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- from Forbidden Colors by Yukio Mishima (Translated from the Japanese by Alfred H. Marks); pp. 254-256 [(Chapter) 22 – The Seducer]: It would be well to say that Kyoko Hodaka did not love Yuichi in the slightest. Her frivolous heart was exceedingly pliant. In the lightness of her feelings there was an elegance that fell short of any standard of purity. Once in the depth of her heart a fairly sincere yearning for self-deception had suddenly flared up and then gone out, without any awareness on her part. Kyoko had one resolve, one self-imposed, indispensable, easily fulfilled duty: never to keep watch over her own heart. “I haven’t seen him for a month and a half,” she said. “That seems like a day. In that time I haven’t thought of that man once.”
One and a half months! What in the world did Kyoko do with herself? Countless dances. Countless movies. Tennis. Shopping. All kinds of Foreign Office parties she had to attend with her husband. The beauty parlor. Drives. A fantastic number of useless arguments about various loves and infidelities. Countless notions and whims encountered in the course of keeping house.
The oil landscape painting, for instance, that graced the wall of the stairway landing had been moved during that time to the wall of the entranceway. Then it was taken to the guest room. Then she changed her mind and hung it again on the landing where it had been originally. She rearranged the kitchen and found fifty-three empty bottles. She sold them to the junkman and with the money, supplemented by some of her pocket money, bought a table lamp made from a curacao bottle. She soon decided she didn't like that and gave it to a friend, receiving in exchange a bottle of Cointreau. Then the shepherd dog she was raising got distemper. He frothed at the mouth, trembled in all four legs, and without making a sound died with what looked like a smile on his face. Kyoko cried for three hours; the next day she had forgotten it.
Her life was filled with immeasurable amounts of stylish rubbish. It had been like that since her girlhood, when she was infected with a bug for collecting safety pins, and filled lacquer boxes with safety pins large and small. The same kind of fever that is referred to in poor women as being “the fever of their existence” motivated the life of Kyoko. But if hers was an earnest existence, it was marked by an earnestness which did not in the least stand in the way of her frivolousness. An earnest existence that knows no distress is apt to have trouble finding an outlet.
Like a butterfly that flits into a room and flutters madly about when it can find no open windows, Kyoko, too, lived her restless inner life. Not even the zaniest butterfly, however, is apt to believe that the room into which it has flown is its own. Sometimes, indeed, exhausted butterflies collide with forests on painted landscapes and fall unconscious.
No one saw clearly the state of stupefaction into which Kyoko, like that butterfly, would sometimes fall—a wide-eyed, confused absence of mind. Her husband would think to himself only: It’s started again. Her friends and her cousins would think nothing more than: She’s in love again—for a half day, no more.
- pp. 258-260: They went along the side of the stables and entered a dark, shaded path. They locked arms. Before their eyes there was a slight rise, with an earthen bridge built in conformity with the uphill slope. Ramparts surrounded the hill area. Near the summit there was a single cherry tree in the very center of a group of pines.
A one-horse carriage reserved for court use came down the hill and scuttled past the two pedestrians. The horse’s mane fluttered in the wind; the sixteen-petaled gold chrysanthemum passed resplendently before their eyes. The two climbed the hill. From the plateau of the old third circle they could look for the first time at the panorama of the city on the other side of the stone wall.
With what freshness did the whole city come together to strike the eye! The slippery comings and goings of the shining autos – what animated life they bore! The businesslike afternoon prosperity of Nishikicho across the moat! The revolutions of the countless anemometers on the meteorological station! With what loving exertion they lent their ears to the many winds passing through the sky, offering them such charms! How indefatigably they spun about!
The two went out through the Hirakawa gate. They had not walked enough yet; so they strolled along the edge of the moat for a time. As they did so, there in the very middle of this aimless afternoon walk, in the very middle of the auto horns and the earth-shaking rumble of trucks, Kyoko came to savor something close to a real sense of what life is.
In the Yuichi of that day there was certainly that “real sense,” strange though the phrase is. It was almost as if he were convinced that he was impersonating the man he most wished to be. This consciousness of beauty, this endowment with substance, as it were, was to Kyoko particularly essential. Until now this beautiful youth had seemed to comprise only bits and pieces of sexuality. His sharp brows, his deep set eyes, the marvelous ridge of his nose, his artless lips, had always brought Kyoko joy, but after the simple enumeration of these parts, there had been the feeling that the most important thing was missing.
