I was shocked when I discovered that Yukio Mishima has been accused of being politically right wing. Under the definitions and context of contemporary political references this may be true. When I read him I believed him to be a leftist. I accept him as one of, if not the, major teacher to have been translated into English, regarding a subject that I love; Japanese history. and the development of Japanese philosophy. A Taoist, I study Budo. I practise (a form of) Shinto; spiritist totemic animism.
Mishima is more complex than mere political opinion; he questions it and presents both sides of the coin for analysis before acting, the true samurai way. His ability to get the reader to share his depth of understanding Japanese mindset, and the repression of emotions within culturally dominating society is one I identify with strongly. Combined with questioning sexuality it is powerful and comparable to the emergent british teenage emo subculture during the late 1990s early 2000s.
I question the allegation of Mishima's right wing political stance. One cannot accurately define a culture by the standards of a totally different culture. To compare and analyze historic feudal Japan up until and after Westernisation Process, by using modern western frames of reference alone, without coming at it from the Japanese view point, is to set up a strawman argument. There is a very rigid formal codex as to what 'Japan' actually is, was, will be, should be. This itself is a huge important factor in traditional Japan. The ideology of 'left vs right wing' is a western concept, a framework superimposed upon an alien culture for us to dissect it within western mindset. It is this rigid codex itself which was under dissemination by the likes of Mishima. More acutely defining Right Action regarding developing society and preservation of tradition is and should be the greater focus than political left and right.
Mishima does this poetically and in doing so proves mastery of Japanese sensibilities both prosaic and
A potted history of Japanese Westernisation Process, and the splinter factions involved; in laymans terms: After 100 years of isolation from the outside world, Japan had perfected itself. The Emperors decision to open its trading ports with the West struck an alarm through the nation. Samurai had sworn an oath 'to preserve Japan and to obey the Emperor'. Here they fell into two camps; those who believed the Emperor was not preserving Japan and should abdicate, and those who foresaw the necessity of obeying the Emperor for the future good of the nation. The Emperors loyal Samurai were equipped with guns, manufactured in britain for the American colonials and sold to Japan by the American colonials. They slew the Samurai who were loyal to traditional Japan, who were armed only with swords. That ended the debate.
It was into this environment that Yukio Mishima was born, to a noble Samurai family. He is the last samurai to have committed sepuku, to a post-world-war-two westernised audience who did not honor nor respect this act as necessary to the traditional way of being of the Samurai. He did so after a failed political coup to return Japan to honor its traditions. It is this behaviour, an attempt to rectify a beloved nation that has gone wrong from its purpose and lost the beauty of that original intent (in short; it has 'been westernized') that has been identified as 'right wing' by western political historians with an agenda of avoiding Easternisation Process of the west by adhering to the bias of 20th century context.
Thankfully he left for the world a large volume of writing embodying the true spirit of Japan. Not only did Mishima's writing teach me about Japanese history and Purity of Spirit, it taught me about male emotions in such a way that it has only been feminist authors of Western culture who have spoken the same language to me. All of these are talking about an aspect and purpose of soul that is transgender, androgynous.
In the latter half of the 20th century, androgynous and ageless manga imagery continues one of many the High Arts of traditional Japan; printmaking.
The decision Mishima made when faced with observing effects of westernization (which essentially from the contemporary stance equates to postmodernism) verses honorable to traditional Japanese spirit was to choose a path of purity. The right action for Mishima, unique in his training, education and role in history, was to accept his fate with virtue. He attempted political coup and when this failed due to majority of Japanese not being as elitist, as pure and exonerating the true Samurai Spirit as himself, to commit ritual suicide. To do otherwise would have been to live the rest of his life a failure and hypocrite, having turned his back on all that he had been designed to embody.
Mishima's writings speak romantically of hidden inner self, ones truth within externally forced social role and necessity of right action, thus placing the inner self into stark contrast with the role demanded by the history books. He is comparable to Oscar Wild, a sexual deviant literary genius involved with politics who was punished by society (wild was imprisoned for his homosexuality) that went against personal nature. Where Wilds humor; Mishima's enchantment. This contrast between rigid dogma of a control state and the misfit ultimately personifying it as resolution for alienation. Can western mindset contemplate such perameters?
to be continued...