November 25

This Day in History

General Interest

Nov 25, 1970:

Mishima commits ritual suicide

World-renowned Japanese writer Yukio Mishima commits suicide after failing to win public support for his often extreme political beliefs.

Born in 1925, Mishima was obsessed with what he saw as the spiritual barrenness of modern life. He preferred prewar Japan, with its austere patriotism and traditional values, to the materialistic, westernized nation that arose after 1945. In this spirit, he founded the "Shield Society," a controversial private army made up of about 100 students that was to defend the emperor in the event of a leftist uprising.

On November 25, Mishima delivered to his publisher the last installment of The Sea of Fertility, his four-volume epic on Japanese life in the 20th century that is regarded as his greatest work. He then went with several followers to a military building in Tokyo and seized control of a general's office. There, from a balcony, he gave a brief speech to about 1,000 assembled servicemen, in which he urged them to overthrow Japan's constitution, which forbids Japanese rearmament. The soldiers were unsympathetic, and Mishima committed seppuku, or ritual suicide, by disemboweling himself with his sword.

Though his extreme beliefs did not gain him much of a following, many mourned the loss of such a gifted author.

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