Yukio Mishima is a dark and mysterious character in modern Japanese history. He was born pre-world war II and wrote in post-war Japan, he was unhappy with its changing face and its throwing away of its tradition after the defeat by the US. The book ‘Confessions of a mask‘ is semi-autobiographical (or at least it is believed to be, as the main character is called Kochan, which is a diminutive form of his own real name: Kimitake. So from here on out I will treat this book as a form of autobiography, rather than a novel, thus I will use the name Mishima in place of Kochan.) In this book he expresses how he grew up and what formed him into the man he now is (at the time of publishing the book he was twenty four). Anyone who knows anything of Mishima know that his life was anything but mundane and mediocre, and his end (1970) was in honour of his traditional lineage and an ultimate sacrifice for his nation and the emperor (the ideal, regardless of whether there was one or not). His final act was meant to be a hope for the future of Japan to show the way, and in this way many consider him a hero.
He begins the book by reflecting on his earliest memories. Because the memories are so early in his life they are mere flashes of memories and not much can be gained from them other than glimpses of what was later to come. He has the memory of reading an epic tale of a Knight who has to die many times and be resurrected in order to gain his lover. Mishima notes how this disappointed him: it seemed better that the hero die and stay dead, which would actually make him a hero. He explains how as a child he would put his hand over the section after the knight dies which explains how he was resurrected. So, he would read the story and skip the hero being brought back to life. This suggests that Mishima, even at an extremely young age was already naturally and genetically manifesting a uniquely Japanese example of honour and what makes a hero.
One of the main memories is being taken by his grandmother who raised him, and didn’t let him outside or to play with the local boys. This made him rather introverted and made him the kind of child who wrote, drew and read instead of socialised. For a young boy to not play with other young boys, to learn sports and how to fight in both the real and social sense is damaging to any male – and this did damage him. It also made him timid. He would be playing with his female cousins, and wasn’t allowed to make noise because his grandmother was ill and noise would physically harm her. So he would be among girls, and play awkwardly and quietly. He describes one time where he invited the girls outside so they could make noise, and then began a game of war, where the girls pretended to have guns while screaming boom boom and bang. He passionately describes how they gunned him down and how he dramatically threw himself onto the floor and played dead. He played dead so well the girls asked him what he was doing, to which he explained I’m dead. He then reflects on how even at that age and while playing, there was a joy to dying and being gunned down, and then laying there, a defeated combatant and a man.
One of his early memories is that of watching a shrine be marched through his street, and the march reached the gate to his grandmother’s and broke some of her plant pots. At this, child Mishima ran away and was terrified by what he seen. Another early memory he has was that of watching a military march go passed in the street while he watched from the roadside. He expresses with vivid imagery of how their military march and attire affected him, but what really affected him was the smell of the military men marching passed. They left a smell of masculine sweat in the air which he describes as gold in the air. This is a hint that Mishima was not masculinised by normal and natural interactions with men and boys, he was missing a strong father figure (there or not, he was not getting masculine father like attention) and thus was becoming infatuated by strong men like military men, knights, samurais and tales of heroes. But of course he is too young to view these infatuations as sexual. He is merely fascinated and interested in such masculine sites as a child.
This changes as he grows up. He explains how when he was about twelve years old he was ill and got to skip school. He found a book of his father’s which had graphic art in it like classical art of the Greek and Roman style, naked beautiful ladies, wrestling naked men, Caesars and Saints. He skips around the pictures, being more interested in the male bodies, and states how he found the female body boring, while he stared at the male bodies as if he wished to possess them, admiring them. This isn’t necessarily sexual, until he gets to the last page which he seems to believe was left at the end as if fate wanted him to find it and for the picture to alter his life into his current path. The picture he finds is Saint Sebastian tied to a tree after being shot with arrows as a form of execution for treason against the Roman state for being a Christian, while also being a Praetorian guard. He stated how this image did something to him which at the time he couldn’t explain. It made him touch himself in a way he was never taught, but naturally knew. It made him masturbate. He was then left with a feeling of sadness and emptiness, cleaned up and moved on. This seems to be the beginning of Mishima connecting masculinity to sexuality for himself.
