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 »

One Comment on “Kure Tomofusa, on Mishima Yukio and devotion”

  1. 1 bigginhill said at 10:29 am on April 4th, 2013:

    avery, i saw a book review you wrote on amazon.
    your full name reminded me of f. scott fitzgerald and approximately of the year 1926.
    so i came to look at a few of your blog posts.
    i must say that you are appear to be a complicated young man.
    (that is a compliment.)
    be careful, be good.