On the Defense of Culture
In times of emergency, 'elegance' even took the form of terrorism.

From the Substack post on March 9, 2022, by Masaki. Translated from Japanese by him. Original by Yukio Mishima.

Culturalism and Reverse Culturalism

They call it the Shōwa Genroku1, but as far as cultural products2 are concerned it is an exceedingly dubious Genroku era.

In the Shōwa Genroku, in which there is no Chikamatsu, no Saikaku, and no Bashō, only extravagant customs run rampant. Passion has dried up, hard realism is a thing of the past, and the deepening of poetry is given no thought. That is, there is no Chikamatsu, no Saikaku, and no Bashō. The question of the sort of era in which we live, despite originally having supposed to have been a transparency filled with riddles, has been seen through with what one may well call a riddle-free clarity.

Why this happened is a long-standing question of mine. We are tired of all social psychological and, on the other hand, psychoanalytic attempts to explain it from the perspective of denotation, industrialization and urbanization, or the rupture of and alienation from human relationships. This is like studying the upbringing of the murderer after a murder has taken place.

Something has been severed. That rich tones no longer abound is because at some point a string was broken. And, corresponding to3 this depletion of creativity, a sort of culturalism has become an essential factor in the formation of public opinion. Indeed, our time is awash with culturalism. Its sticky hands cling to the underside of every cultural phenomenon. Culturalism is, in a word, that tendency which seeks to sever culture from its bloodstained womb of life and reproductive acts and judge it by some pleasant humanistic product. There culture transformed into something harmless and beautiful, the shared property of mankind, like a fountain in a plaza.

All art that attempts to express fragmented man as he is, however grisly its subject matter, is saved by its very fragmentation and becomes a fountain in a plaza. Because the overall tragedy4 of man cannot be demonstrated by the addition of fragments. We think of ourselves as mere fragments and feel at ease with our own selves.5

Tragedy as well, of whatever kind, is not within our ability to escape, because it cannot escape the confines of its fragments, but because those fragments sufficiently remain, and because to be intoxicated by our inability and to be intoxicated by our escape are in accord.

The question of what Japanese culture is has, after the end of the war, been given a truly appropriate answer by the hands of diplomatic and cultural bureaucrats. That was, in accordance with occupation policy, the severance of the eternal links of “the chrysanthemum and the sword6.” The good, peace-loving people’s mild-mannered culture of flower arrangement and the tea ceremony, and the culture of architecture, which is not threatening yet dares a bold patternization, became what represents Japanese culture.

Then the following policy of cultural irrigation was implemented. That is, they dammed up the continuity of culture and the sources of life that give birth to it with various laws and policies, rendered them valid only in irrigation and the generation of electricity, and sealed the flood. That is, they severed the links of “the chrysanthemum and the sword,” used only the parts that were effective in the formation of citizen’s morality, and suppressed the harmful parts. The prohibition of kabuki revenge dramas and swordfight movies that was implemented in the early stages of occupation policy is the most primitive and direct manifestation of this policy.

In time, occupation policy ceased to be such a primitive thing. Prohibitions were lifted, and culture was respected. This was simultaneous with the success of various political and social reforms, and was surely because it was thought that the tendency to revert to the sources of culture had been extinguished. This is when culturalism began. That is, it became impossible for anything to be harmful.

It is like the principle of art for art’s sake7 of the indulgent enjoyer8, who appreciates9 culture mainly as works and objects. There, naturally, hobbyistic contribution to political thought is not obstructed. Culture was safely managed as an object, and peacefully propelled in the direction of becoming “the shared cultural asset of mankind.”

That its results have been exceedingly poor has already been stated, but culturalism is as before satisfied with itself, and has, along with the progress of mass society, become its greatest public face. However, this is, in the first place, a consequence of what was cultivated by the educationalism10 of the Taishō era. Japanese culture became Japan’s vindication before the world, and internally combined with the values of peaceful welfare11. The thought12 that reduces culture to the value of welfare became the basis for a sham cultural protectionism founded on the humanism of the masses.

What we imagine when we speak of protecting culture are the dead culture of museums and the dead lifestyles of the Universal Great Peace13. These two elements have merged and safely combined. This compound distresses us, however, respect for culture as an object, as a cultural asset, as cultural heritage does not put democratic or socialist countries (excluding extreme exceptions like Communist China) to the question.

The Socialist Party’s post-accession cultural policy, published last year, is as follows.

3. The Creation of National Culture14

a. Those Who Work Will Make Culture

The aim of the cultural policy of the Socialist Party government will be to guide the working people15 such that they can, while understanding and enjoying culture, become themselves the subjects who create culture. The Socialist Party government will reform our culture, in which the professional literati create and the masses passively consume, and the working people and the literati will together develop culture. Workers and peasants will, while working and toiling in their workplaces fields, create music, theater, novels, and poetry according to their interest, and superior works will be recognized by and spread throughout all of society. Those with cultural ability16 will be rapidly selected from among the working people and become professional literati. Radio, television, and the newspapers will become stages for the introduction and diffusion of the culture created by the working people. National and public theaters, auditoria, youth and women’s cultural centers, and children’s parks and halls will be constructed in large numbers, and the circles of the workers will be able to use these freely.

b. The Development of Folk Culture17

The Socialist Party government will respect, preserve, and develop the culture and arts inherited from the ancestors of the Japanese people. In addition to Nō, Kabuki, Bunraku and so on, we will respect folk music, folk dance, dance, folk art, folk crafts and so on, treat intangible cultural assets well, and foster the training of their successors. While preserving the forms of these traditional cultural arts we will develop them by giving them new life and new content. We will preserve the former capitals of Nara, Kyōto, and Kamakura and, further, make efforts toward the preservation of the tangible cultural assets of the artistic crafts18, the pictorial arts, sculptures, and buildings, as well as the preservation and publication of folk materials and monuments (monuments to famous, historical, and natural sites). Further, we will prevent the outward flow of cultural assets and improve19 our national and public art and other museums. On the other hand, simultaneously with the aforementioned preservation of and respect for folk culture, we will also actively encourage exchange with the arts and culture of other countries. (Quoted from Looking to Tomorrow, Chapter 10, “A New Man and a New Culture.” Edited by the Japan Socialist Party Headquarters Office of Propaganda and Policy Council, Study Text No. 7, November 5, 1967. Author emphasis.)

As is clear from perusal of the foregoing, the way that a. and b. are divided is absolutely expressive of the essence of socialist cultural policy and revealing20 of the two-facedness21 of culturalism. That is, a. means that they “will tamper with what culture they can,” and b. means that they “will leave alone culture that needs no tampering,” and also within b., as is clear from the section in italics, the form and content of culture are regarded as separable, and since form itself is harmless, it is further regarded as capable of being filled with useful content, and, in extreme cases, one can see faintly the theoretical basis of the possibility of things like Madame Jiang Qing’s reform of the Peking Opera.

However, regarding safe cultural assets that remains simply as an object, just as the Leningrad Opera is not harmful to the Soviets, so are Kabuki, Nō, and all traditional Japanese culture on the whole not dangerous. They are on the contrary a valuable source of tourism, and the Kabuki actor who is a member of the Japanese Academy of Arts can surely transform and immediately be given the title of People’s Artist.

Culture of the sort of a. is, on the other hand, the object of a new rearing and cultivation, and it is surely self-evident that this will be carried out completely within the framework of policy. There is included here an awareness of the fact that culture created by amateurs is far more easily controlled than that created by established professionals, and when the socialist state has gained a monopoly on the means of expression, even without forcing especial restrictions on speech, it will be easy to control content in exchange for appealing to the average amateur’s vanity and desire to publish.

However, it goes without saying that it is the culture that is currently being produced that socialism will strictly manage and rigorously police. History has proven that they will show no mercy in this regard. It took fifty years for the Soviet revolutionary government to rehabilitate Dostoevsky, and some think that it hasn’t happened yet, but on the underside of those splendid rumors of liberalization, repression once again advanced, and there are now rumors of Yevtushenko’s house arrest, while three writers – Vladimir Bukovsky, Evgeny Kushov, and Vadim Delone – have been put on trial, and in Poland, the staging of “Dziady,” a tragedy critical of Russia and the Tsar, was prohibited on grounds of being anti-Soviet, setting off the student movement.

That it permits the excuse that political controls of some kind prevent the enfeeblement of culture is a contradiction that culture itself contains, and an eternal contradiction between culture and freedom. There are problems in the diagnosis of the cause of the enfeeblement of contemporary Japanese culture, but whether it should be healed through the restoration of the continuity of culture, or through the active rupture of culture (revolution), will surely be debated without exhaustion.22

But, because the culturalism of the so-called democratic camp and the respect of socialist countries for safe cultural assets both at a glance take the outward form of the protection and preservation of tradition, they seem the easiest parts to shake hands with.

Culture is viewed as a formed object from both standpoints. What occurs as a result is revealed clearly by the actions of Petain, who, in order to avoid the destruction of Paris, which is full of architectural wonders of the Middle and later ages, handed her over to the enemy. Because Paris is not only French culture, but also the cultural heritage of all mankind, friend and foe alike agreed on the importance of protecting it from destruction, but on the political aspect, one side surrendered to the other. And, at the cost of the national spirit, he bought the preservation of Paris. This event obviously brought about the devastation of the national spirit, but it was an invisible destruction and, when compared to visible destruction, far more acceptable!

Such culturalism, if turned on its head, would pass for a “reverse culturalism” or “upside-down culturalism” similar to the Chinese Cultural Revolution that would destroy all visible culture for the sake of the formation of an invisible revolutionary spirit. They are largely two sides of the same coin. When I spoke with some very young people on television, I listened to one argue that Japan should devote herself completely to a demilitarized peace, that it would be fine to be massacred without showing the least resistance to an invading foreign enemy, and that he hopes that the ideal of the Peace Constitution would thereby live in world history, I took interest in the fact that this is directly connected to exactly the wartime idea of the entire nation fighting to the death23. This is the idea that, if it is for the sake of protecting invisible culture, the spirit of the country, its spiritual values, then it is acceptable for the possessors themselves to be annihilated and all visible culture destroyed.

The wartime phenomenon has, like a positive and a negative, been transmitted to postwar thought. This reverse culturalism is, as has previously been stated, intimately related to postwar culturalism, and each in its turn attests to the paradox of culture.

