Kure Tomofusa, on Mishima Yukio and devotion

A little translation about everyone’s favorite Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima today. Here’s a capsule summary of Mishima’s attempted coup, from Counter Currents:

The General was bound and gagged. Close fighting ensued as officers several times entered the general’s office. Mishima and his small band each time forced the officers to retreat. Finally, they were herded out with broad strokes of Mishima’s sword against their buttocks. A thousand soldiers assembled on the parade ground. Two of Mishima’s men dropped leaflets from the balcony above, calling for a rebellion to “restore Nippon.”

Precisely at mid-day, Mishima appeared on the balcony to address the crowd. Shouting above the noise of helicopters he declared: “Japanese people today think of money, just money: Where is our national spirit today? The Self-Defense Forces must be the soul of Japan.”

The soldiers jeered. Mishima continued: “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.” His last words were: “I salute the Emperor. Long live the emperor!”

Professor Kure Tomofusa is a self-described “Confucian” and “feudalist” at Kyoto University. The following is a translation of Kure’s comments on Mishima’s coup, from his article “The End of the Age of ‘Devotion'”.

A summary of the first two sections: At this time in Japan, tiny Maoist and Stalinist groups were having street fights with each other and violently purging, sometimes murdering, their own members. You can read more about this at the Wikipedia articles on the United Red Army and Japan Red Army so I will not translate this part. Mishima’s actions were met with much harsher condemnation in the mainstream media than the leftist groups. Now, here’s the good part.

From Honesty to Ridicule


If you want to call it natural, it was natural. For a novelist— not a superior officer, but a novelist– to suddenly appear on the balcony and ask them to rise up, there could not have been any expectation that the Self-Defense Forces could have any clue what was going on. Being unreasonably interrupted in the middle of their break would have only added to their annoyance. Mishima Yukio called out boldly to all who would hear. It was a naturally meaningless act, since the officers did not have a “legal duty” to listen to what they were hearing. “Are you not warriors, men?” rebuked Mishima. The officers’ reply was derisive heckling. Were they warriors? No one expected them to be. The Self-Defense Forces are not warriors but bureaucrats appointed by the Self-Defense Law.

Mishima Yukio committed his savings to the Tatenokai, a militia standing at the front against communist conspiracies from China, North Korea, or the Soviets… Mishima was devoted in his actions. This was not the frivolous pastime of a novelist. But… the Self-Defense Forces work only from the obligation of the duties of their job, and are granted their authority only by the law. They are a government bureau. Literally speaking, they are a government bureau on the basis of being an administrative organ.

A group of bureaucrats just doing their job was being respected more than a devoted warrior, on the sole basis of their relation to the administrative organ. This signaled the dawn of a new kind of value. In other words, thus began the age of “practicality”.

I am not denying the value of practicality. Despite the force and the romance of devotion, the effectiveness of “practicality” can bring people happiness. An age that longs for a hero is an unhappy one. An age that respects philosophy, and critical thought, and high literature is also an unhappy one. After the 1970s, Japan sought to separate itself from that unhappy age. Not only heroes, but also philosophy, thought, and literature, in sum all our serious “devotion” got down on bended knees before “practicality” and prayed for an era of happiness. Ritual suicide? What nonsense! Ridicule it!

But the age could not be abandoned that easily. Even in an age of practicality, people long for devotedness. And as if to fulfill that longing, in 1995 a twisted, parodic “devotion” showed its hideous face: the Aum gas attacks. Some of the leftists talked about this with words like “frightening”, “gruesome”, “ghastly”. But, the truly gruesome, ghastly, frightening incident came with the passing of the age when Mishima could die for his devotion. That “devotion”, which we thought we had smothered under a veil of “practicality”, had hideously returned from the dead, like a zombie.

