Spring snow or Haru no Yuki in Japanese is Mishima’s 1969 novel. The first in his tetralogy known as the Sea of fertility, and extremely late in his writing career. The story is about Kiyoaki Matsugae and his friend Shigekuni Honda. Kiyoaki is the son of an aristocrat which comes from a Samurai family, his father is Marquis Matsugae. He was given to the Ayakura family to be raised in the art of elegance which is where he was raised alongside Satoko Ayakura who is two years older than him. They have a complicated relationship which moves and sways like a Shakespearean tragedy. This lasts from childhood to their twenties, this is their story.
A story is told about Kiyoaki when he was a child. It is during the Meiji period and he gets to meet the Emperor Meiji himself, and is rewarded with a pat on the head. He also meets the princess but stumbles, the princess then smiles at him, instead of scorning him for failing in his duty. He tells this story to his teacher and would be butler, Shigeyuki Iinuma, and he looks on the young Kiyoaki with scorn for the way he is failing to take responsibility for this stumbling in front of the princess. During this party where the Emperor is at the household, Marquis Matsugae watches his son and is worried by how handsome he is. He stands out and something about it worries him, but being an optimistic man he pushes it aside.
Kiyoaki grows up and becomes a melancholic teen. No one and nothing about his family and surroundings explain why he is this way, he simply is, which makes him stand out in yet another way. He has also formed habits and likes which keep him isolated and separated. He and Honda, his friend, are now eighteen. Honda is a rather bright and serious young man who has an uncanny ability to know what Kiyoaki is thinking about. while Kiyoaki has grown into a cynical person who doesn’t really see the point or fun of anything. He dislikes his fellow students, how they sing the national anthem, how they exercise, their militarism and pretty much anything that seems meaningful and full of energy. In this way Kiyoaki and Honda are good friends, but have nothing in common by nature or interests. They are like the plant and the flower, utterly different but related. Kiyoaki feels his family is ready for a falling apart, they have worked hard and got into success, but with this success and the gaining of elegance the family must cripple itself and fall again. He is overly aware that he will be the one to deliver this fall, because his nature is a poison, so by his own nature he must poison his roots because he doesn’t have any anymore, being so obsessed with elegance instead of hard work or knowing who you are.
Honda persuades him to come with him to the pond on a boat. He tries to make an excuse about not wanting to row, or to get Iinuma to do it, but Honda pushes this off by saying they don’t need someone to row because he will do it. They get out on the boat, and Kiyoaki out of boredom and forgetting his dread of the snapping turtles looks out to the land and can see a group of women. As the women walk closer, Kiyoaki realises who it is. It is his mother, with Satoko and her aunt. Satoko is a girl who is two years older than Kiyoaki and grew up with him. She is in love with him, as most people are. But Kiyoaki being the way he is doesn’t care. He is described as an indifferent mould, that when touched spreads its indifference everywhere.
He and Honda join the group as they are being shown around the garden by the mother. They come to a waterfall which seems to have something wrong with it, they notice that at the top of the fall there is a dead black dog which is making the water fall oddly. None of them want to point it out and be rude, but Satoko boldly points it out and Kiyoaki feels ashamed of himself for not being so bold, while Honda is impressed by her boldness. Honda tells Kiyoaki about how attractive she is, and he pretends he hadn’t noticed. For him, the fact that she loves him and is attractive is just how things are, and if she wasn’t attractive he would be offended by her love, although he isn’t interested either way.
The aunt offers to give the dead dog a burial prayer, and Satoko asks Kiyo (that is what she calls him) to join her in picking flowers for the burial. He makes a joke about what flowers do you pick for a dead dog, but then goes anyway. He tries to ignore her picking and not look into her eyes, it annoys him that her body is well shaped and she keeps bending down. Before he knows it she is walking up to him and asks him bluntly, ‘Kiyo, what would you do if all of a sudden I weren’t here any more?’ He tries to act uninterested but just blurts out why would she be gone all of a sudden, she says she doesn’t know why, thus dropping doubt into his heart. This is why he hated her, because she would take his clear water and then drop a single blob of ink into it to spread like a disease, thus his calmness was thrown into anxiety. She smiles, knowing she has achieved her goal. He hates her and suddenly has a terrible mood. The group are shocked by his mood when he returns, and when they go back to the household they all gossip about his sourness.
He has a meal with his father and mother which is a very rare event. He listens to their talk where they express that Satoko is annoying because she was implying she would be marrying the man she was set up with, but randomly turned him down. Kiyoaki is in a bad mood until he hears this, he assumes that she suddenly refused because he showed her that he cared by answering her riddling question with concern. Then his father offers for him to come with him to sleep around with some women. Kiyoaki refuses and storms off in a mood. He goes back to his room and contemplates revenge on Satoko for the way she puts him in a state of chaos. While he contemplates this he lays in bed on his side, on his left side can be seen a set of three moles.
Two princes visit his household and while they are showing him pictures of the women they will marry, they ask him if he has a woman he loves and will marry. He gets uncomfortable and says that in Japan we don’t have gift pictures of people, which is a lie. He has an entire album full of Satoko which he has built since childhood because she was the only female friend he ever had. So instead he says that he will introduce them to her, but confuses himself. How can he introduce them to a woman he loves when he doesn’t love her, and he had only yesterday sent her a letter explaining she is nothing but a slut like all women are, so he isn’t interested in anyone, and especially not her.
He considers that the meeting of her with the two princes needs to happen, and the letter needs to not be read. So he rings her although it is very late. He makes her promise that if a letter arrives she will burn it without reading it. He then explains that he is going to take two princes to a theatre and he will pay for a ticket for her and her maid. Satoko is made up and her voice clearly shows the pleasure she is taking in being taken out in such a way by Kiyoaki.
The plan goes ahead without a hitch. Kiyoaki introduces Satoko to the princes and they tell him that he is lucky he has such a beautiful woman in love with him. Everything is going well. but he senses under Satoko’s pleasant smile the knowledge of the letter and what was contained within it. Later Satoko expresses to Kiyoaki how happy it made her to be introduced to the princes as if she was his fiancee.
Kiyoaki meets Satoko’s maid and makes her slightly drunk in order to find out if the letter was received and burned. She admits that she received it and burned it herself, so it is not possible that Satoko read it. This makes him more relaxed and feel that his life will go onto better things. He and the maid ignore Iinuma as he walks into the room, only addressing him to point out that Kiyoaki had noticed how when he goes to pray at the shrine, there seems to be more than just praying on his mind. They both laugh while Iinuma begins to panic, not knowing what to do without seeming dishonourable. Satoko’s maid explains how Kiyoaki had told her how Iinuma passes the maid’s quarters when he goes to pray and had passed a love note to one of the maids. He doesn’t know what to do so he remains still and full of dread. Kiyoaki makes it clear that he won’t let anyone find out, he will help Iinuma get his love and also not get him sacked from his job, on the condition that he helps him and Satoko’s maid in their plan.
One morning it is snowing heavily and Satoko invites Kiyoaki to skip school and go on a snow trip with her. Shile on this trip they end up holding hands and kissing. She begins to cry with happiness. Because Kiyoaki had skipped school Honda is worried and thinks something is wrong, but Kiyoaki dismisses him rudely when he rings him, and the next day at school instead of explaining why he wasn’t at school he just leaves Honda to speak about an unrelated subject.
Kiyoaki then tells Iinuma about an elaborate plan. He has told the maid that he was interested in to meet Iinuma in secret in his grandfather’s library. While he waits in the library for the young maid he is nervously worrying himself into oblivion. He is shaking with anger at Kiyoaki for doing this, and setting up meeting her in a place which he considers a shrine which should not be disrespected, and not only that but this maid he likes is one which regularly sleeps with Kiyoaki’s father. When she knocks on the door he quickly takes her being driven by his anger and desire to have revenge on Kiyoaki. He pities her but is also full of rage, not wanting to dishonour this room he ravishes her in a corner closest to a window filled to the glass by snow. During this she looks up and can see rats running back and forth, implying the utter rottenness of the entire situation.
Satoko sends Kiyoaki a love letter, and while at a party he can’t help but compare her to every women he sees. The fact that they don’t compare makes him proud. He hides in order to surprise her with a grab and a kiss, but she seems upset by this. He kisses her but she is crying and calls him a little boy. She then storms off after delivering a short speech about his pathetic immaturity. He has no idea what has brought this on and he takes himself off to bed. He cannot get over what has just happened so he calls in Iinuma. He then explains that he had heard from the maid that he is now sleeping with, that Satoko’s maid was asking about Kiyoaki and women. She let out some details which Kiyoaki had invented when he sent the insulting letter that should have been burned. It is clear it was read as these details only exist in that letter. Kiyoaki turns cold, and the one time Iinuma feels sympathy for him, willing to cry and hold him if he gets upset is slapped down by Kiyoaki pushing him out of his room with a frozen face of no emotion.
Satoko’s maid keeps ringing Kiyoaki’s household, but he is so angry that he won’t answer. She comes to the house but Iinuma has strict orders to refuse her. She makes it clear that if she is refused she will take no responsibility for what happens next, she is still refused and leaves. Kiyoaki receives a large letter and calls Iinuma into his room to be a witness to him burning it without reading it. During a dinner with his mother and father, they speak about how another marriage proposal has been offered to Satoko and would Kiyoaki have anything to say about it. He makes it clear it is none of his business, then his father explains how this marriage will not be able to be refused if he doesn’t speak up now. Again, he makes it clear it is none of his business and he has nothing to say. An upcoming yearly party is mentioned, and the father explains how Satoko probably won’t have time to come to it if this marriage is going forward, then Kiyoaki calmly states that they shouldn’t bother inviting her then. The father then states that Iinuma will be sacked soon because of his actions with the maid, Kiyoaki figures out from this that this is what Satoko’s maid was implying when she threatened action, but Kiyoaki couldn’t care less.
Satoko is then going to a formal meeting to be introduced to the Emperor’s son who is proposing marriage to her. She was waiting on an invite to the yearly party for a chance to see Kiyo, as she calls him. But the invite never came. Iinuma leaves Kiyoaki’s household with the maid and will soon marry her as the father let them both go and implied they should marry if they wish to be together. Kiyoaki says goodbye, that he will visit and he wants a letter from him soon, but deep down he is glad he is going. With Iinuma and Satoko gone, his emotional well being isn’t in chaos anymore. The yearly party passes, Satoko isn’t there and Kiyoaki as always, couldn’t care less.
Kiyoaki receives yet another huge envelope off Satoko’s maid and tears it up in front of his butler. His mother is on the way to see her when she invites him to come with her to congratulate Satoko on being accepted to marry the Emperor’s son. He says no, but to pass on his regards. This makes him happy, that he is finally rid of her and all the anxiety she causes him. However, days later, being the unstable person that he is he keeps telling himself that he knows he loves her. He thinks the fact that are so far torn from each other proves that this love is real.
He comes up with a plan and basically kidnaps Satoko’s maid while she is travelling. She agrees to go with him and talk somewhere private. He explains that he wants to see Satoko and if she denies him this request he will send the last letter he received off Satoko to the emperor. This letter was sent after she and the emperor’s son begun the process of arranging for marriage, which is how he is using it as a threat. Satoko has been raised to respect the emperor and to bring this shame to light would mean the death of her entire family name, and also an accusation of treason which could lead to the family being forced to commit suicide or be executed. She is stunned by his calculating nature. She agrees because she has to. Satoko is brought to him in a safe private place and he forces himself upon her, but it is clear that with every act of resistance she is also allowing him to do this – she is performing her duty of resistance, but her heart is in love and wants what is happening to her. After this first time, she then stops him from leaving and they make love. He doesn’t have to force anything, and she assists him.
When they are done the maid enters and begins to redress her. She addresses Kiyoaki and asks him if their deal is now done and would he return the letter. He explains he will not, because he wants to see Satoko again. The maid is incensed by this, but Satoko stops her and makes it clear that this will continue to happen so long as Kiyoaki hasn’t given the letter back. It is clear that Satoko wants this and has been dreaming of having Kiyo since her childhood, so she is not willing to let go. While Kiyoaki is enjoying the fact that she is going against the God-Emperor in order to have sex with Kiyo – this fills him with arrogant pleasure. She is willing to dishonour herself, her family and even the nation and emperor just for him.
Kiyoaki visits his friend Honda and for the first time in their friendship actually tells him exactly what is going on and confides in him. Honda is surprised to see that Kiyoaki has matured, maybe not in a good way, but he has certainly become more of a human being. Honda reflects on how now the Meiji period is over we don’t have a war of the trooper to engage in, but he thinks that this new period will not be the age of war, but the war of emotions, and men like Kiyoaki are the new young emotional trooper ready to wage his new war on the front-lines.
Kiyoaki, Honda and the two princes go away to a beach house for a holiday. Kiyoaki is using this as an excuse to seem out of his home area, while planning to sneak back to meet Satoko with no one knowing he is in the area. He tells Honda about this and makes him promise to make excuses for him, Honda agrees and is happy Kiyoaki is being so open with him. The two princes mention reincarnation and the transmigration of the soul, Kiyoaki and Honda listen interested, but not knowing anything about it can’t say much in reply. Honda argues with them in order to find out more, and one of the princes explains that it is not that one person is living through several bodies, but the same current is flowing through each reincarnation, and that the whole of existence is like a great sea with all of its differing and weaving currents. Could there be one great collective flowing current which made up all of these smaller flowing currents? Could our consciousness also be a grain of sand to a fuller consciousness the size of the sea, of which we are merely a speck of? These thoughts hold Honda while he watches Kiyoaki and one of the princes build a sand castle of a great temple. During this beach visit, while Kiyoaki was napping on the sand, Honda could see the set of three moles on his left side. He stared at them lost in thought.
Honda gets a hold of a car from a friend, and uses it to take Satoko to Kiyoaki. She explains how it is wrong for Honda to be involved because he doesn’t deserve to get punished for their sin. Satoko and Kiyoaki make love on the beach and on the return journey brings up that same statement about Honda being involved. She makes it very clear that it offends her that Honda is involved because this dirty little secret should be hers and Kiyo’s only, she has built a tiny palace in her head and heart for Kiyo and her to dwell in, while the world and reality slowly crushes in on it. She notices she has sand in her shoe and begins pouring it out, Honda looks away but thinks about how the sound reminds him of a beautiful hourglass. This metaphor is well used as Satoko and Kiyoaki only have a limited amount of time to enjoy this relationship, and when pushed, Satoko would be more willing to die than to give it up. It also turns out during the conversations of the visit that Satoko’s maid now knows that Kiyoaki had destroyed the letter he said he kept in order to see Satoko.
The two princes receive a letter which explains that one of the princes fiancee has died of illness, and this fiancee is the sister of the other prince. Both are upset and return home. As Kiyoaki watches them board a boat and leave, he thinks to himself how this signals the end of his youth. He goes for a walk with Satoko and she explains that when the wedding with the emperor’s son is set a date for and done, she and Kiyo will no longer be able to have this relationship. He expresses the urge to keep it going even then, but she makes it clear that he should just be happy for what they have left and enjoy it, because after that it is over. She is happy that this even happened, so she has reconciled herself to her fate. Kiyoaki again, sees this as a sign that his youth is over. He was no longer a child, his impending doom was on its way.
