Friday, June 19, 2015

"not up for yourselves treasures upon earth" - Tragic and Crazy Japanese Authors

Mt. Fuji observed from Tokyo

Tragic and Crazy Japanese Authors

Only two Japanese authors have ever won the Nobel Prize: Yasunari Kawabata in 1968 and Kenzaburo Oe in 1994.

It is very strange that this mighty nation Japan with long history has not been appreciated well by the world in terms of literature.  Even the US with only 200 year history has 10 Nobel laureates in literature.  Japan is the nation that produced the world-first full-length novel written by a female author before 1000.  Though there is a language barrier, Japanese authors must receive higher reputation.

But there was one singular author after WWII.  Yukio Mishima gradauted from the University of Tokyo to become an elite bureaucrat of the Government in 1947.  But he quit the job to concentrate on creation of literary works.  Mishima's talent was highly appreciated, though Mishima became a kind of follower of Yasunari Kawabata who had already established his reputation in the Japanese literary arena before WWII.

Mishima's works were translated in English and other European languages.  In 1960s, Mishima was regarded as one of the likeliest candidates for Nobel prize for literature, though it was Kawabata that won the prize in 1968.

In 1956 or 1957, Mishima, already a best-selling author, happened to find a very attractive student, Miss Shoda in a Christian women's college in Tokyo.  At the time, only daughters of wealthy families or upper-class families learnt in universities.  Yukio Mishima himself was from a kind of elite family.  Misihima wanted to marry her.  So, it was arranged that Mishima and Miss Shoda went to see a Kabuki play and take a meal together in Ginza.  But eventually Miss Shoda rejected Mishima.

In 1958, Mishima must be surprised that Miss Michiko Shoda contracted marriage with Crown Prince Akihito.  She became Crown Princess of Japan in 1959.

Yukio Mishoma married in 1958 and continued to write many novels and dramas all of which sold well.  Mishima became one of central figures in the Japanese literary world.  But in 1961, Mishima supported publication of an anti-Imperial House novel where the Crown Princess was beheaded.

However, Mishima gradually became nationalistic.  He played a samurai in a film.  He trained himself physically.  He made many appearances in TV as a popular person of culture.  He organized a nationalistic group oriented toward a sort of militarism.  Though Mishima wrote novels based on Japanese cultural traditions, his social activities became so outstanding with an inclination to nationalism while the society became noisy with anti-Vietnam War student movements and other leftist-triggered violent incidents.  It was the era of the Cold War.    

Then, in 1968, Kawabata won the Nobel Prize, though it was said that Mishima competed hard for the prize with strong support from some authors and critics in the world.

And, in 1970, Yukio Mishima and a few of his followers suddenly occupied a commander office of the Self-Defense Ground Force in Tokyo.  The office was in the headquarters building in the center of Tokyo.  Mishima delivered a nationalistic speech from the balcony of the building to many servicemen who gathered before the entrance of the building.  Mishima called for a kind of coup for a nationalistic cause.  But no one followed him.  Then, Mishima went back to the office to commit a suicide in a harakiri manner.  The Japanese society got extremely shocked.

Yasunari Kawabata, closely associated with Mishma in literature, had nothing to do with Mishima's political activities.  But this crazy incident must have a deep influence on Kawabata.  In 1972, Kawabata committed a suicide in a flat he had near his house in Kamakura, a seashore satellite city of Tokyo, for a mysterious reason.

Since the deaths of Ysunari Kawaba and Yukio Mishima, a Nobel laureate in literature and a strong candidate for the prize, no Japanese authors could win a Nobel Prize till 1994.

There must be complicated processes and reasons for the Nobel Committee to present a prize to an author.  And, they must be more complicated when dealing with Japanese authors.

But you may wonder what should have happened if Yukio Mishima had married Michiko Shoda.  Mishima might not have committed a crazy suicide but won a Nobel Prize.  Even Yasunari Kawabata would not have committed a suicide.  And, some Japanese authors might have received Nobel Prizes in 1970s and 1980s.  However, it must be impossible for Empress Michiko.

**** **** ****

Mat 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

Mat 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: