Who Killed Yukio Mishima? Time and Destiny in the Life and Work of Japan’s Master Author and Playwright

Yukio Mishima as St. Sebastian, by Kishin Shinoyama
Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 17 September, 2015
6:00pm BST

Weston Room, Norwich Cathedral Hostry, Norwich NR1 4EH


Dr Damian Flanagan (Author and translator)

About the Talk

Yukio Mishima (1925-70) was arguably the most internationally famous Japanese celebrity of the last century: an author prodigiously talented and dazzlingly prolific, but also a showman who found time to be a movie actor, martial arts devotee, body builder, political campaigner and world traveler. He was described by Yasunari Kawabata, the first Japanese winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, as the kind of genius who comes along every 300 years.

When Mishima died in the spectacularly dramatic manner possible on November 25 1970, the entire Japanese nation screeched to a halt in jaw-dropping, collective disbelief. The extraordinary circumstances of that death – known as ‘The Mishima Incident’ – would become Japan’s defining JFK event, when every Japanese alive could instantly recall where they were when they heard the shocking news.

Trying to fathom the meaning of ‘The Mishima Incident’ is a subject which has gripped the Japanese nation for the last 45 years. Why did Mishima have to die? Who or what was it that caused his death? And what meaning does his extraordinary life and death still hold for modern Japan?

In his new biography of Mishima, published by Reaktion Books, Damian Flanagan offers a startlingly fresh analyis of the train of events that led Mishima to meet his day of destiny in 1970. In this talk, we will uncover the real story behind the most unforgettable day in modern Japanese history.

About the Speaker

Dr Damian Flanagan is an award-winning author and translator. He wrote his first book, a controversial study of Japan’s greatest modern author Natsume Soseki, in Japanese. His second book (The Tower of London and other Stories, 2005) told the story of Soseki’s experiences in Britain and won the US-Japan Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature. His third book, again in Japanese, was Natsume Soseki: Superstar of World Literature (2007). He has also contributed lengthy critical introductions to recent editions of Soseki’s masterpieces, The Three Cornered World, The Gate and Kokoro as well as to Shusaku Endo’s novel Scandal. He has written widely on Japanese politics, arts and society for publications including Newsweek and the Nihon Keizai Shinbun. His latest book, Yukio Mishima, offers a completely fresh take on an iconic figure.

Image: Yukio Mishima as St. Sebastian, by Kishin Shinoyama

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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.