After noticing that something was wrong with Satoko, as she was acting like an ill person, her maid invites her for a walk, and sits her down when they are in a secluded shrine. She explains to Satoko that now she has fallen pregnant it is time to stop this relationship with Kiyoaki, and also time to rid herself of the baby, if she does not the marriage would be called off. Satoko asks if she will go to prison, and the maid explains she won’t, but she then in reply expresses the urge to go to prison just to see if Kiyo would still love her. She then makes it clear she will decide whether to follow the maid’s plan or not, but that time will not be now.
Kiyoaki tries to force another meeting between the two but is informed he will have to wait ten days, he does but is in agony and cannot concentrate. When they finally do meet it is just for a short conversation, he tries to set up another meeting at night so they can make love but it is clear that it won’t happen, and the next time they can meet will be another ten days for a short talk again. Satoko looks ill and tired, He tells this to Honda and it is clear he is very upset and is showing signs of desolation.
He attempts to see Satoko by stalking outside of the family mansion, but doesn’t have the guts to ring the bell or sneak in. Nine days pass and his father invites him into his family library. In there his father shows him a letter from Satoko’s maid which explains what has happened without naming Kiyoaki, but explaining that she is pregnant and it needs sorting out. She refers to herself as a dead woman, but the father just states she is ill, but she actually attempted to kill herself out of shame, but was caught in the act and is now pretending to be ill while she recovers in order to not bring shame to the family. The father asks Kiyoaki if the child is his, and he says yes. The father begins beating him with a billiard cue, the mother and grandmother enter and stop this from continuing. Kiyoaki admits to them that the affair is true and this child is his. They come up with a plan for Satoko to make a trip to a shrine as an excuse for her to see an abortion doctor. The father then forbids Kiyoaki from leaving the home and seeing Satoko, he is to concentrate on studying from now on. The plan is made with none of his input, and he feels as if they are taking his relationship and burying it without noticing that they are planning the burial in front of the corpse of that relationship: himself.
Satoko’s maid is visited by Satoko’s father. She brings up an event eight years ago when Kiyoaki’s father had said that he would find Satoko a man worth marrying. Her father was so annoyed by this that he told the maid to plan ahead and let Satoko sleep with a man she loved before she married the man that Kiyoaki’s father had put forward. This was for revenge. But the man she is to marry is the emperor’s son so the plan should naturally have been changed. The maid refuses to take responsibility because of this plan, and he begins to doubt she was going to kill herself, so he asks her if she actually planned to die. She doesn’t really answer, but instead states that if he told her to she would certainly try. However, in eight years you may have forgotten what you said, as you did about the plan. This comes across as an insult, but could simply be her being blunt and honest with her master.
Kiyoaki sees Satoko off at the train station, but nothing meaningful is said. He realises she was late on purpose so the saying of goodbye would be reduced. He tells her to take care of herself but doesn’t dare touch her, she tells him to do the same, says goodbye and uses the nickname Kiyo as always. Satoko has the abortion performed, and then visits a shrine as planned with her mother. The shrine is to children and safe births. They stay there and during the night her mother wakes up and Satoko is missing. She is praying to the shrine and has cut her hair. she and the abbess of the shrine speak for a long time and then invite the mother back in. The abbess explains that Satoko has decided to take on the training to become a nun at the shrine.
The family of Satoko visit her again in order to change her mind, but it doesn’t work. They instead come up with the plan to pretend that she has had a mental breakdown and has became a nun to help her mental health. They then get a doctor to sign a medical record and certificate to prove it, this is presented to the emperor and then published as news. Kiyoaki reads this published story and thinks that this is Satoko’s way of getting out of the marriage so that Kiyoaki and Satoko can be together again.
A newspaper article is written by Iinuma which expresses that Kiyoaki’s father is failing to be pulled into the marriage’s failure, yet he was the one who set up the emperor’s son and Satoko. He does not however write the story in anyway that suggests there is more to the story than just Kiyoaki’s father hiding and Satoko actually having a mental breakdown. Within the article he has left his full name and address, Kiyoaki assumes this is him giving his address over to Kiyoaki in a way that isn’t suspicious, like a letter through the butler or a visit to the mansion of a man he just accused of being unjust and hiding.
A poem recital which happens every year at Satoko’s fathers happens and Kiyoaki is invited because he was invited every year, so to not invite him now would look out of place. While he listens to the poems in the presence of the emperor he cannot help feel that he has betrayed his majesty, and now there is nothing to do but die. He has also forgotten his dread of snapping turtles when he drinks a wine and is then informed that it is the blood of a snapping turtle which the chef made especially for him.
Kiyoaki requests some money off Honda because he is not allowed an account, and then while at school he sneaks through a fence and leaves. He travels to an inn just outside of the shrine that Satoko is becoming a nun at. Every time he travels to the door he is refused entrance. Because of this he makes harsher travels to get there in order to prove he deserves entrance. He stops being taken there and walks instead, he begins to fall ill with a fever, but still walks through the spring snow to get to the door. He collapses at the door and is refused entrance once again. The janitor then picks him up and returns him back to the inn.
Honda arrives at the inn where Kiyoaki is being treated for pneumonia. He can barely speak, and is having fits of fever. Before he leaves to go to the shrine to ask if they will let Satoko see Kiyoaki, Kiyoaki sees him go to leave and is crying. Honda goes to the shrine and asks to see the abbess, she invites him in and talks to him. He puts forward his request for the two lovers to meet, but she rejects it. She explains that when Satoko started her training as a nun, she made a pledge and promise to the Lord Buddha to never see him again in this life, leaving their love to the next. He expresses that Kiyoaki is so ill that he may not make it on his way home, he may die. The abbess is adamant in her reply, it remains unchanged: it is a no. She then explains what religious system that this shrine works under, she mentions several works and Honda makes a mental note of these titles so he can study them when he returns home. He then leaves as quickly as he can.
Honda takes Kiyoaki back to his home on the train. While on the train he takes a note out of his pocket which he was asked to give to Kiyoaki’s mother. The letter explains that their is a dream diary in his desk, this should be given to Honda as he would enjoy it. Kiyoaki then calls out in pain, so Honda puts the note away and goes to help him. He is having chest pains as if he is being stabbed, and then he loses consciousness. After a few moments he awakens and tells Honda that he just had a dream, and that he knows he will see Honda again, beneath the falls. Honda assumes that he is referring to the waterfalls in the garden of his home. Two days after Kiyoaki returns home, he dies from his pneumonia at the age of twenty.
The writing is beautiful, you can tell that Mishima was very late in his writing career with this book. It has a finesse and style of a confident writer who knows exactly what he is doing and what he wants to show the reader. This story is a love tragedy worthy of the Ancient Greeks. Mishima’s use of metaphor, his writing flow and vivid imagery are breathtaking. He had taken on the huge task of writing a four book story line and to finish it with his own death. As the beginning of a swansong, this book is a beautiful gem. This story does not show that the writer has a promising career ahead of him, instead it tells you that this writer is in his prime and already has a promising career under his belt, and that he is ready and willing to use it to weave this powerful and alluring narrative.
Runaway Horses or Honba in Japanese is Mishima’s 1969 novel. The second in his tetralogy known as the Sea of fertility, and extremely late in his writing career. This story follows Honda as a thirty-eight year old, and Isao Iinuma who he comes to believe is the reincarnation of his childhood friend Kiyoaki twenty years after his death. Isao is a young man with a violent vitality to him, he has a dream of committing honourable suicide in reverence to the sun, and feels that he is fated towards such a violent end which will help purify Japan of its current corruption. This is his story.