The National Characteristics of Japanese Culture

In the first place, the abstractness of such concepts as world culture and the culture of humanity is quite suspicious24. Particularly in a country like Japan, which possesses a special national character25, history, geographical position, and climate26 is a grasp of the national characteristics in culture crucial.

First, even if culture possesses an outcome as an object, in its lived form it is neither an object, nor a formless national spirit prior to manifestation, but a form, a sort of translucent crystal through which the national spirit can be seen, and however murky a form it may take, it is thought to have already in the “form” attained a degree of translucence that makes the spirit transparent, and it consequently includes not only so-called works of art, but also actions and modes of action. Culture contains actions from a single style27 of Nō to those of a naval officer who leapt from a human torpedo surfaced on a moonlit night on the seas of New Guinea brandishing a Japanese blade and fell in battle, and it further includes the many testaments of the Special Attack Units28. From The Tale of Genji to the modern novel, from The Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves29 to avant garde tanka30, from the Buddhist statues of the Chūsonji31 to contemporary sculpture, from flower arrangement32 and the tea ceremony33 to fencing34 and jūdō, and not only that, but from Kabuki to yakuza swashbuckling films, from Zen to military manners, it refers to every form that subsumes both “the chrysanthemum and the sword” and through which things Japanese can be transparently seen. In the use of Japanese, literature is a critical part that forms Japanese culture as a form.

It is inappropriate to ignore what is dynamic and extract only what is static from Japanese culture. Japanese culture possesses the unique tradition of transforming modes of action themselves into works of art. It is a special characteristic of Japan that martial arts35 belong to the same genre of production forms36 that during a brief period of time arise, persist, and then vanish as flower arrangement and the tea ceremony. The Way of the Warrior is a corpus of this sort of aestheticization of ethics, or ethicization of aesthetics, and is the unification of life and art. The prizing of style that such performing arts as Kabuki and Nō display prepares from the beginning hints for transmission, but those hints themselves are forms that stimulate the free creative subject. It is a characteristic of the Japanese performing arts that form invokes form and endlessly evokes freedom. Even in the modern novel, which at a glance seems the freest genre, since naturalism, the effort on each occasion37 put into the formation of its novelistic form is, unconsciously, several times greater than that put into its intellectual formation.

Second, Japanese culture does not originally possess a distinction between the original and the copy. In the West culture as an object is mainly made out of stone, but in Japan it is made out of wood. Because the destruction of the original is an irrevocable and final destruction and culture as an object here goes extinct, Paris was thus surrendered to the enemy.

However, the West and Japan are the same in that, until its active preservation was undertaken by modern culturalism, culture as an object was entrusted to a fearful license, and when one considers the wars and conflagrations of the past, one cannot but say that the extancy of culture as an object is due simply to coincidence, and that one cannot say that only things of high quality that have been selected by the hand of history remain. The greatest sculptures of Praxiteles of Ancient Greece may yet slumber on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea. The fate that Japan’s plastic arts, which rely on the culture of wood and paper, bore is, compared to this, even more complete. The cultural treasures lost in the great disturbances of the Ōnin War are innumerable, and it was a rare and unexpected stroke of good fortune that the temples and shrines of Kyōto remained unburnt.

This kind of relation of materials is surely one reason why the insistence on culture as an object is relatively weak, and why the transference of cultural forms to modes of action that take disappearance as their essence is characteristic. There, not only is the extinction of the original not absolute extinction, but there appears no decisive difference of value between the original and the copy.

One can see the most clear example of this in the construction of Ise Shrine. With the anniversary reconstruction38 that has taken place fifty-nine times every twenty years since the time of Emperor Jitō39, the newly constructed Ise Shrine is always the original, and the original at that point in time entrusts its life to the copy and dies40, and the copy itself becomes the original. Compared to the handicap borne by the sculpture of the Greek Classical period, for most of which we have to rely on copies from the Roman era, the uniqueness of the cultural concept of the anniversary reconstruction of Ise Shrine is surely clear. The rule of “the adaptation of famous poems”41 in tanka and the rest, this sort of fundamental cultural concept still today occupies the depths of our hearts.

The characteristics of this sort of cultural concept correspond to the characteristics of an Emperor System42 in which each successive Emperor is indeed the Emperor and is not in a relationship of original and copy with Amaterasu Ōmikami43, but I will expatiate on this later.

Third, the Japanese culture thus created is, from the perspective of the creating subject, a free creative subject, and the transmission itself of style stimulates44 the activity of this original45 creative subject. This is what is at the base of the cultural concept that includes not just works, but also actions and life, and it is only natural that, if there is at any point a break between it and the wellspring that is the national free creative subject, cultural depletion would occur, and the essence that is the continuity of the life of culture (the acceptance of its totality) contradicts the concepts of dialectical development and progress. That is because that creative subject is supposed to overcome the limitations of historical conditions and, at times hiding,46 at times bursting forth47, form a unified cultural history (not one based on the listing48 of works that have survived by coincidence) in which the national spirit is consistent49.

The Three Characteristics of National Culture

To summarize the foregoing, for the Japanese, Japanese culture possesses the following three characteristics, but one may surely think that for the French, French culture possesses the same sort of characteristics. That is, the reflexivity50, the totality, and subjectivity of national culture.

The ruins remaining in Greece, in which there are no true Greeks, are for the Greeks complete aesthetic objects in which there is nothing that returns51 to their subject, and the ability to feel the continuity of the life of culture from the ruins of Greece has conversely become the privilege of Europeans. However, Japanese culture for the Japanese, just as the Tale of Genji has repeatedly been able to return to our contemporary subjects, affirm its continuity, and become the womb of new creations, transcends its aesthetic valuation as an object and stimulates its continuity and reflexivity. It is this that people call tradition, and in this sense, I hold serious doubts about the view of literary history that isolates modern literary history from the Meiji period onward from classical literary history. The reflexivity of culture is none other than the consciousness that culture is not just a thing “seen,” but also a “seeing” thing that looks back.

Further, the wholesale acceptance of “the chrysanthemum and the sword,” not to judge aesthetics ethically, but to judge ethics aesthetically and accept culture wholesale, is indispensable for a consciousness of the totality of culture, and this opposes all culturalism and the cultural policy ideology of all forms of government. Culture must be wholesale recognized and wholesale maintained52. Improvement and progress are impossible53 in culture, and in the first place revision is impossible54 in culture. The delusion that these are possible obstinately ruled Japan for some time after the war.

Further, culture in its extreme forms manifests only in a subjectivity similar to the trinity of the three gods Brahman, Vishnu, and Shiva, who create, maintain, and destroy. Concerning this, there is much that should be thoroughly reconsidered contained within the seemingly extreme ideas of Hasuda Zenmei55, who once criticized Niwa Fumio’s56 Naval Engagement57 during the war by saying that, rather than continuing to write notes in the middle of a naval battle in order to record it, the attitude that the true man of letters should take would have been to help carry ammunition. As proof of that, Niwa, who immediately after the war wrote the novelistic exposé of the navy Bamboo Grass58, at the time had the nature of an exquisite59 camera, because he himself demonstrated that he was reliant on a subjectless objectivity. Because the subjectivity of literature, on the extension line of the freedom of the cultural creative subject, should offer itself up to the greatest fruits at each moment resulting from works and of modes of action. And because Japanese culture has kept all cultural possibilities [that exist] for that purpose.

The foregoing definition of the concept of culture using reflexivity, totality, and subjectivity of itself surely encourages consideration of how one must be in order to defend culture and what the real enemy of culture is.

Against What Do We Defend Culture?

The concept of culture of the Japanese, in which through the body one learns a mode of action and there for the first time grasps one’s original, or rather, the form of thought that unifies culture and action is, under all political forms, viewed as containing a certain degree of danger. An extreme example of control60 by a political system is wartime controls, but the thought of Confucians, who regarded Genji as a book that teaches licentiousness61, persisted continuously from the Edo bakufu. That was always a policy of severing the totality and continuity of culture somewhere and fashioning it. However, if one thinks of culture itself as the corpus62 of the modes of action of the Japanese, then it would be a problem to sever it somewhere and say that one may go no further. On the contrary, one’s efforts should continually be directed at the regeneration of culture through the total acceptance and restoration of its totality and continuity, but in our time, as a result of the severance of the “sword” in “the chrysanthemum and the sword,” the endless emotional slovenliness that is one characteristic of Japanese culture has emerged, whereas during the war, as a result of the severance of the “chrysanthemum,” deceit and hypocrisy arose in a different direction. That the side of the oppressor habitually plays the role of hysterical hypocrisy has not changed between wartime and the present.

The preservation of culture as an object, excluding extreme examples like that of the Chinese Communist Great Cultural Revolution, can be entrusted without worry to the culturalism of any political form. Culturalism permits all hypocrisies, because Iwanami Library63 reissues Hagakure. However, in defending the freedom of the creative subject and the continuity of its life one must choose a system of government. Here begin the problems of action, that is, what to defend and how to defend it.

What is it to defend? Culture cannot defend culture, and attempts to defend speech with speech necessarily only either fail or merely have others overlook them. “To defend” is always the principle of the sword.

The act of defending is thus necessarily accompanied by danger, and self-renunciation64 is essential for even defending oneself. Defending peace always requires preparation for violence, and an eternal paradox exists between the object of defense and the act of defense. One may say that culturalism is something that evades this paradox and covers its own eyes.

That is, culturalism places emphasis on the object of defense, determines the act of defense in accordance with the characteristics of the object of defense, and there seeks a basis of legality. Because they find legality in stipulating that one can only defend peace peacefully, culture culturally, and speech with speech, it is a logical necessity that what one defends with violence comes to be none but violence, that they conceptually limit the effectiveness of violence, and that they ultimately come to assert the ineffectiveness of violence. That, when force is ethically rejected, one is carried away by the necessity of demonstrating the ineffectiveness of force itself is in fact none but a single chain of psychological processes that fear plays65. That culturalism falls from the rejection of violence to the ultimate rejection of the state (Enzensberger66 in his Politics and Crime, defines state power as a monopoly on violence and views criminals as competitors who threaten that monopoly) is through this route, and there “culture” and “self-preservation” operate within the same psychological mechanism. That is, culture and humanistic welfare values become synonyms.