He then moves on to when he was fourteen years old. He was like all the other boys, looking for a practical joke to play on his class mates and running around having snowball fights and so on. He begins to build a picture of a young boy called Omi who has been kept back a few years because he simply doesn’t care to do his work, homework or do much else but have contempt and frown at people. Because he has been kept back a few years he is older than Mishima and his classmates, and because of this Omi is better built physically. He is not the tallest, but the most well built to be manly, strong shouldered, solitary and exemplifies strength. Mishima tells the story of one of his fat friends giggling while telling him that he has been told that Omi gets all the girls and that he has ‘a big one’. He then explains how the boys had a naive game where they would grab each other by the genitals when the other was unsuspecting just to see the look of shock on their victim’s face and create a scene. Since Omi was meant to have ‘a big one’ Mishima explains how a feeling of dread came over him. He never tried this game on Omi, but watched to see if anyone else could – they couldn’t. Omi always walked around with one hand in his pocket, he was always on guard. Omi, because of his build, and their school uniform which looks like a Naval outfit often looks like a solider, and when they do military training like rifle shooting and he has military gloves on he already looks the part of a soldier.
Mishima explains how he would be the first to walk to school the way that he did, and when it snowed he was always the one to break the first snow on that way to school. But one day he looked out of his window and could already see footprints going the way he did. This made him curious and go to investigate the footprints. He guessed from a distance that they were Omi’s because the footprints looked so large, but while inspecting it in person instead of from a window, he thought it couldn’t be his because they weren’t big enough. Now he is even more curious and follows the footsteps. He finds the letter O carved into the snow, and further up the letter M and then he finds Omi carving in the final I. He hasn’t been noticed so he throws a snowball but misses, Omi doesn’t seem to care or notice, but without turning tells him ‘Don’t touch my letters!’ Mishima then explains how he suddenly felt a sense of guilt and shame, he had in that instant figured out that Omi wasn’t lazy, a drifter, or a moody young man who didn’t care. He was a sensitive soul who showed himself off in public as uncaring to protect himself. Mishima doesn’t know what to say so brings up snow fighting, to which Omi claims it is childish, to which Mishima replies wearing wool gloves is normal for both adults and children, to which Omi takes his leather gloves off, and slaps them on Mishima’s face and tells him while the inner warmth of the gloves sink into his cheek ‘Poor thing, I bet you don’t even know how leather gloves feel. Here!’. From this Mishima falls in love with Omi and says that it was in that moment that he knew it.
He moves on to another glove story, that of the white gloves. All the boys of the school were wearing white gloves because it was a special day of ceremony. All of the older boys had forced the younger boys off the play ground, and Omi was on a log held up by chains, and challenging people to knock him off. Mishima watches him defeat countless children, and when Omi screams ‘Come on, anyone else!?’, Mishima volunteers. While they are trying to push each other off, Mishima slips and accidentally grabs Omi by the finger tips through their gloves. He describes how in that moment he felt pure love for Omi and could feel the fact that Omi could see it in his eyes, this made him embarrassed. They both fell to the ground, defeating each other. Omi then picks Mishima up roughly, and then walks with linked arms back to class. Mishima describes how no one would think anything of linking arms as many of the boys did it, but to him it was special, and full of joy. Both Omi’s and Mishima’s white gloves had dirt and frost marks on them, and throughout the rest of that day he kept looking at Omi’s gloves and him, while Omi payed no attention to him. He would get depressed about that and then stare at the stains on his gloves and think about what just happened, because he could not think of anything else. It dominated his mind and feelings at the time.
Because of the rumours which led Mishima to want to see his ‘big one’, he also wished to see Omi’s naked body because from the school uniform he can already tell he was well built and he was curious. He becomes ill and takes a day off, when he comes back he found out the day off was a medical check-up day where all the boys wait in the doctor’s room to be inspected and weighed which would have been the perfect time to see Omi nearly naked or at least with his t-shirt off. His feelings towards masculinity (although only applied to Omi) are now much more sexually awakened. He also expresses how his desires are contradictory. He liked strong characters who have a revolt about them. For example a revolt against intellectualism, but he also explains how the moment he spoke to anyone he liked as an image, the image would be smashed by some intellectualism which instantly put him off. The mental ideal was always shattered by the physical reality. He explains how that is contradictory because he himself was intellectual and weak, but he wanted a strong and anti-intellectual type of person, but could not offer anything of the like to them. This left him feeling doomed to never love except in an abstract sense, from a distance he would watch and leave alone those he liked.
