February 17, 2009 in Big In Japan
As Rene Sance so eloquently reminded us, Mishima Yukio’s acclaimed writings and spectacular death resonated deeply throughout 1970s Japan. Mishima’s rhyming of samurai ethics with a form of Emperor worship that retained the most virulently totalitarian and even fascist overtones of wartime ideology seemed to bespeak a potential within Japanese culture to be tempted into repeating the mistakes of World War II once more. In a period where the ultra-right and the ultra-left both habitually engaged in outright terrorism to further their respective goals (a practice the ultra-right engages in even today), Mishima’s acts, as excessive and immediately ineffectual as they were, still resonated as a sign of the Japanese political sphere’s potential volatility, and were thus received with a certain gravity both within Japan and without.
Yet, this reaction to Mishima, which has been handed down in both Japan and abroad (for example, in Paul Schrader’s 1985 art-house hit, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters) obscures the campy side of Mishima’s life and legacy, the side that indulged in winking star turns in stylish crime capers and wrote the screenplay for the movie debut of Japan’s first, and still most beloved, transvestite star of stage and screen, Miwa [née Maruyama] Akihiro. But even more interesting than Mishima’s own appreciation of camp may be later receptions of Mishima as camp. Read the rest of this entry →