Thus, the fundamental psychological structure of fear and egoism that lurks beneath culturalism results in a hysterical fantasy that attempts to ignore the power of others in order to defend its own powerlessness.

The cold reality is that, in defending culture force is required just as it is to defend all other things and that it is the creators and maintainers of culture themselves to whom that force must belong. At the same time, the idea that the actions and methods of “defending peace” must all be peaceful is a general delusion of culturalism and one form of the feminine illogic67 that is dominating postwar Japan.

Nevertheless, the essence and present state of the object of defense are not necessarily in concord68. As the posing of objects based on the ideal images of each respective worldview from both sides, like “defend the peace,” “defend the parliamentary system,” and “defend the people,” mutually uses the same words, one cannot but relativize “defend culture” from the essence of the actions in which friends and enemies exist, and at the same time, the achievement of the absolutization of relative values through death is but the essence of action.69 Either way what they hold in common is that the value of the act of defense does not lie in the preservation of the status quo.

The values of the object to be defended are threatened, consequently it includes within it the spontaneity70 of the transformation of the status quo, and to exercise the act of defense in the direction of this transformation must be its general mode. If the present state of the object to be defended is perfect, if, like a diamond of several hundred carats in a museum, it is a passive being71 to be only defended, that is, if there exists in the object to be defended neither the possibility nor the subject of the development of its life, then the act of defending such a thing will surely, just like the surrender of Paris, ultimately end either in defeatism or the destruction of the thing to be defended. Consequently the act of “defending” must further, like culture, have reflexivity. That is, there must be an opportunity for the identification72 of the ideal image of the defender and the true form73 of the defended. Going one step further, there must be the possibility of the ultimate realization of the identification of the defender with respect to the defended. Between the diamond in the museum and the guard this sort of identification is impossible, and I think that it is in just this sort of possibility that the basis of the glory of the act of defense lies. The basis of the glory that the state can granted is also based on this psychological structure. Thus, in the act of “defending culture,” the identification of the freedom of the creative subject within the defender with the reflexivity, totality, and subjectivity of culture itself is expected, and here appears the essential character of culture. That is, culture by its essence demands “the act of defense” from the subject of culture (or rather the creative individual that draws on74 the original subject), and the object that we defend amounts to neither thought nor a political system, but ultimately “culture” in such a sense. By culture itself demanding self-renunciation, it is this site that becomes the transcendental moment of the self.

Consequently, culture necessarily hints at extrication from the egoism that it will defend its own safety. At present, the defense of the peace constitution on one hand becomes the banner75 of the class struggle, while the fact that it is broadly supported by a support base of self-preservationists, such as emotional pacifists, opportunists76, the home and family oriented77 who dream of self-preservation through the renunciation of all battle, a stratum of women who insist on their visceral repugnance for war, and others who have no connection to the struggle, makes the contradiction that the ideological self-renunciationists are supported by emotional self-preservationists. And these sorts of self-preservationists at times applaud the actions of the Tri-Faction National Federation of Students’ Self-Government Associations78 out of a kind of pang of conscience. The tendency of the middle stratum of the indifferent, which grows increasingly with urbanization, to direct their more or less faint political interest to dreams of a pleasant pacifism or social revolution in an attempt to preserve the balance of their conscience will surely become ever more clear.

The Unity of Creation and Defense

In contrast to this, the self-consciousness of life in culture, in accordance with the laws of life, spurs men toward the impulse of self-renunciation for the sake of protecting the continuity of life. From the isolation of ego analysis and embedding in the ego, when culture falls into sterility, only extrication from this is thought to achieve the revival of culture, and revival simultaneously demands the destruction of the self79. The sterile self-sufficiency of a culture that does not contain such self-sacrificial moments80 was what was called “modernity.” And if the fact that the basis of the glory of ego extinction lies not in the dead splendor of the defended, but must lie in the living original power (the power to look back at81) is sought within the continuity of the life of culture, it is self-evidently clear what it is that we must defend. Thus, it is surely natural that the union of the subject and the object that are creation and defense be aimed at. The dual path of the pen and the sword82 is such an idea. Not approval and maintenance of the status quo, but to defend was itself to reform, and simultaneously to “birth” and “become.”

Now, because defense is action, one must possess a certain physical ability by training. I have heard that many of the key figures of the Taiwanese government are versed in Shaolin kung fu, but the lack of physical training of Japan’s modern literati and their tendency to take interest in the body solely through illness and medicine has impoverished Japanese literature and limited its themes and horizons83. I feel it strange that in so-called belles-lettres since Meiji there appears not a single scene of creation. Innumerable protagonists with sallow and unhealthy bodies run rampant in modern literature as if it were a storybook of famished devils. Protagonists with tuberculosis have decreased, but it is, as before, a paradise swarming with insomniacs, neurotics, impotents, unsightly bodies sedimented with subcutaneous fat, cancer patients, dyspeptic constitutions, sentimentalists, and the half-mad. Men who can fight are extremely rare. The old fixed idea that endowed illness and bodily ill-health with transcendental significance from Romanticism to the fin de siècle is not only entirely uncured, but this Western European notion at times panders to the trend of the times and appears in folklorist84 disguise. This has even become the visceral reason of the weak causing them to unduly despise, regard as dangerous, or on the contrary overvalue action.

The Four Stages of Postwar Nationalism85

Now, the womb of the cultural concept that makes continuous “the chrysanthemum and the sword,” extends from the most sublime to the most common things, and does not avoid what culturalists call “danger” must be some sort of community86, but the community principle of Japan was broken up after the war. The close relationship between the community of blood87 and the state was mercilessly severed. However the community principle has yet become, here and there, the greatest emotional element that triggers an emotional political reaction. That is what is today called nationalism. For better or for worse, it is clear that the new community principle88 is being sought after89 through this.

It is my rough observation that postwar nationalism has more or less followed a progression of four stages.

For some time after the war, nationalism under the occupation gave the appearance of colluding90 with social revolution under the state of clear collapse of the concept of the state. However, that was a docile honor roll student’s nationalism that walked as ordered. The more cynical nationalism had not escaped the furtive whispers and whispered conversations of bars of the wartime era of the suppression of speech. The Yoshida Cabinet91 exemplified the joy taken in the deception of the entire people. The deceitful resistance against the Occupation became the secret, untold satisfaction of nationalism, and, on the other hand, the loud, open nationalism colluded with fantasies of revolution. That intensified increasingly from the point that Occupation policy began to lean rightward. It seems that, from the peace treaty through the slump after the upheavals in Korea92, and with the Security Treaty struggle around the conclusion of the new Security Treaty as its greatest finale, this sort of first nationalism neared its end.

The LDP93 government gradually planned the usurpation of nationalism by state power. This was not necessarily systematically, but that lax consumption policy of the Ikeda Cabinet94 brought about an unanticipated contrary effect, and at the Olympics95, the greatest handshake of the postwar between the Peace Constitution and nationalism succeeded due to the priests of the state. This was the peak of nationalist consummation by one state and people96. However, the limitation that was nationalism under the Security Treaty secretly demanded a change in the nature of nationalism itself at precisely this time. The Satō Cabinet97, in a variety of areas, bore the fate of being unable to not be “an honest cabinet.” It is symbolic that the suicide of Olympian Tsuburaya98 occurred precisely just before the debates over defense in the Diet were on the cusp of breakdown. State power once again fails to give to nationalism the state honors that are the only gift that the state can contribute to nationalism.

The third nationalism, with the Enterprise Incident99 as a turning point, seems to have once again permitted the emergence of “internationalism with a sugarcoating of nationalism.” The actions of the Tri-Faction National Federation of Students’ Self-Government Associations in the Enterprise Incident formed a noteworthy moment clarifying the separation of the “seer” and the “seen” in Japan. That is, the presence of US military bases, due to the past encouragement100 of nationalism of the LDP government, on the contrary stimulated a feeling of independence101 and caused the national psychology to feel an invisible burden, and further, in the defense debates in the Diet, the moment that Prime Minister Satō, who was persistently questioned on his concrete policy for “autonomous national defense,” answered “autonomous defense means carrying out the Third Defense Plan102” (December 9 Parliamentary Statement), the debate lost its logical development and degraded to the scene of a mere political dispute, the autonomous national defense consciousness of the people lost its spiritual support and was directly linked to political pragmatism, and on the contrary, the symbolic incident transcending the fences of US bases that was the Japanese youth satisfied a small part103 of the emotional demands of the people and led nationalism to a turning point. Such a turning point had in fact been reared104 for a long time by the Vietnam War. That is, sentimental humanistic sympathy for the Vietnam War unconsciously caused the collusion of internationalism with nationalism, and this combined with anti-government feeling and brought about an analogy. The analogy was the substitutive behavior of seeking the solution of the frustrations of the feeling of independence of one’s own people105 by empathy toward the feeling of independence of another people. There strictly speaking, the difference of historical conditions between the nationalism of Vietnam, which did not go through the formation of the modern state, and our nationalism, an essential difference for nationalism, is overlooked, and further, the essential distinction between the solidarity of internationalism and solidarity due to sympathy and sentiment is either ignored or covered up. This sort of unprincipled union between nationalism and internationalism was, in the main, gradually achieved from the safe standpoint of the onlooker, from the standpoint of the seer. At the point in time where the progression of such a situation and the difficulty of managing the Vietnam War are gradually synergizing106, including much foreshadowing (the visit of the Prime Minister to South Vietnam, his meeting with President Johnson), the series of symbolic actions that were the port call of the Enterprise and the base invasion107 of the NFSSGA caused nationalism as “the seer” the feeling of crisis and satisfaction that it had become “the seen.”

However at the same time, there is no incident that made clear the separation of the “seer” and the “seen” as much as this moment. Even for the Tri-Faction NFSSGA itself, performing nationalism as the “seen” within the fences of US military bases did not yet come to sufficiently erase their role as the “seer.” They neither killed landing US troops nor were shot by US troops within the bases. That symbolic act that was merely forcibly performing “seen nationalism” exposed the profile of their “contrived nationalism.” Their political goal of seeking to reject the state with internationalism and affirm the people108 with nationalism did not suffice to hint at a decisive moment in which that rejection and affirmation would become synonyms, that is, at revolution, but on the contrary made clear its condition of separation. The Narita Incident109 is an extreme phenomenal form110 of such separation. One may say that the useful dangerous and blind elements of nationalism here simultaneously displayed their most useful aspects and the dangerous aspects that most make the indifferent stratum anxious.