Honda is now a legal judge, and is married to a judge’s daughter called Rie. They are childless. One of his superiors was meant to be going to a Kendo competition but cannot make it. Honda goes in his place and meets Isao Iinuma, who is the son of Kiyoaki’s teacher Iinuma. Who after leaving the household with his lover, the maid Mine, married her and had a son. Iinuma is now well known throughout Japan as a prominent right winger and the owner of the Academy of Patriotism, while his son Isao is only eighteen and entering the Kendo competition as an up and coming champion. Isao wins and dominates all of his competition. Hondo, who has no interest in Kendo, watches Isao and is gripped with interest at his show of sheer vitality. There is something about Isao which draws Honda’s attention.
After the competition Honda is invited to journey up a mountain with a priest, on the way down they decide to use the falls to clean themselves off. Isao Iinuma is there bathing, and Honda spots that he has a cluster of three moles on his left side, this puts him in an utter daze for days as he remembers Kiyoaki’s last words: ‘I’ll see you again. I know it. Beneath the falls.’ This leads Honda to think that Isao is Kiyoaki’s reincarnation, and when he died and how old Isao is does make it possible. He wonders if Father Iinuma had figured this out, but upon meeting him after twenty years it is clear he does not know. Honda invites Father Iinuma and Isao to his home for a meal: they both agree. While at the dinner Isao gives Honda a book he says has influenced him so much that he has read it three times already. The book is called ‘The league of the divine wind’, and is about a group of Samurai who rebelled against laws which made it impossible to be a Samurai and thus they died a glorious death for their identity and tradition. Honda reads this and sends it through the post with a letter to Isao.
In the letter Honda expresses the urge to have Isao control his youthful vitality and to remember they are no longer in the same age of the Samurai. Isao disagrees with pretty much the entire letter, but senses no corruption within it: Honda is being open and honest, and this makes him pure and worth keeping in contact with. Isao then visits Lieutenant Hori who sympathises with such rebellions. Isao is meeting him with the hope that the Lieutenant can offer him the death he desires, during the meeting he expresses this openly: he desires to kill himself honourably in front of the sun while staring at the sea on a cliff. He gives the Lieutenant the book he gave to Honda, he can use this as an excuse to visit once again to reclaim his book. After doing his training in the Academy of Patriotism Isao invites his two friends, Izutsu and Sagara into his room. There he reveals a map with purple shaded areas which is his mark of corruption. He explains the best way to rid this nation of corruption would be to bomb the whole place and use Lieutenant Hori as a trusted contact to get it done. He warns his friends to remember that they cannot rely on bombs however, the sword is what they must rely on, and their own bodies as the explosive bombs.
Isao visits the household of Lieutenant-General Kito (a famous soldier and poet) and his divorced daughter Makiko with his two friends. While they discuss what people in Japan should be the first to go, he is surprised by Makiko’s agreement on the matter that such violent actions must be taken. Isao then visits Lieutenant Hori and they have a Kendo dual, Hori is both impressed and shocked with Isao’s talent and natural vitality. Hori returns the book to Isao and says that he found it very stimulating and can now understand more about how Isao thinks and feels about the modern situation. The modern situation is not the same, it is much worse and requires even more drastic actions. Hori then tells Isao that he has been invited to meet Prince Harunori Toin who was the Prince engaged to Satoko, and that he would like Isao to come with him. He agrees to go. When Isao’s father hears about this he forbids him to meet the Prince, during the argument he takes Isao’s gift book of ‘The league of divine wind’ and throws it into a puddle of water. Isao doesn’t understand why his father is so against it, because he does not know that he blame’s Kiyoaki’s death on the Prince and his engagement to Satoko.
Isao gets his hands on another copy of the book, and lies to his father in order to get to meet the Prince. During the meeting the Prince makes it clear that many people in Japan deserve his hatred and if they were to disappear he wouldn’t complain. Isao gives him the gift and the Prince asks him what he would do if this gift offended him. Isao replies that he would cut his stomach open, and then the Prince asks what he would do if he appreciates the gift and agrees with the sentiment of the men contained within it, Isao replies he would also cut his stomach open. The Prince is taken aback from this show of loyalty, he is impressed with Isao and gives him several gifts. When leaving Hori makes it clear that the Prince was happy with Isao, and in the future if he needs him he will use him for his divine will. Isao then visits his friend and tells him to hold onto the Prince’s gifts. If he was to take them home he would be found out.
Isao and his two friends invite twenty accepted members of their group to a shrine for a meeting. When they arrive Isao explains there was no reason for the meeting, so several leave, but most stay feeling something else is going on. Isao then asks them if they are willing to make a sacrifice even if that changes nothing, does nothing and is pointless. They all state yes, and then take the vows of their group: to rid Japan of corruption, to work for no personal advancement and gain, but for the restoration of their nation. During this meeting he notices a woman is watching them, this is Makiko and he had forgotten that he had in fact told her about the location and time of the meeting in passing. She invites him and the group of men to a restaurant, having been gifted money for food from her father for the group.
When he gets home he is received by one of the men in his father’s group: Sawa. He is doing the laundry and invites him into his room for tea and rice cakes. Sawa begins telling the story of how Isao’s father had to use dirty blackmail tricks in order to make money to keep the group alive years ago, and no longer has to because times are good for him monetarily. Isao doesn’t know why he is being told this until Sawa random inserts the idea that Isao can go after whoever he wants, but do not go for Busuke Kurahara because if anything happens to him no one will suffer more than his father. If Isao does go after him from a sense of loyalty, he will be betraying his father. Isao is utter shocked by this being randomly thrown out in such a careless way, and by Sawa of all people. When Isao and his friends were discussing who deserves to be killed most out of everyone, Busuke Kurahara was the one in the number one spot.
Isao leaves in shock, but comes back to ask Sawa what he means by this. Sawa explains that he wants to join Isao’s group and kill Kurahara himself, while the youth of the group shouldn’t be wasted on such acts. Isao feigns ignorance about the purpose of the group in order to force Sawa to do one of two things: 1. Remain silent of the group’s purpose because it has been denied, 2. Go and kill Kurahara himself and not expose the group’s purpose by acting alone.
Isao, his father and Honda all go to a purification shrine and Isao goes missing after being scolded by the priest for being too energetic. Isao runs off with a hunting rifle and kills a pheasant, as he returns some red berries fall on him and create a necklace. Honda watches from a distance mesmerised by this image of him with a red necklace, rifle in hand and a dead pheasant. If there was any doubt that Isao was the reincarnation of Kiyoaki, this doubt is now truly and utterly dead. In Kiyaoki’s dream book he had described this exact image of Isao standing this way. Honda now considers it a fact that Isao is his friend’s reincarnation.
At another meeting Isao and his group discuss their plan and set a date for it: December the third, at ten o’clock at night. They have an envelope which contains several notes of one hundred yen and it is from Sawa, again this confuses Isao. It is not clear whether this money is because Sawa is about to go and assassinate Kurahara, or because he is allowing the group to carry on with its mission with his lips sealed. Isao meets Lieutenant Hiro again and is implored to give up his plan. Hiro is about to leave the country on Army duty and won’t be back for some time. Because of this he cannot help with the plan, and Isao cannot rely on the army for any help whatsoever. He makes Isao say that the plan will be put on hold, while Isao has no plans to actually stop. On the walk home he feels he is retreating and begins to weep, while remembering the words of a Kendo instructor who berated him for his retreating during a fight.
