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Mishima Yukio

(1925-70). Writer of fiction, drama, and essays. The best-known and most widely translated modern Japanese writer. Real name: Hiraoka Kimitake. Born in Tokyo, Mishima later attended the elite Peer's School (now Gakushūin University). His early novels explored homosexuality and self-awakening. Later novels combined contemporary events with traditional themes and genres. In 1968 he trained in secret with the Self-Defense Force, and the next year he formed a private army of 100 men which was sworn to defend the Emperor. For Mishima, the Emperor was the abstract essence of Japan itself, not a reigning monarch. On November 20, 1970, after staging an unsuccessful appeal for a revision of the constitution so as to permit rearmament, Mishima commited suicide by harakiri. Today, however, Mishima's reputation rests on his literary accomplishments and not on his politics, though his violent death continues to fascinate both critics and the reading public. Famous works include Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kamen no kokuhaku (Confessions of a Mask), and Taiyō to tetsu (Sun and Steel). (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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