His homosexuality was complicated. For example he remembers a time when Omi showed off in front of the class when he was selected to do the pull up bar first. He did exactly that, impressing all of the boys with his raw energy and life force as he pumped away with his huge (in relation to the other boys at least) biceps. But Mishima was more interested in seeing his armpit hair. None of the boys his age had any (including himself), but Omi was ahead of them and clearly more of a man. As Omi pumped away at the pull up bar Mishima stared, as he finished and dropped down with a smirk of pride, Mishima distinctly remembers closing his eyes while he has an erection, shaking his head and claiming ‘I no longer love Omi’. He didn’t love him, he was jealous of him and his power. Through this jealously love left, and rage was replacing it.
This seems odd, if he was so aroused by Omi then surely he was still in love and homosexual, but that is where Mishima’s homosexuality begins to unravel. He speaks of staring at him self in the mirror after a bath, with his arms raised over his head and his hands crossed behind it like Saint Sebastian, he stared at the lack of armpit hair. He also recalls a time where he went out fishing with his brother and sister, they were recalled to the parents by a maid, but he dismissed her angrily wanting to stay staring at the sea and stay in the sun even though it made him ill. He remembers concentrating on his own armpits as an image in his mind and then masturbating in the open, in front of the sea. Doing this in front of the sea when not being able to swim, being in wonder at the danger of the sea and its foaming waves, and also being ill from the mere act of being in the sun you can see that Mishima’s homosexuality wasn’t the usual desire for a feminine man, or even a masculine man, but for the ideal that he himself wished to be. The danger of being seen, of the sea and the sun was probably part of the attraction to him – to be more stern and throw himself into danger and take it. He didn’t actually want Omi, he wanted his traits for himself so he could love and respect himself. In this frustrated way his sexuality was built through a desire to be something he wasn’t. Which is even more obvious in hindsight as later in life he became a stern practitioner of Samurai ethics and sword fighting, a body-builder, a military strong man and a stern willed traditionalist who would die for the Japan he identified with. Mishima, like a rising sun in the nation of the rising sun, wished to soar and defied all urges to tie him down. Through his sexual narcissistic homosexuality he made himself into the man he could love, and through this he became a heroic figure of masculinity, he became all the figures he respected as a child, and all the figures he loved in his teenage youth. He speaks of a day where the news of Omi being expelled from the school was going around, and then having imagery of him as Saint Sebastian. As he thought more and more about the pull-up bar incident, he became more and more sure that Omi had an affinity for Saint Sebastian.
Around this time he also reveals a funny story about how he was becoming ill, and was later diagnosed with anaemia. The doctor put forward a few reasons why this might be from a list in a medical book, but Mishima spotted he didn’t read one of them out, but Mishima read it, it said: self-pollution. From this and the fact that the doctor skipped it, he felt ashamed that he had been found out. He says that with the anaemia he began to develop a lust for blood. He would, as he lost blood or that of healthy blood, have dreams where he massacred people, sometimes even people he knew. He would watch people kill each other, and then kiss the lips of the fallen. His hero worship and sexual lust towards death was evident even at such an early stage of his sexual development. He also had a dream about a young boy he went to school with who was physically fit and was a swimmer. In this dream the boy is strangled and then served up on a silver plate to eat. Mishima begins carving his flesh and enjoys the flow of blood.
Mishima does also express his first realisation that he may be different to usual boys in a sexual way. One of his school friends had died of tuberculosis and he had visited the mother in order to pay his respects. The mother is now childless and a widow. One of Mishima’s school friends asks about him visiting, and Mishima replies by saying that she will be happy to see the school friend as now she would be lonesome from her lack of a son and husband. The friend understands this to mean she will want sexual and affectionate interactions in order to feel less alone, so he teases Mishima for being dirty. Mishima awkwardly fails to understand what he said would be a normal way of expressing a desire for an older woman because they are attractive to a young naive and sexually driven boy. From this Mishima understands that his desires and urges are not normal for a young boy, while he is sexually aroused and wishes to masturbate, they are by and about different things than usual boys.
