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Mishima, Yukio (1925-1970)  
page: 1  2  3  

Sun and Steel

The motive and process of remaking himself into his ideal is depicted in Sun and Steel (1968). This book manifested Mishima's abhorrence of Japanese intellectuals (like Shunsuke), whose overevaluation of intelligence made them conceited, physically unattractive armchair theorists. He praised muscular beauty, which became synonymous with action in his aestheticism. Muscle and action were the antitheses of what a sedentary and meditative writer would embody.

Thus, by placing muscle, action, and beauty (and by extension, warrior and masculinity) in the same category, he emphasized their superiority to intelligence and language (writer and femininity). Gazing at his Greek-godlike body, Mishima felt his transition from man of language to man of muscle to be a rebirth of himself, who used to be a "grotesque old man of twenty-five years of age," as he wrote in "Watashi no henreki jidai" ("My Wandering Years") in 1964.

Mishima's Exhibitionism and His Preparation for Death

Mishima now turned exhibitionistic--modeling for nude photographs, appearing on stage and in movies, recording songs, and indulging in masquerades and pageantry as the general of his private army. But his obsession with action, acting, and exhibitionism resulted in a paradox--although he loathed language, which he identified with femininity, he nevertheless remained a writer.

He tried to justify this paradox by resorting to an old notion of the harmonious blend of "sword and chrysanthemum" or warrior and writer. This resolution, however, contradicted what he repeatedly asserted: his wish to die as a warrior.

Mishima developed an intriguing paradox about his muscled body. He found that the construction of a body required pain; for if one had a beautifully sculpted body and yet needed to feel life within it, the surest way to affirm its life was pain, or more exactly, bleeding. To him, the untrained body was not a body. It was a symbol of unmanliness; it was dead from the start.

Hence, the paradox: A body worthy of being called masculine required pain and blood. Naturally, the most appropriate profession for this type of "bleeding" was that of a military man. His profession was ideally to die; and being a man of action, he was liberated from "language."

At the same time, Mishima developed a unique theory about the military uniform. It required a sculpturelike body; it was exposed to danger--to being "pierced by a bullet and stained with blood" (Sun and Steel). All these theories then prompted a notion that the moment he started pumping-up his body, he started preparing for self-willed death.


Mishima provides a fascinating study of a writer obsessed with the quest for masculinity. It led him to homosexual interests, masculine cults, male bonding, militaristic activities, and finally to the most masculine form of death. As a result, in his scheme of aesthetics, homoeroticism became inseparable from suicide.

He is unique among the world's writers in that he linked homoeroticism with self-willed death and put this theory into action. In so doing, he kept masking and unmasking his sexual orientation by overexposing it in massive pageantry. Of course, to put people in ambiguity about his sexuality was what the mask was always intended to achieve.

Seigo Nakao

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Boardman, Gwenn R. "Greek Hero and Japanese Samurai: Mishima's New Aesthetic." Critique 12 (1971): 103-115.

Hijiya-Kirschnereit, Irmela. "Thomas Mann's Short Novel Der Tod in Venedig and Mishima Yukio's Novel Kinjiki: A Comparison." European Studies on Japan. Ian Nish and Charles Dunn, eds. Tenterden, Kent: Norbury, 1979. 312-317.

Hosoe, Eikoh, photographer. Ba-ra-kei = Ordeal by Roses: Photographs of Mishima Yukio. New York: Aperture, 1985.

Jackson, Earl, Jr. "Kabuki Narratives of Male Homoerotic Desire in Saikaku and Mishima." Theater Journal 41 (1989): 459-477.

Nathan, John. Mishima: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown, 1974.

Petersen, Gwenn Boardman. The Moon in the Water. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1979.

Shrader, Paul, dir. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. With Ken Ogata and Toshiyuki Mizushima. Zoetrope Lucas Film, 1985.

Stokes, Henry Scott. The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974.

Wolfe, Peter. Yukio Mishima. New York: Continuum, 1989.


    Citation Information
    Author: Nakao, Seigo  
    Entry Title: Mishima, Yukio  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 12, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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