Ishihara on Mishima

I was looking through back issues of Japan Echo and found a 1995 dialogue between Ishihara Shintarō and Nosaka Akiyuki. Since the Tokyo governor has been in the news lately for his views on homosexuality, I found this part fascinating:


I was reading Mishima before I met him, from around the time I was in high school. There wasn’t much in the way of entertainment in those days except for the movies. It was usually a double feature, and I’d always look forward to the next one. I remember seeing a preview for Junpaku no yoru [Whitest of Nights]. This white-complexioned youth, Mishima Yukio, was appearing in it, along with the actress Kogure Michiyo, who was still in her prime and quite beautiful. I didn’t know what sort of story it was, but Mishima was introduced as the phenomenally talented young writer on whose book the movie was based, and I remember thinking he really looked the part. He was being called a young prodigy, a genius, and that was exactly the impression he conveyed.

I was interested, and I wondered what sort of things he wrote, so I began to read his stuff. Just about that time his novel Kinjiki [1951–53; tr. Forbidden Colors, 1968] was being serialized in the literary magazine Gunzō, and I found it really absorbing. I’d look forward to each installment. I had no knowledge of or interest in homosexuality, but I was impressed by the way he made something I couldn’t even imagine seem perfectly natural. I was still a virgin myself. But I was intrigued by his virtuosity and panache, portraying homosexual passion in such seemingly genuine and authentic terms.

During his last years, Mishima once asked me which of his works I liked the best. When I told him, Forbidden Colors, he said, “Oh, that’s nothing but showmanship. I’ve gone way past that.” I said, “Your inspiration is failing you now, so all you write about is actual incidents, but that period was really your peak.” He was angry. “What the hell are you saying?” he snapped.


The above is from “Mishima: The Man and the Mask,” Japan Echo, spring 1996, pp. 74–81; a translation of “Mishima Yukio no eikō to zasetsu,” Subaru, December 1995, pp. 84–99. This is pre-web for our company, so it isn’t available in digital form. If you’re desperate for a look at the whole thing, let me know and I’ll see about digging up the ancient Quark files or scanning the magazine pages into a PDF or something. I’m probably failing my company by not telling you to contact us to buy a back issue, but frankly I don’t know whether we have any of this one left.