"patriotism" by Yukio Mishima


Read more about bushido in the e-book Samurai: Ascension by A. R. Basov

  • Perfect purity is possible if you turn your life into a line of poetry written with a splash of blood.
    Yukio Mishima

    Loyalty and Honor. What do loyalty and honor mean to you? Do that words connect to love, family, country or something else? In the short story, ''Patriotism'' by Yukio Mishima, the concept of loyalty and honor causes the young lieutenant Shinji Takeyama to choose between his friends and his country.

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    Yukio Mishima by T. Basova || All Artwork

    There was something that made the very essence of his life different from the existence of others. It was his Loyalty.
    It was not a matter of selling and bying, just like all things in the mundane world of wrethed people, changes and instability. His Great Loyalty was ultimate and filled all his life with incredible enjoyment and purity.
    It was just like his Sword — the shining, flawless, unchangeable heavenly Steel!
    ― A. R. Basov, Book of the Warrior

    Before the lieutenant even returns home two days after the failed coup, Reiko already knows what to expect. His friends were the instigators, but he cannot fight against them. His loyalty is to the Imperial Forces, so he cannot contradict their order. The only honorable way out is seppuku, the ritual suicide. Less than six months earlier Reiko had promised him she would follow him where he had to go. We get a glimpse of her cleaning the house perfectly to prepare for the solemn event.

    It is difficult to describe the rest of the story because most of it is a wonderful description of their complex emotions as they make love one last time and then commit suicide:

    Looking at the slender white figure of his wife the lieutenant experienced a bizarre excitement. What he was about to perform was an act in his public capacity as a soldier, something he had never previously shown his wife. It called for a resolution equal to the courage to enter battle; it was a death of no less degree and quality than death in the front line. It was his conduct on the battlefield that he was now to display.
    Momentarily the thought led the lieutenant to a strange fantasy. A lonely death on the battlefield, a death beneath the eyes of his beautiful wife … in the sensation that he was now to die in these two dimensions, realizing an impossible union of them both, there was sweetness beyond words. This must be the very pinnacle of good fortune, he thought. To have every moment of death observed by those beautiful eyes — it was like being borne to death on a gentle, fragrant breeze. There was some special favor here. He did not understand precisely what it was, but it was a domain unknown to others: a dispensation granted no one else had been permitted to himself. In the radiant, bride-like figure of his white-robed wife the lieutenant seemed to see a vision of all those things he had loved and for which he was to lay down his life — The Imperial Household, The Nation, The Army Flag. All these, no less than the wife who sat before him, were presences observing him closely with clear and never-faltering eyes.
    Reiko too was gazing intently at her husband, so soon to die, and she thought that never in this world had she seen anything so beautiful. The lieutenant always looked well in uniform, but now, as he contemplated death with severe brows and firmly closed lips, he revealed what was perhaps masculine beauty at its most superb.
    Yukio Mishima, Patriotism

    In this story the physical reality of seppuku serves as a direct contrast to the purity of the couple’s mental determination.The gulf between spiritual devotion and body that Mishima explored throughout his work and life is emphasized in "Patriotism."

    The genuine purity is lethal for the worldly.
    The katana’s cold steel has lit the scorching Sun inside...
    The glaring Sun lures.
    The noble bird soars towards the heavens putting all its efforts in the last flight.
    The familiar meadows, forests, and rivers left below.
    They are getting further away…
    Everything hitherto important turned insignificant.
    It is ever harder to fly upward…  Every flap of the wing becomes more strained.
    All-out effort.
    The Height is beautiful and mysterious.
    There is no way back.
    The blazing Sun becomes enormous, majestic, and grandiose.
    There is light and nothing else…
    The bird is destined to die, because it flies so high that the sun sears its wings.
    But this is supreme! The bird does not fall; it continues to fly as its wings are being burned.
    A. R. Basov,Spirit of the Warrior
    read more about Yukio Mishima in the book

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