“You certainly don’t look like a married man!” Kyoko opened her innocently incredulous eyes as she burst out with this.
“Yes, somehow I feel like a bachelor.” They looked at each other and laughed at this rejoinder.
Kyoko never touched upon the subject of Mrs. Kaburagi, and Yuichi too made it a point never to broach the subject of Namiki, who had gone to Yokohama with them. This courtesy helped them to get on well together, and the reflection in Kyoko’s mind that he had been jilted by Mrs. Kaburagi just as she had been thrown over by Namiki served only to make her feel closer to the youth.
At the risk of being prolix, however, it must be said that Kyoko no longer loved Yuichi in the slightest. There was in this meeting with him only an undiscriminating joy, a delight. She drifted. Her truly light heart drifted like a plant seed carried by the wind, tufted with white thistledown. A seducer doesn’t always go after a woman he loves. A woman like this, weighed down by nothing spiritual, standing on tiptoe within herself, as much a dreamer as she was a realist, was the ripest bait for the seducer.
- p. 261: The blood-red sloe gin fizz she had imbibed imparted a drunken glide to Kyoko’s dancing. She leaned against Yuichi, her body lighter than a feather, feeling as if her feet barely touched the floor as she danced. The basement dance floor was surrounded by tables on three sides. Facing it in the darkness was an orchestra stand with a scarlet drapery hung behind it.
- p. 262: In the bottom of her heart she believed that the plight of all men in the world was an unfortunate one. It was a religious prejudice with her. The only thing she had managed to see in Yuichi was his common everyday youthfulness. But since what we call beauty is basically so far removed from originality, surely there was nothing original to be found in this beautiful youth! Trembling in sympathy, Kyoko felt like shedding conventional tears at the loneliness of men, at the animal hungers and thirsts of men, at all the shackles of desire that make man seem so tragic.
- p. 263: The light of the tall neon signs coming through the window onto her face cradled in his arms flowed into the corners of her eyes. There was in all the rapidity of that flow a current that did not move. The youth realized that it was tears. She realized it, too, at about the same time, when she felt the cold flow on her temple. Yuichi touched it with his lips and with his lips drank a woman’s tears...She stole a look at the stiff nape of the neck turned toward her by the middle-aged driver. Her conventionally virtuous heart saw in the back of that ancient blue suit the symbol of all society turning its back.
- p. 264: Kyoko kept suggesting they go, and kept on drinking.
She went on thinking about one thing after another. As she thought about each, she forgot what she was thinking about...
...As she looked at him a dark joy burst its bonds inside her and came welling up.
This heart of hers, still certain that she was not in love with this beautiful youth, was fully aware. However, she realized that she had never felt this same deep sense of surrender with any other man. The compelling beat of the bass drum in the Western music drove her into a state of rapture.
This feeling of receptiveness—that one must call almost a natural impulse—brought her heart close to a kind of universality. That feeling, like evening coming over the moor, with long shadows thrust out by thick undergrowth, hill and valley bathed each in its own shadows – that feeling of wishing to be wrapped in ecstasy and twilight – transfigured Kyoko.
- p. 265: The musicians broke into a fast rumba. The lights went off. Lights glowed on the dressing room door. Then the catlike forms of the rumba dancers, a man and a woman, glided out of the half-open door.
Their silk costumes fluttered in great pleats. Countless tiny, embroidered, round metal scales shimmered, green, gold, and orange. The hips of the man and woman, shining in silk, were like lizards in the grass. They drew together. Then they separated.
Kyoko rested her elbows on the tablecloth, held her throbbing temples with painted fingernails that seemed as if they would penetrate into her head, and watched. The pain caused by the fingernails was as pleasant as peppermint.
- p. 266: Kyoko’s eyes were open. She looked at the lights outside the window; she looked at the cloudy night sky. Suddenly she had the strange power to see everything as worthless. Another day was ending without incident. Only capricious, dispirited memories – lackadaisical, intermittent, and perhaps based on nothing other than weakness of imagination – would be left. Only the daily routine of life, assuming some strange, blood-curdling shape, would be left.
- p. 268: Even now she did not have the courage to touch the real Yuichi. His form was the incarnation of joy. In it were indescribably blended greenness and wisdom, youth and mastery, love and scorn, piety and sacrilege. Even now not the slightest resentment or guilt sufficed to dull Kyoko’s joy; even her slight hangover could not alter it.
- p. 270: “...The humiliation and the ugliness you’re thinking about are all imaginary. For surely we’ve seen something beautiful. It’s certain that we have, the two of us, seen something of the quality of a rainbow.”
- p. 271: The whistle of a freight train crossing the nearby iron bridge reverberated in the night. It was an endless, monotonous, stumbling repetition. After a time, from the other side of the bridge it had just crossed, the train flashed a long whistle and then was silent...
...The conduct of Shunsuke, who from the beginning had had no hope, was marked by not the slightest mercy, by nothing of what society calls humanity.
Kyoko was silent. She was sitting straight up, without making a sound. To this flighty female, such a long period of silence was something that had never occurred before. Once she had learned this quietness, perhaps it would become the way she naturally comported herself. Shunsuke, too, kept his mouth closed. They seemed to believe they could go on here until dawn without saying a word. When night came to an end she would take the little tools out of her bag, make herself up, and return to her husband’s house. It would be a long time, though, until the river whitened; the two people suspected this night would go on forever.
- pp. 48-49 [(Chapter) 4 – Forest Fire in the Distant Twilight]: The outward peace of the Minami household was like an accusation leveled against him. The smiling face of his mother, who, fortunately, was not suffering because of her kidney condition and had not been hospitalized; Yasuko’s misty smile that hovered on her face night and day; this repose . . . Everybody was asleep; he was the only one awake. He felt uneasy that he should be living with a sleeping family. He was tempted to arouse them deliberately out of their sleep. But if he did . . . indeed his mother, Yasuko, even Kiyo would wake up. And from that instant they would hate him. It was a kind of betrayal for one to be awake while the others slept. The night watchman, however, guards by betrayal. By betraying sleep he protects sleep. Ah, this human watch, maintaining truth beside the sleeping! Yuichi felt a hatred toward the night watchman. He hated his human role.
It was not yet time for exams. All he had to do was look over his notes. Economic history, public finance, statistics – all his notes were arranged there, transcribed meticulously in tiny characters. His friends were amazed at the preciseness of his notes, though it was a mechanical precision. Mornings in the sunlit autumn classroom, amid the rustling agitation of hundreds of pens, the machine-like character was what particularly marked Yuichi’s pen. What made his passionless jottings look almost like shorthand was his habit of treating thought as nothing more than an exercise in mechanical self-discipline.
Today he had gone to school for the first time since the wedding. School was a refuge.
- p. 52: Returning from his unhappy thoughts to the present, Yuichi gazed from the window. The tower windows opened on a view of the Tokyo horizon on the other side of the trolley tracks and the shantytowns where the factory chimneys bristled. On clear days, that horizon seemed to ascend just a bit higher thanks to the smoke. Nights – perhaps from the night shift, or perhaps, too, from the faint glow of neon lights – the skirts of the sky in that vicinity were tinged from time to time with red.
Tonight’s vermilion, however, was somehow different. The edge of the sky was quite clearly intoxicated. Since the moon had not yet risen, that drunkenness stood out in the light of the faint stars. Not only that, the faint vermilion was fluttering. Striped in smoggy apricot, it looked like a mysterious flag fluttering in the wind.
Yuichi recognized it as a fire.
At the same time there was a darkening of the white smoke around the flame.
-pp. 32-33 [(Chapter) 2 - Mirror Contract]: It grieved Yuichi's mother to see her son stick his nose into the household account book as if he enjoyed it; besides, as he said lightly, it was a practical application of his schoolwork in economics. In truth, it appeared to her that his present activity was somehow brought on by her earlier frank discussion with him, and fearing that he was taking her words to mean something she had not wished to suggest, she said to him once, apparently for no good reason, "It seems to me that there's something abnormal about a student's developing an interest in the household account book."
Yuichi grimaced fiercely. His mother was content that her words of vexation had roused her son and evoked a reaction, but she did not know which of her words had cut him so. Anger, however, had set Yuichi free from his usual sense of decorum. He felt that the time had come to blast some of the idle romantic fancies his mother cherished on his behalf. They were fancies completely without hope, so far as he could see. Her hopes were an affront to his despair.