Source: 呉智英 「『本気』の時代の終焉」 in 「三島由紀夫が死んだ日」(2005) excerpted in 『健全なる精神』 2012

Posted: March 13th, 2013 | Japan 1 Comment »

呉智英 『現代人の論語』 <英訳>

呉智英 『現代人の論語』
Confucius for the Modern Man by Professor Tomofusa Kure (2006)

Professor Kure of Kyoto University opens this book by complaining that nobody really reads Confucius, pointing out obvious errors that anyone could discover in the standard Japanese translations of him. He picked out his favorite verses, some of which he thinks are overlooked or make scholars uncomfortable. I noticed when trying to find English translations of the verses cited that his verses are missing from some translations. 19th century translations also have many errors, which is weird because there are plenty of centuries-old commentaries on these texts. I hunted down various online translations and the reader may guess what makes these specific chapters so interesting. I am working on securing permission for Kure-sensei’s commentaries.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: March 9th, 2013 | Confucius 1 Comment »

Thought for the day

A thought, after reading a description of Schuon’s “Maryamiyya”.

There are two forms of “traditionalism” in the sense of Guénonian anti-modernism; the metaphysical reactionaries, who consider Guénon and Evola as two representatives of a large class of those with some understanding (a class that might include anyone from A. Dugin to C.S. Lewis), and the religious perennialists, who consider Guénon and Schuon as modern-day prophets. The religious perennialists frown upon Evola as a dangerous and overly political deviant. Certainly Evola dared his readers to “revolt” against modernity, while Schuon busied himself building a “refuge” from modernity. But as a point of fact, Schuon’s teachings were more deviant and dangerous in his own lifetime than Evola’s. It may at least be said of Evola that he never rubbed his naked body against female devotees. If Evola has a political influence in the future, it is only because more people find his work relevant.

Update: Rather than making a new post, I will update this post with a heartwarming account of Guénon’s strict orthodoxy and the loving devotion of his wife.

In July 1949, the beginning of Ramadan, I was invited to break the fast. I found him lying on the couch, and he explained that fasting tired him to the point that he could not work at night, the day being set aside for prayer and rest. As soon as she heard the cannon announcing the sunset, Hajja Fatima brought us a cup of Turkish coffee, which was drunk at the same time we lit a cigarette. After which, Sheikh Abdel [Guénon] conducted the prayer of Maghreb, and I followed the movements behind him. After an excellent Egyptian meal and a peaceful vigil, I took my leave of the Sheikh and his family.

Source: Jean-Louis Michon, Cheikh Abdel Wahid Yahia

Posted: March 5th, 2013 | Tradition 6 Comments »

Why do Japanese people visit shrines and temples?

Source: survey by JTB travel agency

A survey of 3,600 Japanese adults shows that 52% visited a shrine or temple in the past year. (Of those who didn’t, most simply didn’t have a reason to go; only 8% of all respondents specifically said they were totally uninterested in religious places.) The reasons shrinegoers and templegoers gave for visiting were as follows:

22% There were things I wanted to see in the surrounding area

21% There’s something special about that place

18% I visit that place regularly

11% No reason in particular

8% I felt like I wanted to pray

5% A relative or friend asked me to go

4% I was taken there on a tour

4% I saw it on TV or in a magazine

4% I was attending a special event or service there

3% Other

If these reasons seem a bit unflattering, the positive reactions from visiting should be more encouraging:

40% I felt soothed / my heart was calmed

19% The buildings were very pretty

13% I felt like I should go more often

10% My ki/energy was renewed

10% The souvenirs were good

4% I gained something from visiting

2% I enjoyed talking with local people

2% Other

Furthermore 56% go to temples and shrines together with their families, while only 15% go alone. A supermajority are praying for the health and safety of family members.

JTB found that about 18% of Japanese people would like to visit either Ise or Izumo this year if they can find the time. Other popular choices include Itsukushima, Meiji Jingū, Kiyomizu-dera, Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, Atsuda Jingū, Kumano Sanzan, Fushimi Inari, Nikkō, Takachiho, and Kirishima-Jingū. A mixture of tourism-related, history-related, cultural heritage-related, and “power spot” reasons were given for these choices.

Posted: March 4th, 2013 | Shinto 1 Comment »