*Originally published on this blog in 2015
Despite what they claim, very few people actually discover Yukio Mishima through his art.
More often, Western readers in particular are drawn to him by the details of his sensational death. I was no different. In case you don’t know about that strange, gory episode, let’s get it out of the way now.
Yukio Mishima, arguably the greatest Japanese novelist of the modern era, spent his final years living in accordance with the customs of a Samurai warrior. Using his renown as an artist, he raised up an army of young male followers from across the country and on the 25th of November 1970, stormed the headquarters of the Japanese military to call for the abolition of democracy and the resurrection of an Imperial regime headed by the Emperor. When those who gathered to witness the spectacle refused his call, Mishima retired into an office his supporters had occupied and committed ritual suicide (seppuku) by disembowelling himself.
So there it is. Crazy, I know. But of course Mishima is substantially more than his demise. His fiction (especially the Sea of Fertility tetralogy) is a fascinating, panoramic and deeply philosophical body of work. His non-fiction meanwhile has made a lasting impression on my life.
Shortly before his death, Mishima penned a slim confessional volume entitled ‘Sun and Steel’. In its pages, alongside his trademark ruminations on romantic death, the author decries the tendency of thinking people to collapse into timid introspection, isolation and unmanliness. In particular Mishima makes an impassioned case for the art of body-building, a pursuit he took up aggressively in his final decade.
“Why must it be that men always seek out the depths, the abyss?” He wrote “Why was it not feasible for thought to change direction and climb up, ever up, towards the surface? Why should the skin, which guarantees a human being’s existence in space, be most despised and left to the tender mercies of the senses?”
In this spirit, Mishima looked back ruefully over his whole life, mourning that he had led the passive, shy and unadventurous existence of a writer, when his nature yearned in fact for action, masculinity and war.
After reading the book, and having recognised a lot of his criticism as valid for my own bookish character, I went out and purchased a set of weights. At the time of writing, I have been body-building for over two years.
My view of masculinity has been altered over this time. I now consider the bohemian tendency to skinny effeminacy and romantic bad health as a betrayal. One really doesn’t have to choose between masculinity and intelligence. Both are vital ingredients in the concept of a man.
The disunity of brains and brawn can be sourced directly to the perversions of Western Feminism. Feminist thought has tended to make an either/or choice of civility and manliness. Mildly applied, one could argue that this is helpful to the maintenance of a modern society. Let loose without limit however, it is ruinous.
If those with intellect and moral substance disarm themselves of worldly strength, the Darwinian arena is primed for their elimination. At school, you will have observed for yourself how the stupid tend to rule the roost and get the girls. It is no different in adulthood, with the classroom exchanged for a city centre splashed with brut and alcohol.
I fully recommend Mishima’s books, and in particular ‘Sun and Steel’, ‘Runaway Horses’ and ‘Mishima on Hagakure’.