At another meeting of the group Isao explains what happened with Hiro, how the army will not help and the other Lieutenant who was going to use a plane for them to drop leaflets won’t help either. Several of the boys leave, and a few days later some more do, leaving eleven of the twenty: but these left are the best of the boys, so Isao doesn’t mind too much. One day when they meet again Isao arrives to find Sawa there, he requests to join saying that he will either join the group or have to be killed right here right now. They let him in and they draw up a new plan: instead of doing sabotage and many other things like bombings and leaflets, they should concentrate on assassinations only. Eleven boys will be sent out with eleven targets, and Sawa will take out Kurahara, making twelve targets. Isao does research for his target, Toru Shinkawa. Finding out that he is a late night reader and the last to sleep, Isao plans to strike when he is the only one awake still up studying in bed.
He visits Makiko in order to say farewell. He wants to look at her face and leave, to cherish the face as an image in his mind, so the farewell is idealised. But she invites him in, he refuses and leaves, but she follows him believing that he is angry with her. He explains that he isn’t angry and she asks him without being prompted when the event will be. He gives her the date, and she hugs his chest and looks up at him. They kiss and she says that she will visit a shrine to pray for their success. Little does she know that the flowers she gave the boys will be in their pockets as they commit suicide after their assassinations are fulfilled. As he held her in his arms he felt a feeling he had never felt before, as if holding her in his arms made her more naked than nakedness itself, as if by touching her he had never been so far away from her before. He was overwhelmed with a feeling of rapture. This feeling was like a runaway stallion breaking free of the yoke.
On December first, two days before the plot would go ahead, all twelve members of the group are arrested. Honda learns of this in the papers and offers to defend Isao for free out of a sense of loyalty towards Kiyoaki. Isao’s father accepts and takes him for a meal to show his gratitude. During this meal Isao’s father gets mildly drunk and tells Honda that he is the reason they were arrested. He didn’t want his son to waste his life, and also thinks that when Isao gets out of prison he will be considered a hero by the public, thus can live his life as a hero of their Academy without needing to die. Honda senses that the father is in fact jealous that Isao was about to achieve an honourable bloody glory and stepped in the way out of that jealously.
Honda is invited to meet the Prince as he wishes to meet the man defending Isao. Honda carefully manoeuvre the conversation in order to remove an accusation which can be made of Isao: that he has committed treason by using the Prince’s name on his leaflets. This angers the Prince so much that he cannot think clearly, but Honda, being the wise tactician, uses this anger to make the Prince order the destruction of those leaflets so that they are secretly removed from the trial. With this Honda removes the worst accusation that can be placed on Isao: treason, which would destroy his family’s reputation, Isao’s sense of honour, and would also demand his execution. While in prison Isao keeps having a dream about being bitten by a green poisonous snake, and also keeps dreaming about being a blind woman, only knowing he is a woman by touch.
Isao and the group go to trail in July, almost seven months after their arrest. During the trial the inn owner Kitazaki who owns the inn that Lieutenant Hiro was staying in is used as a witness and to give evidence. Kitazaki is very old and has terrible eye sight, so he is allowed to approach each member of the group to study their face and try to identify which young boy visited Hiro. He recognises Isao and says that he brought a girl to his inn, when pressed to answer when this was he answers twenty years ago. The entire room dismisses him as senile, but Honda remembers the fact that the inn that Kiyoaki used to go to in order to see Satoko when he was blackmailing her was Kitazaki’s. Kitazaki being so old and close to death, could see that Isao and Kiyoaki were the same consciousness, without even realising they are different people.
The trial ends in December and the verdict is given: not guilty. This is based on the condition that the group was young, their desires and aims were pure and for the good of their nation, that they didn’t actually commit a crime, and there was no proof that the plan was going to be played out. Isao returns home to a party for him. During the party everyone is drinking, and Isao’s father tells him that it was him who got the group arrested knowing that this would make him return as a hero without needing to die . He also explains that the Academy of Patriotism is funded by the very people Isao was going to assassinate. He explains that by taking money off them and taking part in this impure action, he could always purify himself by killing himself when the time comes: he explains that this is what being an adult is all about. Isao lashes out at his mother stating that it would be better if he were reborn a woman, meaning this as an insult at her weakness. He is drunk and put to bed, Honda is by his bedside making sure he is okay before he leaves. Isao mutters something in his sleep: ‘Far to the south. Very hot…in the rose sunshine of a southern land…’ Honda feels a sense of futility about the whole situation.
While speaking to Sawa he asks him who it was that informed his father of the group’s intentions. Sawa explains that before his father knew and did anything he had a phone call off Makiko and then went to meet her, so it would make sense that she is the reason he went to prison. He then explains that Makiko fears losing those she loves, so she may have done this in order to keep Isao alive. There is a ceremony and party just before the new year, in the crowd Isao manages to lose Sawa. He purchases daggers and travels to Kurahara’s holiday home by the sea. He sneaks in an assassinates him, his maid enters which leads Isao to run away after confirming his kill. He runs to the sea, finds a small area looking out at the sea, kneels down and begins to disembowel himself as the sun rises and shines through his closed eyes. This is where this story ends.
This second novel of the four has a different style of language than the first. While the first had the style and language of a doomed romantic novel with an emphasis on the oscillation between raw powerful emotions and nihilistic apathetic numbness, the second novel’s language and style is nuanced with an oscillation between the silence of unutterable ideals and the power of action. Isao is not the romantic nihilist, but a silent idealist. In this sense he is the very opposite of Kiyoaki. He is not lost in his emotions, but stern, stoic, and always willing to favour actions over talk, he is willing to make things happen, rather than be dragged into his fate like the young Kiyo. This novel ultimately can be summed up when Isao quotes the Wang Yangming school of thought during his trial: to know and not to act is not truly to know.
The Temple of Dawn or Akatsuki no Tera in Japanese is Mishima’s 1970 novel. The third in his tetralogy known as the Sea of fertility, and extremely late in his writing career. This novel follows Honda once again, and the mad Siamese princess Chantrapa who believes that she is the reincarnation of a Japanese man and wants to be returned home. Honda begins to believe that this is the second reincarnation of his friend Kiyoaki, the first being Isao. This is her story.
Honda is in Bangkok in order to sort out a product problem with his legal advice. He is with a translator called Hishikawa. The land of Siam is now the land of Thailand, this is the same land that the two princes who made friends with Kiyoaki and Honda many years ago are from. Honda is now forty six years old, and asks his translator and guide if he knows anything about the two princes that he used to be friends with. Hishikawa says he can set up a meeting, but not with the two princes, but with a relative of their’s, as they are both away right now.
The relative he can meet is a very young princess called Chantrapa, and she was named after the princess who was the sister of one of the princes and was engaged to the other one. She died of an illness, and the name was given to this princess to honour her. Hashikawa explains that she is considered retarded and crazy because she is convinced that she isn’t actually Siamese, she walks around telling people she is the reincarnation of a Japanese, and wants to go home to Japan. Because of this she has been locked away in isolation. Honda rereads Kiyoaki’s dream diary and finds a section where he had a dream that he was on a golden throne with a crown on, and was wearing a big emerald ring which reflected a little girl’s face. This is the same ring that one of the princes had been given by his love Chantrapa, and he lost in Japan. Little does Honda know that Isao also had a dream about being a young woman who handled a snake and lived in a hot southern nation like Thailand. From this Honda becomes curious if she is the second reincarnation of Kiyoaki.
A meeting is set up and when Honda meets her she runs over to him, grabbing him and crying into his trousers. He cannot understand her and needs the translator. The translator explains that she is so glad to see him, she has been meaning to say thank you for what he has done for her, and to say sorry for killing herself. She then begs him to take her home to Japan. She is only a child, but clearly knows about Isao’s suicide and also how much Isao owed Honda. Honda then asks her two questions that she would only know the answer to if she was both Isao and Kiyoaki: she answers both perfectly. She then asks to see him again in two days, he agrees to meet her.