Except Mishima denies this in some ways and not in others. He puts forward how he was exactly like all the other boys with the way he approached sexuality, in such a way that no one would watch him and think otherwise. He also states how sometimes he would even come across as usual to himself to such a degree that he could fool himself. An example of this is when he meets his second cousin. He finds her pearl like teeth attractive, and her smile has a sweetness combined with the smell she gives off and the kimono she wears, and how she wears it in a polite and shy way. She sits next to him and says how she is tired, she lays down and rests her head on his thigh and he speaks vividly of how special this made him feel. He didn’t feel aroused, but honoured. Another case like this is when he would take a bus and see the same woman over and over again. He stared at her, fascinated at her moodiness and her pout of impatience and indifference. When he got on the bus and she wasn’t there he would feel an emptiness, a desperation to see her and just be around her again. He fools himself in these ways into thinking he is a usual boy with usual interests. At about this time he decides the aim of his desires is to get a kiss off his friend’s older sister who is in her twenties. He speaks about how she viewed him as a little boy and child, how he was ugly in the same way that all young boys are – he lacked the guts to speak well, the manhood to stare into people’s eyes and the body of a hero to pull a woman close. Never the less, he wishes and seeks to get a kiss from her. It is while he expresses this that he states ‘I came to realize that I had possessed not a single trait that could attract a woman. Thus, at long last, I admitted to myself that I could never become an Omi and, upon further consideration, that my desire to become like Omi had in fact been love for Omi’. (p.80-81)
It is odd how he expresses this realisation that he was in fact in love with Omi at about the same moment that he begins to have his first feelings for a female. One of his friend’s sisters, called Sonoko, can be overheard playing piano when he visits his friend’s (the friend is a boy of the same age as Mishima called Kusano) house. Kusano and Mishima are twenty, while Sonoko is eighteen. Kusano is called to duty and to a Naval base. This friend is allowed a family visit and the friend’s mother invites Mishima to go with them. He agrees. Before this he would get embarrassed when Sonoko entered a room and he would stare at the floor and only see her legs at the edges of his vision. Now he is waiting for Sonoko, her siblings and mother (their father is dead, so the mother is a widow, and Kusano, Sonoko and the rest of the siblings are fatherless). As he sees Sonoko walking towards him holding the hand of her younger sibling Mishima sees something he fails to be clear about. All he can say is that misery filled him and their was something about Sonoko that deeply distressed him. I think Mishima was overly aware that he had nothing to offer to girls, and when he fancied one he would feel a feeling of dread because of his low self-esteem. He gets over himself and talks to her, and then waits for the parents, and then enters a train. Sonoko and Mishima sit facing each other, while her mother sends the siblings to sit with her. Mishima uses this moment to turn on the seduction, he gives her a note saying how the mother is being careful, Sonoko blushes and Mishima responds to the blush by saying ‘Isn’t that right?’, to which they both blushed and stare at each other. Later that night Mishima is tortured with the thought that he was pretending. He feels that because he has had no sexual desires towards women ever, he must be wearing a mask and can’t figure out what is him being true or false. Instead of being happy something was going his way, and that a girl he liked was reciprocating, he instead tortured himself into the night about his masks.
This goes back and forth for a while. As Sonoko and Mishima return from the visit there are victims of bombing runs and burned down villages. Because of this Sonoko’s family decide to move to their grandparent’s in a more rural area in order to be safer from the raids. This fills Mishima with sadness, he goes to visit Sonoko before she leaves and is given an envelope with a thank you note and an address inside it. Mishima replies to this, he feels an urge to devote himself to her, he finds her sweet and attractive but can’t help but feel he is lying by saying he loves her, but he can’t explain his feelings towards her as anything else but love, but it comes across more like honour bound duty. She replies to his letter with a sentence that he becomes hooked on: ‘I am longing for you’. He repeats this over and over again under his breath. Clearly he wants her to be in love with him, but it is not clear if he loves her.