What does such a situation mean for culture?

One may take “their” culture as the point of union of nationalism and internationalism’s overcoming of the state. This is the most radical form of the political use of culturalism and is the reorganization from the nationalist substructure of the concept of “the culture of humanity” that culturalism itself contains. This sort of movement has, though this is small-scale, deeply permeated the New Drama Movement of Japan. Nationalism itself, which is the community principle on which it is founded, is “contrived” so as to hint at the transfer of the meaning of community.

However, in all events, for both communism and fascism, because the most easily used nationalism is, for the time being, viewed as the basic unit of communal consciousness in place of the state, the danger of relying solely on nationalism grows day by day.

Nationalism is, essentially, nothing other than the passion of political unity founded on one people and one state, one cultural tradition, and one linguistic tradition. The nationalism of Vietnam, which does not yet know unity as a modern state, is such a thing, and also America’s negro111 question ultimately aims at a “black American” negro republic, whites will be expelled because of this reverse apartheid, and they the negroes by no means aim at a state that integrates the entirety of the present American people.

Then what is nationalism for Japan? The emotional thirst for sovereign independence does not necessarily coincide completely with nationalism. Japan is a rare monoethnic and monolingual country, our people, which shares a language and cultural tradition, has from antiquity achieved political unity, and the continuity of our culture is dependent on the non-separation of people and state112. And, what is ironic, Japan, which was forced into its present territory by defeat, has mostly ceased to have internal foreign ethnic problems113, and does not have reciprocal relations with certain peoples or a situation in which the state cannot but stand passive with regard to nationalism like America. Consequently the strategy of intentionally politically pursuing foreign ethnic problems not only stinks of a contrived tension, but also strives to identify the country with the power structure of the present political power, single-mindedly devote its zeal to defining the present government as a comprador regime that “sells the people to foreign countries,” and use nationalism in this direction. However as previously stated, in Japan, at present, there is no serious foreign ethnic problem, nor can there be any wish for political unity founded on one people and one cultural tradition. That is because that is something that has already been achieved in Japanese history. If there were such a thing, it could be none other than a strategic intention that takes Japan at present as a state of separation of people and state which does not attain political unity of one people and one cultural tradition, the emphasis itself of nationalism is emphasis of this state of separation, and ultimately, seeks to deny the state and affirm the people. To wit, that is “nationalism as a means” that seeks to guide non-separation to separation.

Thus, it seems that after the Johnson Declaration114, together with the negro riots that commenced with the assassination of Reverend King, nationalism entered its fourth stage.

As stated previously, the third nationalism was cultivated by the Vietnam War while its logical joints were obscured, and in the end made clear its condition of separation, but the post-Vietnam era will likely further make clear this separation with the Okinawan problem and the Korean115 problem.

Social incidents, like ancient children’s songs, at times allegorically symbolize the next era to come, and the Kwon Hyi-ro Incident116, in advance of the Johnson Declaration, occurred in a thoroughly allegorical manner that predicts an era. It has three themes. That is, the theme of “Japanese who have been taken hostage,” the theme of “a foreign people that is oppressed and explodes,” and the theme of “state power that can only save Japanese peacefully,” these three. The first problem plainly symbolized the people of the islands of Okinawa and Niijima, the second problem the Korean problem itself, and the third problem the shackles of the present state power by the peace constitution and public opinion. And here indeed the two conflicting images of the Japanese people that are transfigured at will by political ideology - the image of the peaceful Japanese people that has been taken hostage and oppressed by foreign military force, and the image of the Japanese people whose exercise of power is limited by its feeling of bad karma117 for its history of oppressing foreign peoples - were both quintessentially expressed. The former victim image was identified with the Korean people, and the latter victimizer image was duplicated in the image of America, which prosecuted the Vietnam War.

However, for postwar Japan, there can be no true foreign ethnic problem, and even if the problem of Koreans in Japan is an international problem and a refugee problem, it cannot be a problem of the interior of the Japanese people118. In the treatment of some who treat this as if it were an internal problem there is clearly a political intention, and is none other than one that has recognized the use value of foreign ethnicities in advanced industrialized countries as revolutionary subjects. There, however, regardless of the fact that logical contradictions exist with Japanese nationalism, the Vietnam War and the negro riots of America legitimized this “nationalism as a means” under the mask of humanism.

Nationalism as a means, while freely using these for different purposes, in the Okinawan problem and the Niijima problem made appeals with the image of the “Japanese taken hostage,” and on the other hand, would surely once again emotionally push to the foreground the logical contradiction of a nationalist international sense of solidarity during a potential crisis of the Korean Peninsula. It would plot an attempt to cheat119 nationalism by using the images of Japan the victim and Japan the victimizer for different purposes. However, the state of separation in the third nationalism will come increasingly to light, and simultaneously post-Vietnam conditions will spur the rise of conservative nationalism, and by this the struggle for possession of nationalism from left and right will surely increasingly intensify.

The Totality of Culture and Totalitarianism

As described above, in Japan there is no real postwar foreign ethnic problem, and it goes without saying that for both left and right the formation of a consensus of the same people is the aim, but the consensus of the same people, at least in Japan, lies in Japan aiming for its original figure and ethnic aims and state aims being enveloped in a cultural concept and uniting. That mirror lies only in culture. Further, the community principle as the womb of that culture, lies only in such a unity.

The totality of culture is in the first place the complete antithesis of all forms of totalitarianism left and right, and here lurks the oldest opposition between poetry and politics. The problem of whether or not a form of government that completely accepts culture is possible is mostly proximate to the problem of whether or not a form of government that completely accepts eroticism is possible.

The cultural policies of the totalitarianisms of left and right, while deftly wearing the masks of culturalism and nationalism, view the totality of culture itself as an enemy and continually aim toward the reduction of the totality. The psychological basis of the suppression of freedom of speech is none other than the envy of totalitarianism for all totalities. Because totalitarianism takes as its essence the monopoly of “totality.”

To the totality of culture temporal continuity and spatial continuity are surely indispensable. The former preserves tradition, aesthetic, and taste, and the latter preserves the diversity of life. Freedom of speech is, to say nothing of the former, the flawless guardian of the latter.

Of course, freedom of speech is not an absolute value, and that it itself at times corrupts culture is as you see in Japan at present, and although freedom of speech is liable to have the flaws of eliminating120 the creative and traditional character and hierarchy of culture, and eliminating the solidity of the totality by supporting only the flat surface of the totality of culture, relatively one can find nothing better than this, and there is nothing better at making one maintain the spiritual superiority that is intellectual tolerance toward one’s opponents. Thus freedom of speech is both a political requirement for supporting the totality of culture and a political requirement. That the choice of a form of government that will guarantee freedom of speech is as a practical choice the best is for this reason. The foremost enemies of culture are none other than political systems that ultimately do not guarantee freedom of speech.

However, freedom of speech is essentially amoral, and because it itself is a political technical concept established atop relativism, it is a matter of course that the thought of the Security Treaty that equates the relative choice of belonging to the so-called democratic camp with national policy can only possess a flimsy ethical basis, and it will likely from now on lose more and more of its power.

It is in precisely this relativistic ideology that freedom of speech and representative democracy compromise, and naturally one is compelled to distinguish between the high and the low of the spirit from the place where one must be told all manner of foul words, but its ultimate victory always takes time, and in the process one cannot avoid the decline of taste and the devaluation of aesthetics. That is because freedom of speech essentially, within the totality of culture, has no bearing on its vertical face, that is, its temporal continuity. Further, while on one hand the superiority of freedom to unfreedom bears a handicap with regard to the immediate effectiveness and superficial authority of unfreedom, because freedom itself is a political concept that is extremely difficult to ideologize from the point of view of political propaganda technique, in a crisis it can easily lose its footing due to forced ideologization. That at that point, despite being free countries, there is not absent the danger of being eaten by totalitarianism from within, is as you see in a number of concrete cases. Parkinson says in his "Law of Politics” that “believers in democracy, … are less conscious than the communists of all that they have tended to assume.” “Theirs is not normally, for one thing, the religion of the single sacred volume. They are more inclined to base their arguments on a vague knowledge of history. … In any fair discussion of political theory and practice it will be absurd to deny that there is any merit in monarchy or oligarchy.”121

Thus, from the viewpoint of the absolute superiority of the spirit that freedom of speech is originally meant to preserve, the establishment of the cultural community concept is necessitated, and only this can counter ideology, but the cultural community concept, simultaneous with its absolute ethical value, must also have the indiscriminate comprehensiveness of culture. Here the Emperor as a cultural concept appears.

The Emperor as Cultural Concept

Concerning the symbolic Emperor System of the present constitution, against the argument of Dr. Sasaki Sōichi122 that the “national polity123” under the Meiji Constitution has been fundamentally altered, Mr. Watsuji Tetsurō124 once attempted a relentless refutation. Mr. Watsuji pointed out the logical vagueness of introducing the national polity concept, and, taking Mr. Sasaki’s point explaining the necessity of distinguishing between “the concept of the national polity from the perspective of political forms” and “the concept of the national polity from the perspective of spiritual ideas,” asserted that it is on the contrary precisely for that reason that the former is sufficient as a concept of “form of government,” and the “national polity” in the latter sense has not been altered at all. This is interesting material on how the lively constitutional debate in Shōwa 22 (1947) made [its participants] deal with the question of the Emperor far more seriously than today, but leaving aside the propriety of Watsuji’s thesis, from the perspective of its theoretical structure, which attempts to eliminate the contradiction between democracy and the Emperor, it is noteworthy that he stresses the concept of the people as a “cultural community.” Further, he attempts to separate the concept of the Emperor from even the state.

“Now, what I gave as the essential significance of the Emperor before was ‘the symbol of the unity of the Japanese people125,’ which is not necessarily related to the state. If I were told that the concept of “the people126” already presupposes the state, then it could be replaced with talk of the people127 or the masses. In any case, it is the symbol of the unity of the Japanese people128. Because it existed in full force even in times when the Japanese state had fragmented and broken up, the state must be viewed as something that differs in arrangement. Consequently, its unity is not political unity but cultural unity. The people of Japan have formed a single cultural community in language, history, custom, and all other cultural activities. The unity of the people or the masses as this sort of cultural community, the Emperor symbolizes that. The tradition of reverence for the Emperor that exists across Japanese history is none other than the consciousness of this sort of unity.” (“A Request for the Teachings of Dr. Sasaki Concerning the National Polity Alteration Thesis” January, Shōwa 22 [1947] - The Symbol of Popular Unity).

Here, when he separates the concept of the Emperor from the concept of the state, it is not certain whether or not he himself intended as much, but it is suggestive that the message that the Emperor was able to be an ideology of reform precisely because the Emperor as a symbol of unity in the historical truth that “the unity of the people was not lost even when the state fragmented" is a symbolic concept of the cultural community is by itself told. Further, earlier in the same essay, he theorizes the symbolic concept.

“When one thinks thus, that the Emperor is the symbol of the unity of the Japanese people is a fact that exists throughout the history of Japan. The Emperor was the manifestation of the living totality of the primitive group, and also politically the manifestation of the ‘unity as one totality’ of the Japanese people which had fragmented into innumerable states. The totality of such a group or people is a totality in the manner of a subject129 and cannot be grasped in the manner of an object130. For this very reason it can only manifest by means of a ‘symbol.’”

Thus, Watsuji131 stipulates that the Emperor is a member of the people, but explains that because the sovereign holder of democracy is the total will of the Japanese people and not individual members of the people, the Emperor becomes the symbol of the sovereign will, he “has been brought” far “closer to superintendence of the sovereign power” than the Emperors of the Muromachi132 and Edo133 periods.

However, in this series of essays, which are not without the smell of the debates on conditions and policy of the time, one is astonished that the very reverse logic that at the time Watsuji thought nonsensical has come to be sayable today “without any friction.” “The constitution has changed. The national polity that was established by the constitution is no longer the national polity of one or two years ago. The defense of the Emperor System was once the position of the defense of the national polity, but now that would be a position intending to alter the national polity. Defense of the national polity is to defend the democratic system. Could one say such things without any friction? … I cannot bring myself to think so. (“On the Teachings of Dr. Sasaki” July Shōwa 23 [1948] - “The Symbol of Popular Unity”).

It does not take as polemical a form as Watsuji, but as the commonsensical proposition of the historian, Tsuda Sōkichi134 explained as follows.

“One crucial matter now is the position and function of the Imperial House from the standpoint of culture. It goes without saying that in antiquity135 the Imperial House was both the center and the leader of culture, but the main reason for this is that, because the masses did not have contact with foreign peoples due to the geographical position of Japan and the agriculture-centered living conditions of the Japanese, the reception of Chinese136 texts had to take place through the power of the Court, and that the Imperial House, which did not use violence, naturally fixed its attentions on peaceful projects likely became a state of affairs that aided that. In later ages, after the center of culture shifted to the warriors and then the masses, insofar as it transmitted the relics of the culture of antiquity, the Imperial House was accorded a special respect. Because it goes without saying that generations of Emperors almost without exception were fond of scholarship and the arts, and further that many were skilled in them, these became the tradition of the Imperial House. This is also without parallel in all the royal houses of the world. There have been no Emperors who displayed political skill and achieved military feats, but there are not a few Emperors who occupied the first position of their respective ages as scholars, literati, and artists. This fact performs a great function in the adoration of the people for the Imperial House, and that they focused on learning and culture also surely finds one cause in the fact that they did not attend to matters of politics and were not involved in troublesome affairs of state. It is an error to view the Japanese Imperial House solely from a political standpoint.” (“The Japanese Imperial House” July, Shōwa 27 [1952] - “Central Review”137).

Tsuda himself is someone who likes to define “culture” in the following manner.

“Culture is a matter of a way of life. To make right, beautiful, and true the spirit and function of daily life as an individual, as a people, or as a citizen of the world is to improve culture.” (“Japanese Culture After the Peace Treaty” September 2, Shōwa 26 [1951] - “North Country Newspaper138”).

Even in Japan at present, which the fragmentation of public opinion has caused to present a condition in which there are practically two states within one, one may say that the fact that “among supporters of the Socialist Party among the people, more than fifty percent are supporters of the Emperor System, and active criticism is a paltry less than five percent. The Democratic Socialist Party is practically covered in support for the Emperor System. Among supporters of the Communist Party, as one would expect, support for the Emperor System has been waning lately, but it still makes up twelve percent, and the stratum of the indifferent without criticism makes up thirty-nine percent.” (Haruo Seikichi - May 6, Shōwa 43 [1968], Japan Reader’s News139), as well as the fact that, according to the evening Daily News140 “Prime Minister’s Office Public Opinion Poll,” those who think that the Emperor should remain a symbol occupy seventy-three percent, corroborate the aforementioned thesis of Watsuji Tetsurō.

However, on the other hand, when Maruyama Masao141 wrote in the famous “Logic and Psychology of Ultranationalism” (Shōwa 21 [1946]), which is as if filled with ressentiment for the Emperor System state, “If one were to express the state of affairs in which the Emperor is made the center and the entire people supports142 him at various distances as a single concentric circle, its center would be not a point but in fact none other than a single axis passing through it vertically. Thus the infinite effluence of value from the center is guaranteed by the infinitude of the axis (The Imperial Fate Eternal As Heaven And Earth143),” the unparalleled mechanism that he by his negative spirit so transparently expatiated seemed to have been completely destroyed under the political reforms due to defeat.

But, when it comes to his exaggerated statement that, as the ideology inherent in the Emperor System state structure itself, “in our country the private has yet to be clearly approved as private,” and his stating that “consequently the private, as evil or as something close to evil, always accompanied a certain degree of guilt. It is especially so in the case of private profit and love” (The Logic and Psychology of Ultranationalism), he commits a leap in logic that flies over even the process of degeneration144 itself of the Emperor System ruling mechanism. This is because, according to my own opinion, I think it was after the “Peace Preservation Law”145 of Taishō 14 (1925) that the most fearful theoretical degeneration began, both from the standpoint of freedom of speech and from that of the “selfless” original character of Imperial Rule. That is, this is because the parallel stipulation of Article One - “Aiming to alter the national polity or to repudiate the system of private property…” - at precisely this moment, turned the national polity of the state of the Emperor and the system of private property as well as capitalism itself into synonyms.146 The men who bore no suspicion toward this provision should have been only materialists who do not recognize the function of the Emperor System as an extra-economic factor, but in reality, just as many hostile political ideologies are unwittingly violated by the ideology of the enemy, there were none who noticed the “sacrilege”147 of this provision.

In precisely the respect that there were none who noticed that, the Emperor System ruling mechanism, which was decisively disconnected from “the intimate relationship between monarch and subject,"148 is born149.

The Emperor who is the symbol of the non-separation of state and people and the coordinate axis of their temporal continuity and spatial continuity did not once in the modern history of Japan truly150 show his figure as the “cultural concept” that is his essence.

This fact is related to the fact that the essence of the Meiji constitutional state was founded on encroachment upon the totality of culture and represented by a bureaucratic culture that retained vestiges of Confucian morality. I recently visited the Sentō Imperial Palace151 and averted my eyes from the hideousness of the Meiji bureaucratic compensatory bridges suspended in these free and easy regal152 gardens and ponds.

That is, in order for the totality, reflexivity, and subjectivity of culture to discover a fitting Wert an sich153 in that comprehensive and at a glance disordered cultural concept, one must deduce as far as all distal specific facts of Japanese culture by deduction from that Wert an sich, but because the Emperor System mechanism under the Meiji Constitution was more and more pushed toward a Western constitutional monarchical form of government and abstracted cultural functions through the refinement of the political mechanism, it ultimately ceased to possess such deductive ability. As the sole Wert an sich that is truly fitting for the motley, extensive, and comprehensive totality of culture, we must arrive at the Emperor as a cultural concept that is the true form of the Emperor.

When the Kenmu Restoration154 was realized by Emperor Godaigo155, that meant not merely the transfer of power, but the revival of Court culture. The scene of his dreaming of the figure of his father at the temporary abode at Oki156 preceding the return of the Emperor to the capital, in imitation of the section where Hikaru Genji dreams of his father the Emperor at Suma in the Akashi chapter of the Tale of Genji, and as proof of that cultural continuity, is depicted by the author of “Masukagami157” in the following manner.

“Although spring had come to the island, the shore winds still kept their bite, high waves continued to crash on the beaches, and the ice at the water’s edge refused to melt, apparently as resistant to change as the dismal circumstances that deepened Emperor Go-Daigo’s melancholy. (…) One morning just before dawn, he dozed off in spite of himself, and in the moments between dream and reality his father, Retired Emperor Go-Uda, appeared clearly before him. Looking just as he had done during his lifetime, the older man spoke of many things. (…) Still, it was heartening to remember Genji’s dream of his imperial father on the shore at Suma.” (Chapter Seventeen, The Dayflower)158

This sort of Emperor System as a cultural concept, fulfils the two requirements of the totality of culture, and that, along with the temporal continuity being connected to religious rites, spatial continuity at times comes to even accept political disorder, is as if to correspond to the fact that the deepest eroticism adheres159 on one hand to ancient theocracy and on the other to anarchism.

“Elegance” was the cultural quintessence of the Court and admiration for it, but in times of emergency, “elegance” even took the form of terrorism. That is, the Emperor as a cultural concept is not only on the side of state power and order, but even extended its hand to the side of disorder. When state power and order have placed state and people in a condition of separation, the cultural concept that is the Emperor acted as a principle of reform that sought to restore “the non-separation of state and people.” The patriots of the Sakurada Gate Incident160 who arose in response to the will of Emperor Kōmei161 carried out “a sliver of elegance,” and uprising for the Emperor was to be accepted so long as it did not violate cultural forms, but the Shōwa Emperor System that adhered to a Western constitutional democratic form of government had lost the power to understand the “elegance” of the February 26th Incident162.

