Yukio Mishima was the Pseudonym of Hiraoka Kimitake (1925-1970).

He was a prolific writer, who is still considered by many to be the most important Japanese novelist of the 20th century.

Mishima's works include 40 novels, poetry, essays, and modern Kabuki and Noh drama. He was three times nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature.

Among his masterpieces is The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956). Tetralogy Sea of Fertility (1965-70) is regarded by many as Mishima's most lasting achievement.

As a writer Mishima drew inspiration from pre-modern literature, both Japanese and Western.

Mishima was born in Tokyo as the son of a government official. He was raised mainly by his paternal grandmother, who hardly permitted the boy out of her sight. During World War II, Mishima failed to qualify physically for military service, but he served in a factory. He later felt guilty that he had survived the war when so many others had been killed.

After the war Mishima studied law at Tokyo University. He worked as a civil servant in the finance ministry for a year before devoting himself entirely to writing. In 1946 Mishima met Yasunari Kawabata, who recommended Mishima's stories to important magazines. His first major work was Confessions of a Mask, which appeared in 1949. It dealt with his discovery of his own homosexuality. The narrator concluded, that he would have to wear a mask of 'normality' before world because of his abnormal sexual preferences.

The largely autobiographical work reflected Mishima's masochistic fantasies. His preoccupation with the body set the tone for several of his later novels. Mishima wished to create himself a beautiful body that age could not make ugly and started body building in 1955. All his life Mishima was deeply attracted to the austere patriotism of imperial Japan, and samurai spirit of Japan's past. He became an expert in the martial arts of karate and kendo.

Ai no Kawaki (1950, Thirst for Love) was written under the influence of the French writer Fran├žois Mauriac. It was a story about a woman who has become the mistress of her late husband's father.

Kinkaku-ji (1956, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion) was based on an actual event of 1950. It depicted the burning of the celebrated temple by a young Zen Buddhist monk, who is angered at his own physical ugliness and frustrated by his inability to emerge into the world from behind the bonds of uncontrollable stuttering.

In 1968 Mishima founded Tate no Kai, the Shield Society, a private army of some 100 youths dedicated to a revival of Bushido, the samurai knightly code of honour. In 1970 he seized control in military headquarters in Tokyo, trying to rouse the nation to pre-war nationalist heroic ideals. After failure he committed seppuku (ritual disembowelment) with his sword on November 25, 1970. (For further details see The Death of Yukio Mishima.) On the day of his death Mishima delivered to his publishers the final pages of The Sea of Fertility, the author's account of the Japanese experience in the 20th century.

The first part of the four-volume novel, Spring Snow (1968), is set in the closed circles of Tokyo's Imperial Court in 1912. It was followed by Runaway Horses (1969), The Temple of Dawn (1970) and The Decay of the Angel (1971). Each of the novels depict a different reincarnation of the same being: first as a young aristocrat, then as a political fanatic in the 1930s, as a Thai princess before and after World War II, and as an evil young orphan in the 1960s.

Yukio Mishima wrote novels, novellas, short stories, plays, essays and nonfiction. The following is an almost complete list of his works published, in Japan or elsewhere, during his lifetime.

Novel

Novella

Short Story

Essay

Play

Non-Fiction

  • Sun And Steel (1972)

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