They meet again, and while the princess plays and bathes in the waters with her maids Honda cannot see a cluster of three moles on her body, he assumes this is because she is very tanned. His lawsuit goes well and he is allowed to travel to India, while there he sees many rituals of Hinduism and Buddhism. While waiting with countless people to see the Sun rise and be worshipped for being the entity of truth, he realises that the sun which Isao had constantly seen in his suicide dream was this full disc God in the skies. Honda feels that this exact image is what Isao was actually seeing. He has a similar experience with two waterfalls, one is falling perfectly while the other is being prevented from falling fully. With this image Honda wonders whether Kiyoaki’s words about meeting again under the falls were really about Isao under the falls, or was instead about these holy falls.
Honda returns to Thailand and is informed that the princess has been waiting for him to return because she thinks that he will be taking her home to Japan. He is asked to hide his return date so she does not know when he is leaving when he meets her. During the meeting something he says is mistranslated and the translator tells the princess that Honda is leaving, with this she gets upset and begs him to take her with him. He is forced to leave by her maids.
Honda returns to Japan and is happy to be around his wife Rie, and mother again. Not long after his return it is announced that Japan is at war with the USA and the public now know about the Pearl Harbour Kamikaze attack. He asks his wife to get a doll for the princess which he will send to her as a gift. He spends most of his time studying ancient Buddhist and Hindu books in order to know more about reincarnation, the transmigration of souls and such profound ideas such as these within the great religions of the East. All the while he is haunted with the idea that Kiyoaki’s and Isao’s graves are empty.
He visits an area on business and is within walking distance of Kiyoaki’s home, the Matsugae mansion. It was sold many years ago and transformed into housing areas among other things. He sees a woman crying and approaches her to ask if she is okay. It turns out this is Satoko’s maid, Tadeshina, she is now in her nineties. She asks him to visit Satoko as she would like that, he thinks about how much power her beauty had over him when he was young and Tadeshina can see this in his eyes. She accuses him of being in love with Satoko when they were young. After a short conversation she gives him a book as thanks for letting her have a gift off him, the book was given to her by a priest and no doubt Honda will get something from this book through providence.
The second world war ends, Honda moves out of his house and builds a villa from the ground up, and also nurtures a garden seeking to learn how to relax and have fun in his old age. Honda is now fifty seven. He lives next door to a middle-aged woman called Keiko who often comes round and helps out around the house. He invites her in and shows her an emerald ring, this is the ring that one of the Siam princes lost when the two princes visited Kiyoaki. It turns out that the ring wasn’t lost, but stolen, and thirty four years later he found it in a pawn shop. He purchased it and has invited the crazy princess to his house for a party. She is now seventeen, speaks Japanese and is studying in Japan. Since this ring was Chantrapa the first’s, and she was named after her, he wants to give it to her as a gift and to return it to the family.
The day of the party arrives and Honda’s wife comes home without the princess because she didn’t turn up to meet her. Keiko comes over and helps set things up for the party, then Makiko Kito arrives, who is now a famous poet, and she arrives with her friend who is also a poet called Tsubakihara. Honda is worried something has happened to princess Chantrapa, who is now commonly referred to as Ying Chan, and that she won’t turn up.
The party goes ahead without the princess, when the party ends some of the people who visited go to their bedrooms as they are staying the night. Honda makes a pass at his wife but is refused the romantic offer. He goes into his study and removes books from his bookcase so that he can sneak a peek into the room next door. He can see Makiko sat calmly looking at something, he moves so he can see what she is looking at and it is Tsubakihara who is Makiko’s poet friend and another guest called Imanishi having sex. Honda guesses that Tsubakihara in her respect for Makiko and always taking her orders is doing this to please her, while Makiko watches with a blank face and serene eyes. While Honda watches Makiko, who is watching this sexual intercourse, he realises that Makiko is his exact counterpart in this peeping act.
Both are peeping with a lack of emotional involvement and are serene in their observations. This peeking of Honda’s is odd, it contradicts his entire life so far: being a judge and always being the kind of boy and then man who worked logically. In his old age he is learning how to have fun but also being a bit of a deviate here. He now spends all of his time seeing to his garden, reading religious texts and enjoying the scenery of his household. With this he has relaxed his moral and legal fibres, so this peeping of his is a shock to the reader. Honda has grown old, and changed, maybe for the worse. The reader has always respected Honda for about one thousand pages worth of reading so far, this change in Honda is both depressing and exciting. It is depressing that his character which the reader has grew to rely on as stable and reliable, has now became absurd, but fun to read about. His character is now more fun to read, but with this fun is an uncomfortable realisation that there is something wrong with his actions, no matter the intention of why he is being this way. This makes reading about Honda feel unreliable, as if you cannot trust his inner workings and how he is interacting with people. For example, he seems cold towards his wife now, she complains endlessly and this is pushing him away. He doesn’t even believe her complaints, but when she complains to other people about him it doesn’t bother him. Yet, he feels a desire to be close to Makiko and has a magnetism towards her. We as readers do not know whether he is just being an honest and sincere man, or allowing himself to commit another act of his failing moral fibre. As this moral and legal fibre weakens and is soaked by the weather of old age, we feel something bad is coming this way. As if this weakening is readying itself for a catastrophic break. We cannot help but feel anxious that another indiscretion is about to be committed.
Honda returns home one day to find out that Ying Chan had visited to see him and then left when he wasn’t there. They miss each other a few times, and he sends her a ticket to a theatre. She turns up when the play is almost over, and during a meal with Honda she explains that she doesn’t remember thinking she was Japanese, reincarnated and wanted to move to Japan. She assumes that this was her being an imaginative child who mirrored the people she met: maybe she thought she was Japanese and reincarnated because saying that would please Honda. Honda himself doesn’t know what to think about this but acts strangely, not wanting to invite Ying Chan to his home because of his wife. He returns the emerald ring to her and she thanks him, and wears it from now on. He thinks to himself how he would like to see her utterly naked so he could see if she has the set of three moles, and if she doesn’t: he would fall in love with her. Again, Honda is being odd and illogical.
Isao’s father turns up to say hello on the pretence that he was in the area and couldn’t resist the visit. Honda assumes he wants money, but Isao’s father explains that he is ashamed of himself, he opens his shirt and shows a wound where he tried to kill himself by stabbing at his heart. He failed, and is ashamed of himself for not being as pure as his son. Honda is surprised by this and forces a packet of money into Iinuma’s pocket telling him to have the money and that it was a pleasure to see him again. Iinuma says he will use this to revive his academy and leaves with the shame of the wound off his chest.
Honda wants to find a way to get Ying Chan naked, and makes the plan to use someone else as a seducer who can confirm her body has a set of three moles on it. He implies the plan of seeing Ying Chan naked to Keiko, who instantly takes this to mean he wants her virginity removed so then he can sleep with her. She recommends her nephew Katsumi. All four go for a meal at a nightclub and Katsumi invites Ying Chan to dance and seems to be charming her, although it seems to Honda that Ying Chan’s beauty is the one doing the charming.
