Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Last Weekend I watched the 1985 Japanese movie "Mishima, A Life in Four Chapters", directed by Paul Schrader and produced by Francis Ford Copola and George Lucas.

The movie is about the life of Yukio Mishima. Have you heard of Mishima? He was one of the most famous Japanese authors of the 20th century. I am not going to go in great detail about Mishima's life. Mishima had a very interesting, bizarre, strange, let's say, "unique" life. And the movie portrayed that well.

Mishima is most famous for what he did at the end of his life.

Picture this. Imagine one of the most famous writers, directors, actors, celebrities in your country. Imagine that this celebrity was extremely famous and unique, maybe a little bizarre, quirky, whatever, and this is probably why he or she was so talented. Then imgaine this very famous celebrity, in an effort to change things or change his country, committed a most extreme and bizarre public suicide.

This is what Mishima did. Mishima wanted to bring Japan back to where it was before WW II. He wanted Japan to revere the Emperor again. He wanted the Emperor to regain control. In 1970, at the age of 45, Mishima went to a military base in Tokyo to meet with a general. The general assumed it was a normal social call. But when Mishima and some followers showed up for the meeting, they quickly tied up the general and demanded that the base soldiers assemble in front of the building.

Mishima climbed out on to the second floor balcony to give a patriotic speach to the soldiers pleading with them to join him in restoring Japan and restoring the Emperor. But the soldiers jeered and heckled him. Police and news helicopters circled overhead drowning out Mishima's voice.

Dejected, Mishima climbed back into the room where the general was being held. He kneeled on the floor, removed his shirt, pulled out a knife, and committed seppuku, plunging the knife into his belly. Done exactly the same way as the samurai did centuries before in old Japan before the Meiji Restoration.

It was the duty of one of Mishima's followers to act as Mishima's Second, to cut off Mishima's head after Mishima cut open his belly. But his Second was terrified and began shaking terribly. After Mishima cut his belly, his Second attempted to cut off Mishima's head. But he missed his neck. Instead slicing into his shoulder. The Second tried again, but he was off the mark again and hit Mishima's jaw with the samarai sword blade cutting into his jawbone. (These suicide events were not depicted in the movie but come from a book I am currently reading about Mishima).

Finally, one of the other followers took the sword and with one swing cut off Mishima's head. Then, as was planned, he cut off the head of Mishima's Second.

This was a good movie. If you are familliar with Mishima's story, then I recommend this film. Also, I recommend reading the book, "Mishima's Sword, Travels in Search of a Samurai Legend", especially if you are not familiar with his story. I am currently reading this book which was written by Christopher Ross.


  1. I have heard about this guy before. He actually thought that people would follow him.

  2. He was a brilliant author, possibly his brilliance was partly due to his eccentricities. He also appeared to be delusional by thinking the soldiers and others would follow him. Unless he knew all along they wouldn't and he always planned on killing himself in this bizarre fashion.

  3. There is an uncharitable thesis that Mishima tired of life because Kawabata Yasunari, not he, won the Nobel Prize for literature....

  4. Interesting. The book and the movie also revealed that Mishima despised the idea of growing old and ugly.

  5. Thanks for mentioning this movie. I will definitely check it out.

  6. if you visit my other blog:
    you can find the address to his gravestone with photos that I took last year. Mishima was great!

  7. Thank you Tony for that information.