The Emperor System based on the Meiji Constitution fulfilled temporal continuity by raising the slogan of the unity of rites and government163 (the words “unity of rites and government” are clearly visible in the October, Meiji 1 [1868] “Rescript Making Hikawa Shrine the Tutelary Shrine of Musashino Province” - Nishitsunoi Masayoshi, “Ancient Rites and Literature”), but it did not concern itself with the spatial continuity that has the danger of inviting political disorder. That is, it did not concern itself with freedom of speech. The Emperor as a political concept could not but in large part offer up the freer and more comprehensive Emperor as a cultural concept in sacrifice. And the Emperor System that the postwar so-called “culture state” of Japan barely preserved under US occupation has rendered both aspects powerless, as a consequence of the Taishō educationalism of vulgar bureaucrats and vulgar literati has been forced to follow the transformation into a mass society164, and its dignity has been sunk to the level of the “Weekly Emperor System165.” The Emperor and culture have ceased to relate to one another, and the revival and fixing of the image of the “cultural concept Emperor” and “the Emperor as administrator166 of the totality of culture” as the only ideology that counters the totalitarianisms of left and right ultimately ended up not being tried. Thus, on the one hand the nobility of culture was lost, and reactionaries have desired only the revival of the Emperor who is merely a political concept.

Yet for all that, the figure of the Emperor who is priest and poet lives within the preserved ceremony of the compilation of poetry and the rite of the Imperial Sanctuary. The transmission of the compilation of poetry is proof of the existence of the cultural community since the Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves, in which poems were presided over by the emperor, but, almost unconnected to the individual talent or education of the emperor, he gathered together popular poems with “elegance,” originality was chased to the periphery, and the commonplace167 shines in the core. Popular poems, by participating in elegance, and by extending in a series of plains from the peak of the poetry of the emperor, do not merely “see” the cultural tradition of the country, but participate by creating, and furthermore are given the honor of being “looked back at” from its cultural continuity. The present Emperor, who is its overseer, as if in the manner of the anniversary reconstruction of Ise Shrine, was both the Present and the original Emperor168. The secret rituals of the Great Thanksgiving Festival169 and the Harvest Festival170 have transmitted this well.

It looks as if the Emperor System as a cultural community in which the present existence and source, the creation and transmission of culture are related in this form has been totally eradicated from the consciousness of the bearers of modern culture, but we possess no truly precedental model of elegance171 other than the courtly style of elegance, and the totality of culture is not within the flat antitheses of freedom and responsibility, but is nowhere but within the three-dimensional structures that are freedom and elegance. We still possess nothing other than waka172 as a verse form that entirely contains “the chrysanthemum and the sword.” Just as tales173 were once developed and birthed out of the forewords174 to verse, verse is something like the elements175 of Japanese literature, other genres are an enlargement of it, and the fluid composition based on the associative function of the figures of language that resound to each other form a mostly unconscious universal style of Japanese literature even until today. Sandwiched between the “elegance” of courtly poetry and the “imitation of elegance” of popular poetry, all modern Japanese literature had continued its activity as the deracinated of both176. The rupture with tradition is at a glance none other than rupture with commonplace style elegance, but modern Japan birthed not a single aesthetic principle like “yūgen177,” “hana178,” “wabi179,” or “sabi180,” that truly expresses an era. Absent the absolute medium that is the Emperor, poetry and politics could only fall into a state of complete opposition or end in the annexation of the poetic domain181 by politics.

That the origin of elegance is the Emperor attests to the tradition of seeking “elegance” in the highest degree of aesthetic value, and, in distinction to what the discourse of mass culture of the left hints at, the mass culture of Japan mainly emanates from “the imitation of elegance.” And the Japanese culture of each era gave rise to the formation of satellite aesthetic principles, “yūgen,” “hana,” “wabi,” “wabi,” centered on elegance, but it is this very womb that gives birth to the creative new life of culture that was the culture of noble and commonplace elegance, and the height182 of the anti-originality of culture and the secret repository183 of the acme of classicism was the Emperor. However, the significance of the Emperor lies in that orthodox aesthetic harmony ethical genesis ceaselessly inspire aesthetic effusion and ethical effusion, and this “self-effacing monarchy” was the restraining force of the egoism of each era and simultaneously its embracing concept. Amaterasu Ōmikami thus, by her hiding in the Rock Cave184, performs an aesthetic and ethical criticism, but does not perform it with power. The aesthetic and ethical deviation of Haya-Susanoo no Mikoto185 is thus criticized in the form of the self-denial of the sorrow of Amaterasu Ōmikami, but they are ultimately brought to reconciliation by the raucous laughter (the most vulgar) of culture at Amenouzume no Mikoto186 playing the fool at the banquet of the gods. Here is narrated the fundamental phenomenal form of Japanese culture. Further, Haya-Susanoo no Mikoto was once, out of longing for his mother in Yomi187, the male deity who “wept such that his voice became hoarse and he made verdant mountains into blighted188.” The laughter of the chrysanthemum and the sorrow of the sword were already subsumed in these myths.

After being banished as a result of his own sins, Haya-Susanoo no Mikoto becomes a hero, but culture teaches that the ultimate ethical origin of rebellion and revolution in Japan lies in the Sun Deity189 that is the object of that very rebellion and revolution. The esoteric significance of the Mirror of Yata190 is none other than this. That all rebellions and vulgarities from the perspective of culture are ultimately included within “elegance,” and that there the totality of culture entirely manifests and the Emperor as a cultural concept comes into being is the fundamental principle191 of the history of Japanese culture. That was the eternally mist-covered native place, containing even the vulgar, of the noble, the elegant, and the commonplace.

Because the source in which the honors of the chrysanthemum and the sword ultimately unify192 is the Emperor, military honors must also be granted by the Emperor as a cultural concept. This seems a juridically feasible method under the present constitution, but the substance of the supreme right of honors must be restored to the Emperor, and while it is a matter of course that he must receive the ceremonial weapon of the military, he must also directly bestow regimental standards.

That I say such things is because I have observed on my travels in Southeast Asia extreme examples of the polarization and indigenization of communism, like the Thai communist Patriotic Front193 strengthening solidarity after an assembly by singing paeans to the king, and Pathet Lao, the representative of the communist forces that occupy two thirds of Laotian territory, offering up ceaseless feelings of veneration to the king. As the trend of the times shifts, the people that by an overwhelming majority supports the Symbolic Emperor System may simultaneously accept the formation of a pro-communist government. At that time, through representative democracy and peacefully, even a “communist form of government under the Emperor System” could come into being. It goes without saying that communist governments and pro-communist governments, which are the complete antitheses of freedom of speech, destroy the continuity of culture and injure its totality, but, whether the Emperor as a cultural concept crumbles with these, is used as the most cunning political symbol, or is discarded after having been used, his fate would be sealed. In order to prevent such a state of affairs, it is an urgent necessity to tie the Emperor and the military with bonds of honor, and further, there is no other certain preventative measure. Of course, such a revival of the content of the supreme right of honors must encourage the revival, not of the Emperor as a political concept, but of the Emperor as a cultural concept. Because, as only such an Emperor who represents the totality of culture is the ultimate Wert an sich, it is the time that the Emperor is rejected or included in the political concepts of totalitarianism that will be the true crisis of Japan and also Japanese culture.

- May 5 of the Forty-Third Year of the Shōwa Era (1968)

On the Defense of Culture (Initial Appearance) Central Review - July of the Forty-Third Year of the Shōwa Era (1968)

(Initial Publication) “On the Defense of Culture” - Shinchōsha194 - April of the Forty-Fourth Year of the Shōwa Era (1969)


1 The Genroku era (taken from the Genroku period, which lasted from 1688 to 1704, but generally also includes the preceding and following thirty years) was an era of great artistic, literary, and cultural production coinciding with the rise of the merchant class that saw the emergence of the great poet Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), the great playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724), and the great floating world storyteller Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693). It is also known as a period of great extravagance and moral corruption.

2 成果 seika.

3 対応して taiō shite. This could also mean “in response to,” but I find that unlikely.

4 悲惨 hisan. Could also be translated as “misery” or “wretchedness.”

5 わらわれ自身に安心する wareware jishin ni anshin suru.

6 This is the title of Ruth Benedict’s well-known wartime “study” of Japanese culture, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture.

7 芸術至上主義 geijutsushijōshugi.

8 享受者 kyōjusha. “Enjoyer” is a literal translation, as this term has no accepted one.

9 鑑賞 kanshō. Could also be translated as “enjoy.”

10 教養主義 kyōyōshugi. Translated literally.

11 平和的福祉価値 heiwateki fukushi kachi.

12 思考 shikō.

13 天下泰平 Tenka Taihei.

14 国民文化の創造 Kokumin Bunka no Sōzō.

15 働く国民 hataraku kokumin.

16 文化的能力 bunkateki nōryoku.

17 民族文化の発展 Minzoku Bunka no Hatten.

18 美術工芸品 bijutsu kōgeihin.

19 充実 jūjitsu

20 呈示 teiji.

21 両面性 ryōmensei.

22 尽きない議論が闘わされるであろう tsukinai giron ga tatakawasareru de arō.

23 一億玉砕 ichioku gyokusai. “Ichioku” means one hundred million and is a common epithet for the Japanese nation. “Gyokusai” refers to a beautiful and honorable death for the sake of loyalty or honor itself. As the military situation worsened, the Army General Staff and other sectors of society raised this slogan and called for the entire population to be ready to die in a final decisive battle on the home islands if necessary.

24 疑わしい utagawashī.

25 国柄 kunigara.

26 風土 fūdo. This is also the title of a book by Watsuji Tetsurō which argues for the importance of climate and geographical position in shaping the culture and customs of a place.


28 特攻隊 Tokkōtai. This is the Japanese shorthand for what in English are usually called the kamikaze. Their full name is 神風特別攻撃隊 Kamikaze Tokubetsu Kōgekitai or Divine Wind Special Attack Units.

29 万葉集 Man’yōshū. The earliest collection of poetry in Japan. Note that much of it is written in Classical Chinese, not Japanese.

30 短歌 tanka are short Japanese poems of 31 syllables arranged in lines of five, seven, five, seven, and seven syllables.

31 A massive Tendai temple in Iwate Prefecture dating to the early Heian period.

32 華道 Kadō. A synonym for ikebana with some Confucian connotations.

33 茶道 Sadō.

34 剣道 Kendō.

35 武道その他のマーシャル・アート budō sono hoka no māsharu āto, literally “martial arts and other martial arts.” “Budō” can also theoretically refer to military science or the Way of the Samurai, but I doubt that those meanings fit here.

36 作品形態 sakuhin keitai.

37 その時々の sono tokidoki no.