All four are invited to Honda’s house where he is now building a swimming pool just to see her have less clothes on. Keiko doesn’t turn up, as planned and Ying Chan goes to bed where Honda watches her through the peephole. It turns out that Hondo refused to have a better heating system in his house just because it would mean the walls would be thicker and not allow a peep hole: this is how far Honda has fallen; his entire house is built with the sole purpose of seeing Ying Chan naked. Katsumi makes his entrance and makes a move on Ying Chan, she refuses and injures him in the process. He leaves and Honda sneaks off to go to bed, failing to have seen her three moles. In the morning Katsumi lies about what happened and says he slept with her, when pushed to reveal if he had seen her three moles he says that he has, he then reveals that he believes that Honda had already taken her virginity by knowing that she had these moles. While in reality neither of them know whether she does actually have this cluster of moles on her left side like Kiyoaki and Isao did. Honda then goes to her room to deliver a breakfast, but she is not there. Turns out she ran away and went next door to Keiko’s.
It turns out that Honda’s peeping habit isn’t new, he had been frequenting an area where young lovers come to let out their indiscretions. Honda took advantage of this by being a peeping Tom. He keeps having odd dreams about Ying Chan, and his wife believes he is sleeping with her every time he leaves the house. Because of the way his wife is being, he goes out more often which turns into a vicious cycle. Keiko and Honda plan to invite her to Keiko’s as Ying Chan seems to trust her. Honda wagers that if Ying Chan turns up with her ring on, she has forgiven him. Ying Chan comes to the party without the ring, Honda gives her a note with a location and asks her to meet him there for an hour alone. She says she will, but when Honda goes there she is not there. He goes outside and sees a light is on in an apartment and she is standing at the window. Seeing him she hides, he runs under the window and waits there. She throws her ring out at him and closes the window. Honda goes to Keiko’s and asks her to return the ring to Ying Chan, and says that he loves her. She laughs, not believing him, but then agrees to give her the ring if he kisses her feet. He does.
Honda has a party to celebrate the completion of his swimming pool. Many people come, including Makiko’s poet friend, her boyfriend, royalty who live in the local area, and of course Keiko and Ying Chan. Ying Chan turns up wearing the ring and Honda takes this as a good sign. Everyone is in shorts and swimming clothes, Honda upon watching Ying Chan can see no evidence of any moles: this makes him joyous. Later on everyone goes to bed and Honda is in his study. He goes to the peep hole and can see Ying Chan and Keiko making love to each other, which would explain the way both have treated Honda recently: Ying Chan has been ignoring him, while Keiko has been overly nice and also suggesting a sexual tension with him being dominated by her. He hears a noise and his wife is standing behind him, she asks what he is doing and goes to scold him, but he replies that she should look, so she does. He asks her if she can see the moles, she says she can: a set of three moles on her left side can be seen, confirming her reincarnation. Honda seems completely relaxed and Rie doesn’t accuse him of anything because of how he is talking about the moles and reincarnation. They go to bed shattered from the whole experience.
They are woken up by a fire, everyone escapes from the house except Makiko’s poet friend Tsubakihara and her boyfriend. Both had taken sleeping pills and slept through their own demise. The house begins to fall apart and the firemen arrive to douse an already ruined house. Ying Chan is holding a picture of Keiko naked, and saying how she is glad she didn’t lose this in the fire, while she had left the ring in the house. Apparently a naked picture of her lover is more important than her family’s heirloom.
Honda doesn’t see Ying Chan again, and while at a party with a Thai princess who looks like her, he asks if she knew Ying Chan. The princess explains that she did know her, but she died when she was twenty. This princess is Ying Chan’s twin, and when she returned to Thailand she wanted to stay there. She was then bit by a cobra which killed her. This is where her story ends.
This book, much like the other two differentiates itself from the others in style and what it concentrates on. The vast majority of the story is Honda’s exploration of religion through his travels and readings, and thus a lot of the book comes across as educational, as Honda is trying to explain the events of the last two books. While the first was a romantic novel with an oppressive sense of nihilism, and the second was a idealistic novel with an oppressive sense of needing to act with purity, this novel was religious in nature with an oppressive use of experiences and visions. Ying Chan seems to have been more spiritually awake as a child, while as an adult she seems empty. Like a soulless vessel, a beautiful vase with no flower. Honda’s wife seems to be a counterpart of her: Rie is barren and never gave Honda a child, she is always swelling up and being ill. While Ying Chan has the body which could give any man pleasure and a full brood of as many children as one liked. While Rie is jealous and feels threatened by other women, Ying Chan is rather mindless and seeking love from a strong and using woman: Keiko. While Honda has been transformed from a naive child interested in religion, to a judge of the law with a proper reputation, to an old man with too much money and time who has slipped into the habits of a peeping Tom. As Honda has soured into his religious experiences and figured more of his life out, that life has became unwound and his actions are putting flames to the threads that keep it together.
The Decay of the Angel or Tennin no Gosui in Japanese is Mishima’s 1970 novel. The forth and final in his tetralogy known as the Sea of fertility, and extremely late in his writing career, this is his last book before his suicide. This story follows Honda in his old age, and Toru who is a sixteen year old who bears the mark of being the reincarnation of Honda’s childhood friend Kiyoaki. This is his story and the end of Honda’s and Satoko’s. It also concentrates on the five signs of decay of an Angel in Buddhist scriptures. These five signs are: the crown withers, sweat pours from the armpits, clothing is soiled, being dissatisfied with one’s position in life, and the body losing its shining light.
Honda is now seventy six and spends his time travelling around, while Rie, his wife has died. He is often with Keiko, who compliment each other in their old age and ways. Toru is a sixteen year old boy who works at a lookout, being a watchman for incoming ships. He has a young female friend called Kinue who seems to be mentally ill. She lives with the delusion that everyone wants her body and that she is extremely beautiful, while the local people think that she is ugly and an easy lay. When he returns from work and takes a bath, it is revealed to the reader that on his left side he has a set of three moles which indicates that he is the third reincarnation of Kiyoaki, Isao being the first and Ying Chan being the second. Honda has kept his bad habits and so has Keiko: she will pick up girls and sleep with them while Honda watches.
Honda and Keiko travel around and find themselves outside of a lookout tower, being curious they invite themselves in. This is where they meet Toru. Keiko begins looking around the room after they are invited in by Toru, and asks about some flags which are in a high place. Toru goes onto his tiptoes in order to reach it and Honda catches a view of the set of three moles on his left side. Honda gives him his business contact card and takes Toru’s in return, saying he will send a card and gift to thank him for showing them around. When Keiko and Honda get to a hotel, Honda states that he will take a bath. Then he abruptly says he will adopt that boy, referring to Toru. She assumes that Honda wants to adopt him because he has secretly been a homosexual and she is offended that she didn’t know after over eighteen years of knowing him. Honda explains that it is not about that, he is identical to Ying Chan. This results in him explaining Kiyoaki and the reincarnations. Keiko is amazed by this and agrees to not tell Toru about this until he is twenty and ready to die, as all three: Kiyoaki, Isao and Ying Chan did.
Keiko makes a joke about dreaming of examinations like at school, he has never had a dream about this but that night he does for the first time. He is confused if Keiko had given him the dream, or he had given the dream to himself. Is Honda the one who is the gifted angel who is able to see divinity be reincarnated again and again, while being powerless to prevent its demise each time? In this sense Honda is living a rather depressing role in this world. He is destined to watch the angel die, and decay each time until it is no longer reborn an angel.
Kinue tells Toru that he is being followed because of her and because they are friends. Turns out it is an investigation agent for Honda, he delivers the information about Toru to Honda and then he sends his adoption offer. Honda is also annoyed that he doesn’t know the exact date of Ying Chan’s death, only the season and year, because Toru’s birthday is not in this season, meaning he may not be the reincarnation of Kiyoaki. He pushes the thought aside and just guesses the season is slightly wrong, or his birthday is wrong because he is an orphan. Toru is offered to be adopted by Honda through an officer, and Toru accepts. Honda begins to teach Toru how to be polite and socialise in a western way, and lays out plans for him such as higher education and studying.
