I’ve been blessed with a wonderful opportunity to conduct a class on Mishima featuring “Patriotism” as a guest lecturer at Adelphi University in New York.
For this class, I had reread the story both in Japanese and English many times, and I was impressed by Mishima’s writing each time. I once again thought about his dramatic suicide in 1970, which was actually the realization of the fictitious character Takeyama’s Seppuku in the story written in 1960.
One of the questions I posed to the students was ‘what is patriotism for Mishima and for you?’ One student answered that patriotism for Mishima was tied not only to the state but also to what was behind the state: culture and religion. Yes, indeed, Mishima believed in the Japanese spiritual tradition while critiquing harshly the materialism infesting Japan. Mishima once said that he didn’t mind living in the “illusion” of Japan, in a dialogue with a student at the famous discussion between him and ultra-leftist students of Tokyo University.
In the story of “Patriotism”, Thanatos and Eros are intertwined. Mishima in real life probably longed for ecstasy in his dramatic death as described in the story. Some people even mocked his death as something very egoistical. Still, whatever motives he had behind his suicide, the act of seppuku at the age of 45 requires a strong will and resolve, which is extraordinary and incomparable. I will continue to read Mishima’s works to find out what it was exactly he was seeking in his life as well as in Japan.
Despite the fact that I had prepared well in advance for the lecture, seeing the students in real made me get excited and as a result my explanation got longer than expected as usual.. Today’s important takeaway (I never seem to learn this lesson though): Rehearsal on your own without the audience and the actual class in front of participants are two different things. Please be assured that the class went well! It was my great pleasure to introduce Mishima and Japanese culture to college students in America!