- from The Decay of the Angel by Yukio Mishima; pp. 5-6: As the sky clouded over, the sea fell into sulky contemplation, studded with fine nightingale-colored points. It bristled with wave-thorns, like a rose branch. In the thorns themselves was evidence of a smooth becoming. The thorns of the sea were smooth.
Three ten. There were no ships in sight.
Very strange. The whole vast space was abandoned.
There were not even wings of gulls.
Then a phantom ship arose and disappeared toward the west.
The Izu Peninsula was shrouded in mist. For a time it ceased to be the Izu Peninsula. It was the ghost of a lost peninsula. Then it disappeared entirely. It had become a fiction on a map. Ships and peninsula alike belonged to “the absurdity of existence.”
They appeared and disappeared. How did they differ?
If the visible was the sum of being, then the sea, as long as it was not lost in mist, existed there. It was heartily ready to be.
A single ship changed it all.
The whole composition changed. With a rending of the whole pattern of being, a ship was received by the horizon. An abdication was signed. A whole universe was thrown away. A ship came in sight, to throw out the universe that had guarded its absence.
Multiple changes in the color of the sea, moment by moment. Changes in the clouds. And the appearance of a ship. What was happening? What were happenings?
Each instant brought them, more momentous than the explosion of Krakatoa. It was only that no one noticed. We are too accustomed to the absurdity of existence. The loss of a universe is not worth taking seriously.
Happenings are the signals for endless reconstruction, reorganization. Signals from a distant bell. A ship appears and sets the bell to ringing. In an instant the sound makes everything its own. On the sea they are incessant, the bell is forever ringing.
- pp. 32-33: Worn out from looking, Toru, who had no occupation but to look, leaned against the windowsill to the northwest and looked at the Sunday-morning bustle in the new houses beyond the orange grove. Dogs barked. Sparrows flitted among the orange branches. On south verandas men who finally had houses of their own were sprawled on rattan chairs reading newspapers. He caught glimpses of aproned women inside. The newly tiled roofs were a violent blue. The voices of children were like splinters of glass.
Toru liked to look at people as at animals in a zoo.
- from The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting by Alice Miller (Translated from the German by Andrew Jenkins); pp. 64-67 [I – SAYING AND CONCEALING (5 – The Imprisoned Child and the Necessity of Denying Pain: Yukio Mishima)]: Like Rimbaud, the famous Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, who committed hara-kiri in 1970 at the age of forty-five, often spoke of himself as a monster because he felt within him an inclination toward things morbid and perverted. His fantasies revolved around death, the dark side of the world, and sexual violence. On the other hand, his poems indicate an unusual sensitivity that caused him immense suffering, suffering that derived from the tragic experiences of his childhood.
Mishima was his parents’ first child. When he was born, in 1925, they were newly married and living in his grandparents’ house – there was nothing unusual about this in Japan at the time. Almost from the very beginning he was quartered in the room of his fifty-year-old grandmother. His cot stood next to her bed, and he lived there for years, cut off from the outside world and exposed exclusively to her needs. Mishima’s grandmother suffered from severe depression. Occasionally she alarmed the boy with outbreaks of hysteria. She had nothing but contempt for her husband and for her son, Mishima’s father, but in her own way she worshipped her little grandson and wanted him to belong to her and no one else. In his autobiography, Mishima recalls the oppressiveness and the fetid smell of the room he shared with his grandmother. But he tells us nothing of any rage or revulsion that he felt about his situation, because it appeared normal to him. At the age of four, he developed a severe illness, diagnosed as “self-intoxication,” which later proved to be chronic. When he first went to school, at the age of six, it was the very first time he had had any contact with other children, and he felt strange and alien in their midst. Naturally enough, he had difficulty relating to these other children, who were emotionally more uninhibited and spontaneous, since they had experienced entirely different treatment and surroundings in their own families. When he was nine, his parents moved into an apartment of their own, but they did not take their son with them. It was at this time that he started writing poems, actively and enthusiastically encouraged by his grandmother. When he finally moved in with his parents, at the age of twelve, his mother was proud of what he had written, but his father tore up the manuscripts, and Mishima was forced to carry on writing in secret. At home he found neither understanding nor encouragement. His grandmother had tried to make a girl out of him, whereas his father attempted to turn him into a “real man,” which involved severe beatings. As a result he frequently visited his grandmother, who represented a refuge from the cruelty of his father. Around this time, she took him on his first visit to the theater. This opened the door to a whole new world: the world of feelings.
