Paul Whiteman mentioned Mishima Yukio in a comment on my last post. Having read nearly all of Mishima’s translated works over the years and aware that he participated in the 1st World Kendo Championships in Tokyo in 1970 (the year of his suicide), I am curious to understand more about his kendo career.
Yukio Mishima or Kimitake Hiraoka (his real name), was perhaps best known amongst kendoka for his short story Ken on which a film was based, little information however seems to be available about his own kendo history. The best English language resume was posted courtesy of Tom Bolling on the Washington University site. I have edited out any non-kendo facts
- born January 14, 1925, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo
- died November 25, 1970, Ichigaya Headquarters, Tokyo
- entered Tokyo Imperial University 1943
- graduated in law 1947
- June 1958 began Kendo under Kendo Kyoshi 7th Dan Masami Yoshikawa, assistant instructor, Higashi Chofu Police Station
- December 1958 practicing Kendo in the basement exercise hall of Daiichi Seimei under Kendo Kyoshi 7th Dan Takayuki Yamamoto
- August 1959 resumed receiving instruction in Kendo under Yoshikawa Sensei
- April 1961 Kendo Shodan
- March 1963 Kendo 2nd Dan
- November 1965 began Iaido at Himonya Police Station in Meguro
- January 1966 took part in Kendo Friendship Competition with Councillors in the House of Councillors Training Hall
- March 1966 Mishima entered the Sainei-kan Training Hall within the Imperial Palace grounds to study Kendo and Iaido under Kendo Kyoshi 7th Dan Masami Matsunaga
- May 1966 Kendo 4th Dan
- February 1967 Iaido Shodan
- August 1968 Kendo 5th Dan
- April 5, 1970 participated in the 1st World Kendo Championships, Nippon Budokan, Tokyo
Accounts of Mishima’s life including Henry Scott Stokes extensive biography, give little information on his kendo interests. The most I could gather is that he trained in kendo twice a week and concentrated on body-building twice a week. It is unusual for someone who had practised twice a week for 11 years to at the age of 45 reach a suitable standard to represent Japan. I was however told that his participation was in some kind of goodwill match.
Mishima was obviously a complex character with an enormous literary output ranging from popular fiction to formal Japanese literature. His reactionary politics and desire to return to the values of the samurai were obviously genuine, but it’s hard to say whether or not the nature of his death was as much influenced by a spirit of narcissistic masochism. Nevertheless he was clearly one of Japan’s most eminent writers and someone who did much to promote kendo through his writing.