Honda has set up several teachers for Toru, but after a conversation with one of the teachers, Furusawa, Toru instigates his sacking just to disappoint Honda and make him question his own judgement. He wants to isolate Honda so that he has no one to blame but himself. He bides his time in order to hurt him again, he goes into his second year of schooling and gets his chance again. A proposal for marriage keeps coming to Honda for Toru, he ignores it, but then it comes again under a name that is too well connected and powerful to ignore. He puts the idea forward to Toru, and he thinks to himself that this is his next chance to hurt Honda so he accepts. He meets the family and the girl he would be marrying, her name is Momoko and he acts calmly around her which is intimidating. They both go missing, they have gone out for a walk and the family and Honda are watching them through a window. She gets her hair trapped in a tree’s branches, but Toru pretends to be helping her, while in reality he is making the knots of hair in the tree worse. The parents state that they are in love, while Honda can see that Toru is taking his time and being deliberate: something is wrong.
Toru goes out to find another woman for his plans. He meets and sleeps with a woman called Nagisa. She finds young boys and sleeps with them, and then moves on. She gives him a necklace with a N symbol on it, which he gets Momoko to notice and ask about. He then gets Nagisa to watch them talk, when he takes the necklace out and begins biting it, Nagisa introduces herself to Momoko and tells him to stop, and that she will see him later. Momoko is upset and tells him he must end the relationship, he says he will but he needs her help. So she writes a letter to Nagisa which says that she needs to stop seeing Toru or she will murder her. She also explains in the letter that she is only with Toru for his money and inheritance from Honda, Toru told her to say this because Nagisa doesn’t care about love, only money. Toru then goes to Nagisa’s house, snatches the letter off her and shows it to Honda, pretending to be heartbroken that Momoko only wants him for his money. This shows Toru to be calculating and sadistic who is able to create elaborate and manipulative plans in order to get what he likes: to hurt people, and to make them blame themselves for that hurt. In this sense Toru is a sadistic mirror image of Kiyoaki. While Kiyoaki was rather nihilistic and swayed with the wind in his romanticism and idealism, Toru is the one who does the swaying by making people the victims of his faked romanticism and idealism.
Two years pass and Toru is now twenty and Honda is eighty. Toru has sacked all of Honda’s maids, and replaced them with his own who report on Honda and regularly sleep with Toru. They obey all of his orders, and none of Honda’s. The ugly girl who believes herself to be beautiful, Kinue, has moved into a cottage just outside of the household. Honda spends almost all of his time on walks, or in his room, just bidding his time. He believes that Toru will die while twenty, as all of the other reincarnations did, and Toru is now twenty. It is six months until he is twenty one, so Honda assumes he has a maximum of six months to wait for Toru to die. As an old man he looks forward to this as Toru has been mistreating him. He hit him with a fire poker to shut him up, and since then Honda has been terrified of him.
Honda goes to his peeking park and runs into the man who recognised him over twenty years ago from another peeking spot. A man and woman are kissing, but the man pulls out a knife and stabs her in the thigh. When the police come Honda is arrested as the potential stabber. He clears this up and the woman explains it wasn’t him. A few days later Toru comes into Honda’s room and throws a newspaper in front of him smiling. The article in the paper tells the story of a respected judge now turned pervert voyeur. This is Honda and he is named in full in the paper. He assumes the man who recognised him was the one who told the papers this. Toru then hires a lawyer who was a rival of Honda’s, in order to try and pry the rights off him. Arguing that Honda is old and senile, and that is why he is now a pervert, this can be used to argue that he doesn’t know what he is doing anymore and cannot control himself or his estate. This will mean that all of Honda’s power will be transferred to Toru, but instead of being an inheritance which suggests Honda is a moral and respectable person, this will instead show Honda to be a complete mess who would be better to be forgotten by history.
Toru receives a letter from Keiko inviting him to a party instead of Honda. When he arrives she reveals she has only invited him in order to talk to him. She tells him about Kiyaoki, Isao and Ying Chan and the idea that they are all reincarnations of the same consciousness which both Keiko and Honda believe. She mentions Kiyoaki’s dream diary as evidence, so Toru asks Honda for the book so he can read it. Keiko attacked Toru as an empty version of the three previous reincarnations. She makes it clear that she isn’t sure he is the reincarnation because he seems to be an empty shell of a person with no destiny unlike the other three. Maybe the three moles, and the three reincarnations symbolises that the fourth reincarnation is a decayed form and thus not a fourth reincarnation of the destiny of the three before him. Toru is the decayed angel who falls outside of divinity by his decay.
Honda gives Toru the dream diary, and a few days later a maid is heard screaming because Toru has drank poison. He enters a coma, and when he comes out of it he will live and be okay, but he has lost his sight. From this point on he acts like a dead person. He just sits there wearing the same clothes over and over again. He only speaks to Kinue when no one else is around. He is now subdued and calm. Honda can no longer see any inner workings from him, and for the first time he has no idea what is going on inside Toru’s head. He used to be able to read him as if he was Honda’s mirror image. When asked why he drank the poison and tried to kill himself, he replied that it was because he cannot dream and has never had one. Honda has been suffering from stomach and chest pains for a while, and finds out that he has cancer. He is told it is benign, but he doesn’t feel he will live much longer.
Honda writes a letter to Satoko’s shrine sayings that he will be arriving soon. He makes the journey, guessing that this is a one way trip and he will not return. This journey is to the grave. When he arrives at the gate, he decides to make the journey on foot as Kiyoaki did which caused his illness and death. Honda being eighty now, struggles all the way there.
He is invited in and gets to see Satoko. He hasn’t seen her for sixty years, and they are both in their eighties. When she walks in he cannot look up and look at her, his eyes fill with tears, but she puts him at ease with the way she welcomes him. He mentions Kiyoaki when the journey to the shrine is brought up, but she replies who might that be. Honda knew that she heard him, so she is being dishonest. He becomes angry and explains. After the story she states that maybe from the start, from the beginning there never was a Kiyoaki. In his frustration he states that if there never was a Kiyoaki, then there never was an Isao, a Ying Chan and that perhaps there has been no I. She smiles and says that that is how it is in each heart. Honda doesn’t know what to say so remains silent, he is then invited to the garden and while there he feels it is a place with nothing and no memories at all. The noontide sun of summer flows over the the still garden, and that is where the book ends.
With this book the Sea of Fertility tetralogy is ended. It is an interesting ending for several reasons. First of all it is relatively disappointing as a narrative ending because the ending and conclusion seem to contradict the entire series. We as readers thought we were going to find out some profound truth about reincarnation and Honda’s and his reincarnated friend’s place within it, we do receive a profound truth by journeying through these four novels, but the conclusion, while profound, is unpleasant and something which we as readers, as I’s, do not want to believe: that the I which is the reader doesn’t exist in a way which we believe at every living and breathing moment of our life.
It is also curious that Mishima uses the title Sea of Fertility to refer to his tetralogy, when the heart is biologically a tetra-logical organ, and is the exact thing that Satoko refers to when she affirms Honda’s statement that the I may not be, when she says it is so in each of our hearts. It is also curious that he used a four part novel series which centres around a set of three moles. It is as if Honda gets to take part in a three mole reincarnation of three people, while the fourth is a disappointment and is as empty and non-existent as the fourth mole. Honda himself is also the fourth mole: he does not exist and this whole experience may be him projecting and manifesting his I on the world. This conclusion and ending results in a sense of confusion and thinking that makes you want to go back and study the four books again. It is profound on an experiential, existential and religious level, and was quite the interesting journey.