Mishima does get his wish for a kiss, but not in the way he wanted. He goes to visit his family who have also moved to their grandparents and falls ill. While in bed suffering from this illness an old family friend called Chako who is a loose woman, begins teasing him for being in bed, he tells her to leave, she waves her kimono over him and he feels her getting closer. Before he realises it their teeth have clashed as she goes to kiss him, he asks for another and another until she stops. Nothing more happens, but he meditates on how he thought about nothing but Sonoko during the kissing, but is confused why. The kissing didn’t arouse in him any sexual feeling, and Sonoko doesn’t either so why was he thinking about her? The next day he ignores Chako and leaves without meeting her or saying goodbye properly. Sonoko and Mishima then swap photos, Sonoko uses Mishima’s in a locket while the picture of Sonoko is so large he puts it in a special case. While on a train a siren sounds and they are ran out of the train to a shelter, just before he leaves the train he realises his bag and special case have been stolen, which contained the picture. While visiting his family his sister picks up on the fact that he is in love and asks him if he will marry her. He is confused, and says no, realising for the first time that he hadn’t even considered marrying and having children like a normal person. While thinking about this he gets the urge to see Sonoko as soon as possible, pondering on this he wonders if this is love? But as always he tortures himself, this time with the thought that how can he be in love with her when he feels no sexual desire for her, yet when he masturbates he will think about young men that he has passed who look rough, rugged, strong and militaristic, and anti-intellectual.
He does visit her for several days, he even gets to do what he set out to do: kiss her. She is clearly in love with him and smitten, and the family treat him like they are trying to figure out whether to accept him or not. She asks him to stay another day, but Mishima makes up the excuse that his base is strict and would send him to a labour camp if he didn’t return when they demanded it. This isn’t true, but he feels trapped and wants to leave when he had planned to leave. This makes him sound slightly autistic (my view, not Mishima’s or Sonoko’s). Before he leaves she lingers in his room waiting for him to come over to her. She says how she expects a gift next time he visits, he tries to play the fool and says that he will try and think of something, but she says not something with a shape. She clearly means a wedding proposal, but he plays dumb. He and her makes a promise that he will get a gift. Later on in this visit she asks him if he will visit again, meaning will you come to marry me or not ever come back and leave it as it is? He replies weakly that he will return if he isn’t killed during the war or bombing raids. He hates himself for not saying ‘of course I will come back, and I will come back just to make you my wife’. She says that she knows he will return and not die because she prays to Jesus every night that he will be okay, Mishima spends no time discussing her Christianity or how odd it is for a young Japanese lady to be a Christian in the first place. He then leaves with her to get a train with the family. They all say goodbye, they do not kiss because the whole family is there. While the train is leaving she mouths something to him while holding up the locket with his picture inside it just above her breast. What she mouths he does not say, but I’m assuming it is ‘visit me’ or ‘please come again, and marry me!’.
When he arrives at home he contemplates suicide genuinely for the first time in his life, and only throws the idea off because it would be a form of defeat, which he admits that he always hated to admit defeat. Mishima is invited to see Sonoko’s brother Kusano again, to which he goes. Kusano takes him to the side and states: I have an important letter for you which should be at your home in the next few days. As Kusano stated, the letter arrives in a few days, what is in it is what Mishima already assumed it would be: a plea from a good friend to decide Sonoko’s future: offer marriage, or at least say you love her and will marry her later on, or admit you are not willing to marry her and stay away. Kusano is not trying to guide his hand, but to know what will happen later in order to settle Sonoko’s heart and the family’s concerns. Mishima comes up with many excuses to say no: that he is young and needs to grow up, that he hadn’t developed feelings yet and it was too early to marry, this is his way of indirectly refusing her hand in marriage: like a coward.
As he delivers the letter to a post office he begins to hear news of Hiroshima and that the war will soon be over. With this thought he is filled with dread, the feeling he will actually have to start living properly when the war is over. He can’t just ghost around into his future anymore. He ‘must begin that ‘everyday life’ of a member of human society. How the mere words made me tremble! (p.145). As the Americans dropped leaflets about the future and how they would win the war and Japan would have to stop, Mishima is too busy navel-gazing, disliking his fellow people who want the war to be over because good times are on the way, and equally disliking those military style people who swear an oath that they will continue to fight to the death and die with honour for the emperor. Mishima, a young man of twenty is simply bored with his and other people’s own existence.
As Mishima moves on he goes to the age of twenty two. His sister has died, and he hears news that Sonoko is now married. Hearing she is now married makes him feel like a burden has been removed from his shoulders. He is at law school again, now the war is over. While talking with one of his friends, his friends figures out that Mishima is still a virgin, so they invites him to a brothel. Mishima agrees and finds that the women are unable to arouse him. From this his friend and another friend who is a lady’s man, figure out that Mishima must be a sodomite. When his friends leave, he has a sleepless night while he sobs his night away until he goes back to fantasising about blood and torture.
