Will Fee, for JAPAN Foward

A wild-haired and wild-eyed young man. In one hand, a cigarette; in the other, a baby. To his left, the musclebound figure of author Mishima Yukio. He too smokes, microphone in hand. The two figures on one stage share a match, an indication of the mutual respect between them.

In this striking scene from director Toyoshima Keisuke’s new film, Mishima: The Last Debate, restored archive footage pits Akuta Masuhiko — Tokyo University’s finest debater, we are told — against Tokyo University (Tōdai) alumnus Mishima, a figure widely regarded as key in the history of modern Japanese literature.

© GAGA Corp Japan / © JAPAN Forward

Postwar author of numerous seminal novels, Mishima would commit ritual suicide in 1970, just 18 months after appearing in the Tōdai debate featured in the film. His failed purpose was to incite a coup d’etat among the Tokyo branch of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

On the day of the debate, however, Mishima arrived at Tokyo University’s Kamaba campus with a bodyguard made up of his own youth militia, the Tatenokai (Shield Society). Evidently hostile to the famed author’s presence, the Zenkyoto (All Campus Joint Struggle Committee) stocked the front row of the amphitheater with their own supporters, ready to commit themselves bodily to the protection of their representatives in the debate.

Meanwhile, posters by the entrance to Lecture Hall 900 denounced the nationalist author as an “anachronistic gorilla.” Biographer Henry Scott Stokes later revealed Mishima was fearful for his life prior to the event.


By - grape Japan editorial staff.

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