38 式年造営 shikinen zōei.

39 持統帝 Jitō Tei, usually Jitō Tennō (645-702).

40 滅びてゆき horobite yuki.

41 本歌取り honka-dori.

42 天皇制 Tennōsei. This term was invented by the Japan Communist Party in the 1920s and spread to the rest of society after the war.

43 天照大神, also written 天照大御神, Amaterasu Ōmikami. The Sun Goddess, the daughter of Izanagi no Mikoto, the sister of Susanoo no Mikoto and Tsukuyomi no Mikoto, the progenitress of the Imperial Line, and the grandmother of Ninigi no Mikoto, to whom she passed the The Sacred Regalia and proclaimed that her descendants would conquer and rule all of Japan in perpetuity.

44 振起 shinki.

45 源泉的 gensenteki.

46 身をひそめ mi wo hisome.

47 激発して gekihatsu shite.

48 羅列 raretsu.

49 一貫 ikkan.

50 再帰性 saikisei. Could also be translated as “recursiveness.”

51 再帰する saiki suru.

52 保持 hoji.

53 不可能 fukanō.

54 ありえない arienai.

55 蓮田善明 Hasuda Zenmei (1904-1945), a poet, scholar of classical literature, critic, and soldier, Hasuda was friends with Mishima Yukio and is reputed to have entrusted Japan’s future to Mishima just before his deployment to Malaysia. After surrender, he killed his commanding officer and then committed suicide.

56 丹羽文雄 Niwa Fumio (1904-2005), a novelist known for his works depicting social customs and manners with women protagonists.

57 海戦 Kaisen. Published in 1942 on the basis of his experiences in the Battle of Savo Island on August 9, 1942.

58 篠竹 Shinodake (1946).

59 精巧 seikō.

60 掣肘 seichū.

61 誨淫の書 kaiin no sho.

62 集大成 shūtaisei.

63 葉隠 Hagakure.

64 自己放棄 jiko hōki.

65 演ずる enzuru. “Play” as in “play a role.”

66 Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1929 -), a German author, poet, translator, and editor.

67 没論理 botsu ronri.

68 一致しない itchi shinai.

69 This passage is very difficult, and its meaning escapes me.

70 内発性 naihatsusei.

71 受動的存在 judōteki sonzai.

72 同一化 dōitsuka.

73 あるべき姿 arubeki sugata.

74 流れを汲む nagare wo kumu. Can also mean “to be descended from.”

75 錦の御旗 nishiki no mihata, lit. the brocade banner. This originally referred to the Imperial Standard.

76 日和見主義者 hiyorimishugisha.

77 マイホーム主義者 maihōmu (my home) shugisha.

78 三派全学連 Sanpazengakuren. The history of the NFSSGA is too long, complicated, irrelevant, and boring to discuss here, but this refers to the reconstituted Third NFSSGA established in 1966 by three of the many warring left-wing student factions.

79 自己の滅却 jiko no mekkyaku.

80 献身的契機 kenshinteki keiki.

81 見返す力 mikaesu chikara. Could also be “the power that looks back.”

82 文武両道 bunbu ryōdō.

83 視野 shiya, lit. field of vision.

84 民俗学的 Minzokugakuteki. This typically refers to Yanagita Kunio’s (1875-1962) school of folklore studies.

85 民族主義 minzokushugi. Of all the terms translating “nationalism,” this one most emphasizes its ethnic and racial component.

86 共同体 kyōdōtai.

87 血族共同体 ketsuzoku kyōdōtai.

88 This implies that the community principle of prewar Japan was not based on blood, at least not in the same way. What it was based on Mishima does not tell us.

89 呼び求められている yobimotomerareteiru, lit. called and sought.

90 癒着 yuchaku. Can also mean to adhere to or be in a close or cozy relationship with.

91 This refers to a series of five cabinets led by the former diplomat and associate of Prince Konoe Fumimaro (近衛文麿, 1891-1945) Yoshida Shigeru (吉田茂, 1878-1967) from May 27, 1946 to December 10, 1954.

92 朝鮮 Chōsen, referring to the entire peninsula.

93 The Liberal Democratic Party (自由民主党 Jiyū Minshutō, 自民党 Jimintō for short), is Japan’s leading conservative political party. It was founded on November 15, 1955 with the merger of the Japan Democratic Party and the Liberal Party for the purpose of combating the rising power of the Japan Socialist Party. Until its splintering in June of 1993, it maintained a consistent majority in both Houses of the Diet and formed all cabinets.

94 This refers to a series of three cabinets led by Ikeda Hayato (池田勇人, 1899-1965) beginning after the resignation of of the grandfather of Abe Shinzō Kishi Nobusuke (岸信介, 1896-1987) in July of 1960 and continuing until November of 1964.

95 The 1964 Tōkyō Olympics.

96 国民 kokumin. Unlike minzoku, this term has no racial connotations.

97 This refers to a series of three cabinets led by Satō Eisaku (佐藤栄作, 1901-1975) from November of 1964 to July of 1972.

98 Tsuburaya (Tsumuraya) Kōkichi (円谷幸吉, 1940-1968).

99 Also known as the Nuclear Aircraft Carrier Base Question (原子力航空母体基地問題 Genshiryoku Kōkū Botai Kichi Mondai), this was a controversy that played out between the Ikeda and Satō cabinets and the opposition parties in the Diet provoked by the granting of permission to the nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier Enterprise to enter the port of Sasebo in Kyūshū in late 1967, which it did in early 1968. This placed Japan under the US nuclear umbrella in contradiction to the Three Non-Nuclear Principles (no possession, no manufacture, and no introduction) then being debated in the Diet. These principles were enshrined in a parliamentary resolution in 1971, but would never be adopted into law.

100 昂揚 kōyō. Also “promotion,” “boosting.”

101 自立感情 jiritsu kanjō.

102 三次防 Sanjibō, short for 第三次防衛力整備計画 Dai Sanji Bōeiryoku Seibi Keikaku, the Third Plan For The Development of Defense Capacity. A five year plan for 1967 to 1971 adopted in November 1966.

103 一班 ippan. Literally “one spot.”

104 養成 yōsei.

105 民族 minzoku. This term has strong racial and ethnic connotations.

106 相乗作用 sōjō sayō, lit. multiplicative effect.

107 基地侵入 kichi shinnyū. This means their invasion of a military base. I could not find which invasion this refers to.

108 民族 minzoku.

109 Usually called the Narita Struggle (成田闘争 Narita Tōsō) or the Sanrizuka Struggle (三里塚闘争 Sanrizuka Tōsō), this was a protest movement by local residents and New Left activists against the creation of Narita Airport and various problems, e.g. noise and land acquisition, associated with it. It continues in muted form today.

110 現象形態 genshō keitai.

111 I translate 黒人 kokujin as “negro” to better reflect English usage at the time of original publication.

112kuni, lit. country.

113 異民族問題 iminzoku mondai. Literally, different ethnicity problems.

114 Mishima may be referring to LBJ’s declaration of “unconditional war on poverty,” but that is not certain.

115 朝鮮人問題 Chōsenjin mondai, referring to the problem of Koreans living in Japan.

116 金嬉老事件 Kin Kirō Jiken. On February 20-24, 1968, Japan-born Korean Kwon Hyi-ro took eighteen Japanese civilians hostage at Sumatakyō Hot Springs in the Southern Alps while fleeing from Japanese police after having murdered a Japanese gangster. During these four days, he verbally attacked Japanese for discriminating against Koreans. In 1975, he was sentenced to indefinite imprisonment with hard labor, but was allowed to leave in 1999, at which point he moved to South Korea, acquired a mistress, attacked her husband and set fire to their apartment, and was sent to a sanitarium.

117 罪障感 zaishōkan. A Buddhist term.

118 国民 kokumin. As previously mentioned, this term has no racial or ethnic connotations.

119 領略 ryōryaku. I have taken the liberty of assuming that Mishima means not “comprehend,” which is what comes up under this character combination in the dictionary, but “cheat,” which appears under the homophone 掠略.

120 失わせる ushinawaseru. Lit. cause to lose.

121 From page 315 of C. Northcote Parkinson’s Evolution of Political Thought. The translation that Mishima relies on gets the title and much of the original text wrong.

122 佐々木惣一 Sasaki Sōichi (1878-1965). A professor of public law known for his support of Minobe Tatsukichi’s (美濃部達吉, 1873-1948) theory of the Emperor as an organ of state (in opposition to Hozumi Yatsuka [穂積八束, 1860-1912] and Uesugi Shinkichi [上杉慎吉, 1878-1929]). After the war, he participated in the initial efforts to revise the constitution, but was frustrated by the Occupation’s takeover of the project and opposed their proposed draft as a member of the House of Peers.

123 国体 kokutai. This is an old Confucian term that was given new meaning by Aizawa Seishisai in his 1825 New Theses, which is available in a translation by Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi in Anti-Foreignism and Western Learning in Early-Modern Japan. This is not the place to go into detail on the history of this term, but it has been understood variously to refer to the Japanese state and people, the Imperial House, and the culture and traditions of Japan. The unifying idea behind all uses of the term is that of the trait or traits that distinguish one polity from another.

124 和辻哲郎 Watsuji Tetsurō (1889-1960). One of modern Japan’s towering philosophers and historians, Watsuji Tetsurō published studies on Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, Japanese ethics, Buddhism, and, in response to Heidegger, a study of the influence of climate on culture, customs, and politics entitled simply Climate 風土 Fūdo. He is one of the few non-left Japanese thinkers who were not hostile to the West.

125 国民 kokumin.

126 国民 kokumin.

127 人民 jinmin. This term for “the people” has strong communist overtones and is that used in the official name of the People’s Republic of China.

128 ピープル pīpuru, the English word “people.”

129 主体的に shutaiteki ni, lit. “subjectively.”

130 対象的に taishōtkei ni, lit. “objectively.”

131 Mishima here adds 氏 shi to Watsuji, which is something like the equivalent of “Mr.” in extremely formal contexts, particularly writing. I have refrained from translating this term in order to avoid sounding like the New York Times.

132 1336-1573.