He begins to go to social parties where they play games and drink a little. He notices that a woman is accidentally pulling her skirt up, instead of looking away like a normal scandalised person, he stares at her pale thighs being shown by accident. He notes how he stares at them not in a sexual passion, or a reactionary urge, but in a calm examining in the same way that you examine an inanimate object. Through this he becomes self aware: ‘Suddenly I was struck by the astringent pain that comes from staring too long at something. The pain proclaimed: you’re not human. You’re a being who is incapable of social intercourse. You’re nothing but a creature, non-human and somehow strangely pathetic.’ (p.153)
Instead of socialising, he concentrates on studying, not because the subject is actually interesting but because it is a way of punishing himself and also keeping his mind on one thing. He explains that he had bloodshot eyes and enjoyed people in public noticing these tired and over worked eyes. While taking a streetcar he spots Sonoko looking down, his heart throbs and he feels breathless, then she moves and he realises it isn’t her. While walking about town he does actually run into Sonoko, but because of his previous shock at seeing ‘her’ on a streetcar he isn’t caught by surprise, and instead just feels like it had to happen because of earlier. He observes that their is nothing about her that presents her as a married woman. They have some small talk about studying and novels. They say goodbye and good luck, but he calls her back in order to ask if she ever visits her parent’s home. She replies that she is going this Saturday, he is shocked by her attitude towards him: it seems she has forgiven him. He feels insulted by this forgiveness, and thinks to himself maybe this insulting pain will go away if she insults him at least once. This shows an edge of masochism, wanting to be hurt, but also showing that he is aware that he deserves a punishment which may suggest that while his thinking is complicated and confused, he can at least judge himself accurately by seeing he should be insulted for what he made her be like towards him.
On the following Saturday he visits Kusano, and Sonoko is there playing piano, just as she was when they first met. Mishima expresses how it upsets him that Kusano, out of goodwill for him, doesn’t ask why what happened between Sonoko and Mishima didn’t end in marriage. When Sonoko and Mishima manage to be alone, Sonoko explains how she loves her husband and how is good for her. She then pauses and explains how she is still confused, and often wonders why her and Mishima couldn’t marry. She asks him if he liked her. Mishima replies by saying that she doesn’t know anything of the world. Then he slips into weakness and states ‘Besides, nowhere in that letter did I say definitely that marriage was out of the question. As I said, it was only because I was not yet twenty-one, and was still a student, and it was too sudden. And then while I was hesitating you went and got married in such a hurry.’ (p.158) Sonoko replies by saying that she has no need to regret it, as her husband is a good man and treats her well. Mishima lets out some of his violent nature when he replies by saying that she hates him, and she hates him violently. She replies that he can think what he likes, then Mishima surprises himself by asking to meet her again, but this time alone. He is puzzled by this, he didn’t want her sexually, so being alone would be pointless, but he wants to just be around her. He admits that merely being around her was enough to calm him and it was a gift to be around her. She asks what is the point when she is married and should protect herself from such a sensitive situation, and that he will understand when he has a wife. She admits that the human heart is fickle and that they can never know what it wants until it is too late, and has already made the mistake. He makes up some excuse to push that aside, and then Kusano returns and both of them stop their conversation.
He says that since that night he has made sure to avoid women, and hasn’t had a single kiss since, not even from the kind of men he finds sexually attractive. This led to chronic masturbation of often five times a day. He began meeting Sonoko once every few months, making excuses to leave when there, but also feeling a tranquillity and also a pleasure from how immoral it was to be meeting a married woman, having no sexual desire for her and having her not think anything of it. After about a year of this Sonoko does begin to pick up on this, even her, in all of her naivety, is not that naive anymore.
