It had been a year of waiting and planning. Winds were quiet, the sun played loudly. It was one deep breathe that pushed Yukio Mishima forward. It was a speech meant to seize the hearts of soldiers, to grab them by their shoulders and shake them. Wake up! Wake up! We must take it! That's what he wanted it to mean…that's how he had dreamt it...or perhaps he didn't. Perhaps it went a bit differently as he slept. Perhaps he meant for it to be a grandiose exit. Perhaps, he had planned it that way all along.
For a year, Yukio Mishima and the Tatenokai (The Shield Society) had plotted to overthrow the Emperor. Their anger stemmed from the Emperor's renouncement of his divinity. Yukio, who had fought in World War II, aggressively armored himself to such an announcement. He felt that too many "gallons of blood had been shed for our living god…our Emperor." The plot seems thin…how could such a reasonable thought spurn a man to such a violent coup d'etat, they thought. The answer lie simply in Yukio's strict belief in bushido, the code of the samurai. Yukio felt strongly that Emperor Hirohito should have been abdicated and held responsible for the loss of life in WWII. In the eyes of the samurai, those lives were lost in vain.
On November 25, 1970 Yukio and the Tatenokai visited Ichigaya Camp, headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan's Defense Forces. Yukio captured the Commandant and the Tatenokai barricaded themselves in the Commandant's office. It was then that Yukio made his desperate appeal to the soldiers to rise up and overthrow the Emperor. The soldiers scoffed the young man's words, they laughed at his passion. He had failed. In his mind, in the mind of the samurai he possessed but one option…seppuku. Suicide by plunging a dagger into his stomach. The final step in seppuku is for the defeated samurai to be beheaded. Yukio walked plainly into the Commandant's office and stuck a dagger in his stomach. He bled out slowly. His head was then removed from his body and the movement was dead. Yukio had left the world as a young man, which is exactly what desired.
"All I desire is beauty," Yukio wrote in his diary. He struggled to find the beauty in a post-WWII Japan. Harold Curlman wrote, "He wanted to make himself beautiful as well as strong. Beauty for him was purity, a purity which might realize itself in noble action. He did not want to grow old for then he would not die beautiful. But his love of beauty was not simply personal."
His love of beauty was not simply personal in that it extended to post-war Japan. "We watched Japan become drunk on prosperity," he said, "and fall into an emptiness of the spirit." Japan, its culture, its poetry had become ugly to him. He had built up a romantic image of what he thought it should be…he romanticized Emperor Hirohito as a divine being, it broke him when the Emperor failed to live up to his expectations. No one could live up to the poet's expectations. No one ever has.
Yukio was a poet, a novelist, a playwright, an essayist, an actor, and a model. A homosexual man, he married a beautiful woman who gave him two children. He was a loving husband and father, but it seemed he felt trapped in his own body. His novel Confessions of a Mask touch heavily on this idea. The novel follows a young homosexual man, Kochan, who struggles to find his place in Imperial Japan. Kochan is wearing a mask, hiding his true feelings. Many believe this work to be highly autobiographical.
By the time of his suicide, his final farewell to an ugly world, he had written thirty-four novels, fifty plays, twenty-five collections of short stories, and countless essays. The man was an artist urging his country to beauty...unreachable beauty. He had always wanted to die young and beautiful. His coup d'etat, however unlikely, was his final attempt at achieving such beauty. A final romantic plea. One last beautiful goodbye. He knew it would not work. He knew November 25, 1970 would be his last day. He was 45.