133 Roughly 1600-1868.

134 津田左右吉 Tsuda Sōkichi (1873-1961). One of the foundational figures of the modern study of ancient Japanese thought, Tsuda Sōkichi is known for his work on the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, which was intended to refute the official state doctrine of the national polity and resulted in his eventual prosecution, as well as such works as 文学に現われたる我が国民思想の研究 Bungaku ni Arawaretaru Waga Kokumin Shisō no Kenkyū Studies in Our Popular Thought As Manifested in Literature.

135 上代 jōdai. This mainly refers to the Nara period (710-794).

136 シナ Shina. Today this is considered a slur, but at the time it was preferred to 中国 Chūgoku, which connotes the centrality of China and the superiority of her culture. This term shares etymological roots with the English “China.”

137 中央公論 Chūō Kōron. Founded in Kyōto in 1887, Central Review is Japan’s most prestigious general magazine. It leans leftward, but often carries essays from a more conservative perspective, like this one. Its opponent is the more conservative Bungei Shunjū.

138 北國新聞 Hokkoku Shinbun. This is a less significant regional newspaper located in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture.

139 日本読書新聞 Nihon Dokusho Shinbun. An insignificant and defunct newspaper.

140 毎日新聞 Mainichi Shinbun. Founded in Ōsaka in 1876, Daily News is one of Japan’s most widely-read daily newspapers.

141 丸山眞男 Maruyama Masao (1914-1996). Perhaps the single most important political scientist and historian of postwar Japan, Maruyama Masao has served as a lodestar for generations of Western and Japanese students of Japanese thought and politics as well as generations of non-Marxist left-wing intellectuals. His most well-known book in the West is 日本政治思想史研究 Nihon Seiji Shisōshi Kenkyū, which is available in a translation by Mikiso Hane under the title of Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan. The essay referenced here, 超国家主義の論理と心理 Chōkokkashugi no Ronri to Shinri is contained in the collection 現代政治の思想と行動 Gendai Seiji no Shisō to Kōdō, which is available in English under the title of Thought and Behavior in Modern Japanese Politics.

142 翼賛 yokusan. This term evokes Konoe Fumimaro’s 大政翼賛会 Taisei Yokusankai, or Imperial Rule Assistance Association, which some regard as one of the building blocks of Japanese fascism.

143 天壌無窮の皇運 tenjō mukyū no kōun. A common cliché.

144 変質 henshitsu, lit. change in quality.

145 治安維持法 Chian Iji Hō. This law was intended to suppress all varieties of socialism.

146 I have made minor alterations to the formatting here.

147 不敬 fukei. Also blasphemy.

148 君臣水魚の交わり kunshin suigyo no majiwari, lit. the relations of water and fish between monarch and subject, monarch and subject are in a relationship of water and fish, etc.

149 呱々の声をあげる koko no koe wo ageru, lit. to give the cry of a newborn.

150 如実 nyojitsu.

151 仙洞御所 Sentō Gosho. This is a general term for the residences of Emperors who have abdicated, but prior to the abdication of the previous Emperor it referred almost exclusively to the one in Kyōto.

152 帝王 teiō. A more general term for sovereigns, monarchs, and emperors.

153 This is written as 価値自体 kachi jitai with ヴェルト・アン・ジッヒ veruto an jihhi given as the reading. The Japanese implies “value itself,” while, according to the fine men of Club Tropical Excellent GmbH, the German implies “value in itself.” Thanks go to Club Tropical Excellent GmbH for their help.

154 建武中興 Kenmu Chūkō. The Kenmu Restoration was a short-lived period of direct Imperial rule following the collapse of the Kamakura Shogunate beginning in 1333 with Emperor Godaigo’s reconquest of Kyōto and ending in 1336 with his expulsion and retreat to Yoshino. From then until 1392, in what is known as the Northern and Southern Courts period, his successors at Yoshino would claim to be the rightful holders of the throne. The question of the legitimacy of the Yoshino Court, and by extension direct Imperial rule, would become increasingly contentious, particularly in the late Edo period. These events, and their heroes like Kusunoki Masashige, are immortalized in the Taiheiki and have inspired generations of artists, thinkers, and Imperial loyalists since.

155 後醍醐天皇 Godaigo Tennō, (1288-1339). The ninety-sixth Emperor and leader of the aforementioned Kenmu Restoration.

156 Usually called 隠岐の行宮 Oki no Angū, this refers to the banishment of Emperor Godaigo to the Oki Islands off the coast of what is now Shimane Prefecture after the initial failure of his 1331 uprising.

157 増鏡 Masukagami, is the last of the Four Mirrors set of unofficial historical tales and discusses the period from 1183 to 1333.

158 I have taken this from pages 214 and 215 of the translation of The Clear Mirror by George W. Perkins.

159 接着 setchaku. “Adhere” in the sense of “adhesion.”

160 桜田門の変 Sakuradamon no Hen. This refers to the assassination of Chief Minister Ii Naosuke outside Edo Castle in 1860. See my translation of The Youths of the Restoration for fuller discussion of this by Mishima.

161 孝明天皇 Kōmei Tennō (1831-1866, r. 1846-1866). He is known for opposing the bakufu policy of acceding to the demands of Commodore Perry and the Western powers.

162 二・二六事件 Ni Ni Roku Jiken. An uprising of the Young Officer faction of the Imperial Japanese Army to compel the government to carry out a Shōwa Restoration. See my translation of On the February 26th Incident for fuller discussion of this by Mishima.

163 祭政一致 Saisei Itchi. This is often translated as “theocracy,” but refers specifically to the reunification in the person of the Emperor of the ritual function, which was never alienated from him, and the political function, which had been alienated by the mid-Heian period.

164 大衆社会化 taishūshakaika.

165 「週刊誌天皇制」shūkanshi Tennōsei. “Weekly” here refers to weekly magazines.

166 統括者 tōkatsusha. Can also mean “unifier” or “bringer together.”

167 月並み tsukinami. Also conventional, hackneyed, or trite.

168 This likely refers to Emperor Jinmu.

169 大嘗祭 Daijōsai. This refers to the very first Harvest Festival performed by an Emperor after coronation, when he personally offers up grain provided by two provinces determined by tortoiseshell divination, first to Amaterasu Ōmikami, then to all the gods of heaven and earth. Its date is presently fixed on November 23.

170 新嘗祭 Niinamesai, Shinjōsai. All subsequent Harvest Festivals are called by this name.

171 優雅 yūga.

172 和歌 waka. This refers to all Japanese forms of verse (tanka, chōka, sedōka, katauta, etc) in contradistinction to Chinese forms.

173 物語 monogatari. This is a specific style of Japanese prose literature that was born in the Heian period (794-1185) and includes numerous subgenres. Much of this literature is Buddhist in character, particularly that which goes under the name is setsuwa.

174 詞書 kotobagaki. These originally briefly introduced the place, time, and circumstances in which a particular poem was composed.

175 元素 genso. This is meant in the scientific sense.

176 その細い根無し草の営為 sono hosoi nenashigusa no eii, lit. “the activity of their/that slim duckweed.” “Duckweed” is used to refer to deracination or rootlessness.

177 幽玄 yūgen. A poetic aesthetic of quiet, solitary beauty that inspires feelings of mystery and depth. This was popular in the late Heian, Kamakura, and Muromachi periods.

178hana. This refers to beauty or skill in expression, in contrast to 実 jitsu, which refers to deeper content or meaning.

179wabi. This refers to a feeling of calm loneliness contained in the plain or the simple.

180sabi. This term is specific to the poetry of Matsuo Bashō (see footnote 1) and his disciples, and refers to a subtle aesthetic of tranquility and solitude that emerges from the author’s transcendence of the worldly and vulgar.

181 詩的領土の併呑 shiteki ryōdo no heidon. Ryōdo also means territory, which gives this phrase a flavor of conquest that is only partially preserved in my translation.

182kyoku. Either “pole” in the literal sense or “extreme,” “height,” “zenith,” “climax.”

183 秘庫 hiko. Also “treasure trove.”

184 岩戸隠れ Iwato kakure. This refers to Amaterasu Ōmikami’s hiding in 天岩戸 Ama no Iwato, or the Celestial Rock Cave, plunging heaven and earth into darkness, after her brother Susanoo rampaged through the sacred fields of heaven, defiling Amaterasu’s harvest shrine and shocking a weaving girl to death by throwing a still-living horse that he had skinned alive into Amaterasu’s weaving shrine. Mishima relates this episode in abbreviated form.

185 速須佐之男の命 Haya-Susanoo no Mikoto. Another name for Susanoo no Mikoto, the younger brother of Amaterasu, and the god of storms, agriculture, and heroism, after his banishment to the human realm, he slew the great eight-headed and eight-tailed Eight-Forked Great Serpent (八岐大蛇 Yamata no Orochi) in Izumo and from its tail drew the Grass-Mowing Blade (草薙剣 Kusanagi no Tsuguri), which was used by his descendant Yamato Takeru no Mikoto (日本武尊) on his conquests and is now one of the Three Sacred Regalia of the Imperial Family. He would later depart for Silla, one of the the three ancient kingdoms of Korea.

186 天宇受賣命 Amenouzume no Mikoto. One of the five gods and goddesses (五部神 Itsutomo no Onokami) who descended to Japan with Ninigi no Mikoto (瓊瓊杵尊), she performed a half-naked dance to draw Amaterasu out of the cave.

187 黄泉 Yomi. The land of the dead in Shintō. This refers specifically to his mother, Izanami no Mikoto (伊弉冉尊/伊邪那美命).

188 青山を枯山なす泣き枯らす aoyama wo karayama nasu nakikarasu. This is a quote from the ancient texts. I must note here that I am not well-versed in the language of these texts, and so my translation may differ significantly from what those studied in the subject would give.

189 日神 Nichijin, Hi no Kami. This term does not specify the sex of the deity, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that there was debate during the Edo period over the sex of Amaterasu.

190 八咫鏡 Yata no Kagami. One of the Three Sacred Regalia of the Imperial House, this is said to have been created at the time of Amaterasu’s hiding in the Cave. The mirror is a medium of her spirit and symbolizes the Imperial succession. It is said that when an Emperor looks into it, he sees the face of the goddess reflected back at him.

191 大綱 taikō.

192 帰一 kiitsu. Refers to the reunification of things once separated.

193 This likely refers to the Thai Patriotic Front established in 1965.

194 新潮社 Shinchōsha. Founded in 1904, Shinchōsha is Japan’s premier publisher of literature.