Yukio Mishima – Sun and Steel

Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), pen name for Kimitake Hiraoka, is one of those very few persons that is of capital relevance within the frames of this blog. The reason is very simple: he had both body and brains, and not just some of it, but both to a very large extent. A brilliant and intelligent writer and thinker, as well as a strenous narcissistic light-weight bodybuilder, that during his last years in life, before he commited seppuku due to a failed and misguided coup d’état in Tokyo, had built a quite impressive physique that at least partly could match his inner qualities.

He also practiced samurai swordplay, and as much as his political endeavours failed dramatically, he was at least not recreant and passive. My point is definitely not to panegyrize Mishima’s actions in that regard, but rather to emphasize that his physical abilities exceeded normal weight-lifting, which in their isolated forms, are often – but not always – characterized by societal convenience and recurrent pshysiological modes that dull both internal and external dynamics and self-development.

Although Mishima has written a lot – in particular plays, novels, and essays – it is Sun and steel (1968/1970) that is perhaps most associated with body and brains, since it mixes poetic and philosophical expositions with cogitations which emphasize more physical aspects of human existence. Overall, it can be characterized as an autobiographical essay.

To be honest, it is acutally not one of my favorite works of Mishima, and I will probably deal with other works that I put more value to in more depth. Nevertheless, it consists of some eminent quotes that deserve people’s attention. Here is one example:

It was only when I, in my turn, saw the strange, divine blue sky, perceived only by that type of person, that I at last trusted the universality of my own sensibility, that my thirst was slacked, and that my morbidly blind faith in words was dispelled. At that moment, I participated in the tragedy of all meaning.

One I had gazed upon this sight, I understood all kinds of things hithero unclear to me. The exercise of the muscles elucidated the mysteries that words had made. It was similar to the process of acquiring erotic knowledge. Little by little, I began to understand the feeling behind existence and action.

One can learn a lot from Mishima’s insights and his lifestyle, especially in later years, which accentuated a multifaceted, immense and dynamic approach to physical and intellectual conduct.