wreaked upon his stupid despotism.
    • p. 220.
  • There is no virtue in curiosity. In fact, it might be the most immoral desire a man can possess.
    • p. 222.
 
My hands, completely unconsciously, began a motion they had never been taught. I felt a secret, radiant something rise swift-footed to the attack from inside me. Suddenly it burst forth, bringing with it a blinding intoxication
  • The black and slightly oblique trunk of the tree of execution was seen against a Titian-like background of gloomy forest and evening sky, sombre and distant. A remarkably handsome youth was bound naked to the trunk of the tree. His crossed hands were raised high, and the thongs binding his wrists were tied to the tree. No other bonds were visible, and the only covering for the youth’s nakedness was a coarse white cloth knotted loosely about his loins...
  • The arrows have eaten into the tense, fragrant, youthful flesh and are about to consume his body from within with flames of supreme agony and ecstasy. But there is no flowing blood, nor yet the host of arrows seen in other pictures of Sebastian’s martyrdom. Instead, two lone arrows cast their tranquil and graceful shadows upon the smoothness of his skin, like the shadows of a bough falling upon a marble stairway...
  • That day, the instant I looked upon the picture, my entire being trembled with some pagan joy. My blood soared up; my loins swelled as though in wrath. The monstrous part of me that was on the point of bursting awaited my use of it with unprecedented ardour, upbraiding me for my ignorance, panting indignantly. My hands, completely unconsciously, began a motion they had never been taught. I felt a secret, radiant something rise swift-footed to the attack from inside me. Suddenly it burst forth, bringing with it a blinding intoxication...

The Sound of Waves (1956)Edit

As translated by Meredith Weatherby (1981) ISBN 0-679-75268-4
  • "I'll be going now," she said.
    Shinji made no answer and a surprised look came over his face. He had caught sight of a black streak that ran straight across the front of her red sweater.
    Hatsue followed his gaze and saw the dirty smudge, just in the spot where she had been leaning her breast against the concrete parapet. Bending her head, she started slapping her breast with her open hands. Beneath her sweater, which all but seemed to be concealing some firm supports, two gently swelling mounds were set to trembling ever so slightly by the brisk brushing of her hands.
    Shinji stared in wonder. Struck by her hands, the breasts seemed more like two small, playful animals. The boy was deeply stirred by the resilient softness of their movement.
    The streak of dirt was finally brushed out.
    • p. 31, ch. 4.

Sun and Steel (1968)Edit

 
Words are a medium that reduces reality to abstraction for transmission to our reason, and in their power to corrode reality inevitably lurks the danger that the words will be corroded too.
As translated by John Bester (2003) ISBN 4-770-02903-9
 
Only through the group, I realised — through sharing the suffering of the group — could the body reach that height of existence that the individual alone could never attain.
  • In its essence, any art that relies on words makes use of their ability to eat away — of their corrosive function — just as etching depends on the corrosive power of nitric acid.
    • p. 8.
  • Words are a medium that reduces reality to abstraction for transmission to our reason, and in their power to corrode reality inevitably lurks the danger that the words will be corroded too. It might be more appropriate, in fact, to liken their action to excessive stomach fluids that digest and gradually eat away the stomach itself.
    Many people will express disbelief that such a process could already be at work in a person's earliest years. But that, beyond doubt, is what happened to me personally, thereby laying the ground for two contradictory tendencies within myself. One was the determination to press ahead loyally with the corrosive function of words, and to make that my life's work. The other was the desire to encounter reality in some field where words should play no part at all.
    • p. 9.
  • I had no taste for defeat — much less victory — without a fight.
    • p. 49.
  • The most appropriate type of daily life for me was a day-by-day world destruction; peace was the most difficult and abnormal state to live in.
    • p. 57.
  • Only through the group, I realised — through sharing the suffering of the group — could the body reach that height of existence that the individual alone could never attain. And for the body to reach that level at which the divine might be glimpsed, a dissolution of individuality was necessary. The tragic quality of the group was also necessary, the quality that constantly raised the group out of the abandon and torpor into which it was prone to lapse, leading it to an ever-mounting shared suffering and so to death, which was the ultimate suffering. The group must be open to death — which meant, of course, that it must be a community of warriors.
    • p. 87.

Final address (1970)Edit

 
Where is our national spirit today? The politicians care nothing for Japan. They are greedy for power. ... Japan is reveling in economic prosperity and has become spiritually empty.
  • It is a wretched affair for one to speak to Jietai men in circumstances like these. I thought that the Jietai was the last hope of Nippon, the last stronghold of the Japanese soul. But Japanese people today think of money, just money. Where is our national spirit today? The politicians care nothing for Japan. They are greedy for power. ... Japan is reveling in economic prosperity and has become spiritually empty. ... If the Japanese do not rise up, if the Jietai does not rise up, don't you understand that there will be no such thing as an amendment to the constitution? Don't you realize that if there is no amendment you will merely be American mercenaries? ... Is there not one person among you who will rise with me now? ... I know now for certain that no one else will rise for the constitutional amendment. My dream for the Jietai is gone. ... Long live the emperor!
  • [At the movie's ending, speaking to the soldiers]
Body and spirit have never blended.
Never in physical action have I ever found the chilling satisfaction of words.
 
A ring that resolved all contradictions, a ring vaster than death, more fragrant than any scent I have ever known. Here was the moment I had always been seeking.
Never in words have I ever experienced the hot darkness of action.
Somewhere there must be a higher principle that reconciles art and action.
That principle that had occurred to me was death.
The vast upper atmosphere, where there is no oxygen, is surrounded with death.
To survive in this atmosphere, man, like an actor, must wear a mask.
Flying at 45,000 feet, the silver phallus of the fuselage floated in sunlight.
My mind was at ease. My thought process lively. No movement. No sound. No memories.
The closed cockpit and outer space were like the spirit and body of the same being.
Here I saw the outcome of my final action in this stillness was a beauty beyond words.
No more body or spirit, pen or sword, male or female.
Then I saw a giant circle coiled around the earth, a ring that resolved all contradictions, a ring vaster than death, more fragrant than any scent I have ever known.
Here was the moment I had always been seeking.
[At the movie's ending, after the seppuku. Last quote of the movie.] The instant the blade tore open his flesh, the bright disk of the sun soared up behind his eyelids and exploded, lighting the sky for an instant. ~Yukio Mishima in Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters based on his life and his booksThe Temple of the Golden Pavilio, Kyoko's House, and Runnaway Horses.

Quotes about MishimaEdit

  • Let us remember that the central reality must be sought in the writer's work: it is what the writer chose to write, or was compelled to write, that finally matters. And certainly Mishima's carefully premeditated death is part of his work.


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