I understand Mishima’s suicide as the expression of his inability to experience his early feelings of revolt against, anger toward, and indignation at the behavior of his grandmother. This inability was a direct result of the gratitude he felt toward her. In his loneliness, and in comparison to the way his father behaved, his grandmother was bound to appear to him as a savior figure. His true feelings remained pent up in the prison of his attachment to this woman, who exploited the child from the outset for the gratification of her needs, including (presumably) her sexual cravings. But his biographers draw a veil of silence over all this, and right to the very end Mishima himself made no reference to it. He never faced up to his own truth.
All kinds of reasons have been advanced to explain Mishima’s hara-kiri. But the most convincing reason is hardly ever mentioned. After all, it is quite normal for us to owe a debt of gratitude to our parents and grandparents (or the people standing in for them), even if the treatment we experienced at their hands was sheer unadulterated torture. This is an integral part of morality, as we understand it. But it is a species of morality that consigns our genuine feelings and our own personal truth to an unmarked grave. Severe illnesses, early death, and suicide are the logical consequences of subjection to the laws that we call morality, although in fact they suffocate our true lives. This will continue to be the case, all over the world, as long as we show greater reverence to these laws than to life itself. The body rebels against such treatment, but the only language at its command is the language of illness, a language that is rarely understood as long as the denial of true feelings in childhood remains unrecognized.
Many of the Ten Commandments can still claim validity today. But the Fourth Commandment is diametrically opposed to the laws of psychology. It is imperative that there be general recognition of the fact that enforced “love” can do a very great deal of harm. People who were loved in childhood will love their parents in return. There is no need of a commandment to tell them to do so. Obeying a commandment can never be the basis for love.
- from The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima (Translated by Meredith Weatherby); pp. 18-19 [Chapter 2]: Talk of this girl and the image of the girl he had seen on the beach yesterday immediately took fast hold of each other in Shinji’s mind. At the same instant he recalled, with a sinking heart, his own poor condition in life. The recollection made the girl whom he had stared at so closely only the day before seem very, very far away from him now. Because now he knew that her father was Terukichi Miyata, the wealthy owner of two coasting freighters chartered to Yamagawa Transport – the hundred-and-eighty-five-ton Utajima-maru and the ninety-five-ton Harukaze-maru – and a noted crosspatch, whose white hair would wave like lion whiskers in anger.
Shinji had always been very level-headed. He had realized that he was still only eighteen and that it was too soon to be thinking about women. Unlike the environment of city youths, always exploding with thrills, Utajima had not a single pin-ball parlor, not a single bar, not a single waitress. And this boy’s simple daydream was only to own his own engine-powered boat some day and go into the coastal-shipping business with his younger brother.
Surrounded though he was by the vast ocean, Shinji did not especially burn with impossible dreams of great adventure across the seas. His fisherman’s conception of the sea was close to that of the farmer for his land. The sea was the place where he earned his living, a rippling field where, instead of waving heads of rice or wheat, the white and formless harvest of waves was forever swaying above the unrelieved blueness of a sensitive and yielding soil.
Even so, when the day’s fishing was almost done, the sight of a white freighter sailing against the evening clouds on the horizon filled the boy’s heart with strange emotions. From far away the world came pressing in upon him with a hugeness he had never before apprehended. The realization of this unknown world came to him like distant thunder, now pealing from afar, now dying away to nothingness.
A small starfish had dried to the deck in the prow. The boy sat there in the prow, with a coarse white towel tied round his head. He turned his eyes away from the evening clouds and shook his head slightly.
- pp. 33-34: Whenever he returned from fishing he always looked all along the beach for her, but on the few occasions when he caught sight of her she was busy working and there was no chance to speak.
There was no such thing as that time when she had been alone, leaning against the "abacuses" and staring out to sea. Moreover, whenever the boy resolved that he was sick of it all and that he would put Hatsue completely out of his mind, on that very day he was sure to catch sight of her among the bustling crowd that gathered on the beach when the boats came in.
City youths learn the ways of love early from novels, movies, and the like, but on Uta-jima there were practically no models to follow. Thus, no matter how he wondered about it, Shinji had not the slightest idea what he should have done during those precious minutes between the observation tower and the lighthouse when he had been alone with her. He was left with nothing but a keen sense of regret, a feeling that there was something he had utterly failed to do.
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