Mishima and Sonoko meet again, during Summer at a restaurant. He informs her that he has left the civil service and he will let the future tell him where to go and what to do. They talk about anything and nothing, he says they talk like two strangers. She ends up playing with her handbag, and he asks her ‘are you bored of this?’. She replies that she does not know why they meet, it confuses her but she always ends up meeting again, like they are being drawn together. She expresses how she shouldn’t be doing this because she is married, regardless of how nothing has happened. Mishima begins to see that Sonoko has developed doubts and is about to close the slightly ajar door of their relationship because of this doubt. She feels she is playing with fire, and needs to grow up and stop. She states that she will be baptised soon and should start acting like she already has been baptised – the baptism serving as a way of making yet another promise to be a good woman, just like the marriage ceremony. Mishima stops her and asks who she is thinking of right now, she replies that she is thinking about her husband. He replies by saying it isn’t necessary to get baptised then is it, she replies by saying it is necessary because she feels afraid and she is shaking violently at the prospect of what will happen if she doesn’t stop acting like a child, instead of acting like the married woman she is. Mishima then asks her what she thinks now, but he accidentally knocks over a glass vase full of water as he reaches for an ashtray, and ruins the table he is sat at. They don’t say anything else to each other, but as they watch the ruined table cloth be removed and cleaned they both feel a sense of wretchedness and they use it as an excuse to leave.
The area is crowded outside and they end up going to a spot for dancing. They both feel suffocated and hot, but carry on dancing for two hours. After this they go outside for some fresh air and to cool down. Outside are a group of four: two men and two women. One of the men is talking to the two girls, while the other one is more reserved. He isn’t wearing a shirt because it is too hot. He is well built, muscly and rough looking with tattoos as if he is in a gang. Mishima stares at him becoming sexually aroused to such a degree that he forgets Sonoko is even there with him. He is too busy thinking about this man’s fit body, and how if this man’s perfect torso was cut open with a blade how wonderful it would look.
Sonoko makes a statement which reminds him she exists. He makes a comment about groups of people and it being crowded, her lack of a response tells him that she didn’t even notice the group or the man he can’t stop staring at. Sonoko pulls a face of excitement and asks Mishima if he has had sex yet. He replies that he has, shocked by his own response and how easy it was to blatantly lie. She asks who and when, he replies when but not who, saying ‘please don’t make me say her name’. Because of the way he said all this so seriously Sonoko falls silent and acts as if she is frightened by the atmosphere she has created by asking. While Mishima was concentrating on drawing attention from the fact that all of the blood in his face had left. They both look at their wristwatches as if making an excuse to leave. It was time to go. Before they left he stole one last glance at the area the man was standing in, but he and the group were no longer there. The table they were at appears to have had a drink spilt across it, the liquid reflects the intense sun and Mishima is once again filled with a violent dread. This sun’s reflection could be viewed as many things: the social reflecting the nation, Japan being the sun and the reflection being the people, the sun being the atom bomb and the reflection the destruction of the Japanese people who thought they were the sun, the sun being reality reflecting on Mishima and making him feel ugly, the sun being the world and the reflecting being Mishima’s mask which he hides and confesses under, and finally the sun being the future and the ugly reflection being Mishima’s future which he feels a sense of violent dread over. This is how the semi-autobiographical novel ends.
There are so many things to get into with Confessions of a mask. He certainly is making confessions of his true nature, and also dropping his mask long enough to see what and who he actually is. At this point he was only twenty four and had yet to turn into his masculine ideal, the kind of man he would of been in love with if he had met himself when he was young. His openness is striking and sincere, but he doesn’t seem to be seeking sympathy. If anything he is telling you how flawed he is and making it clear that his intentions weren’t always good, he makes no excuses, he gives only reasons. While he explains himself to the best of his ability he is still confusing, but he himself was a confusing person, and even more so to himself, so that is to be expected.
His sexuality is confused, but clearly within the ball-park of homosexual, or at least homo-eroticism (like the Greek’s ancient culture), and the men he likes are masculine examples, rather than feminine. He seems to view femininity as pathetic, and he also views anything other than looking at the man he finds attractive as feminine. He never approaches them, he merely wishes to look and stay away: by talking to them or approaching them he would ruin the ideal he needs to be aroused, killing any chance of a real tactile relationship. He is interested in the ideal, not so much the real. This later leaked into his political and social philosophy when he took up traditional Japanese masculine traits and became a military buff, and also became an international star with his writings, but also with his final deed. It is hard from this young man’s writing to foresee the man he eventually became, but you can still see traces and roots, which was the most interesting thing about this read for me. It is well written, he writes beautifully, his use of metaphors and symbolic language gives you a feeling of dread and foreboding towards what he must have been feeling in said events. It is a complex, confusing, and intriguing look into one of Japan’s greatest modern minds, writers and traditionalists.