Yukio Mishima

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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.

Yukio Mishima (January 14, 1925November 25, 1970) was the pen name of Kimitake Hiraoka, a Japanese novelist, playwright, essayist and short story writer.

Sourced[edit]

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)
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.
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)
  • 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.
  • 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

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]

  • Japanese people today think of money, just money: Where is our national spirit today? The Jieitai must be the soul of Japan. … The nation has no spiritual foundation. That is why you don’t agree with me. You will just be American mercenaries. There you are in your tiny world. You do nothing for Japan. … I salute the Emperor. Long live the emperor!

Quotes about Mishima[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]

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