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November 25 1970

The Start of the Day

On the morning of November 25,1970 Yukio Mishima had started his day early. He was alone in his house since his wife had taken their two children to school. He and his family lived in a suburb of Tokyo in a western-style house which he had built in 1959 and lived their ever since. His mother and a father lived in a smaller house next next ot his own which he had built as well.

Lying on the table was the final chapter of "Decay of the Angel", the last book in the "Sea of Fertility Series". Mishima had finished the book on time. He always prided himself on the fact that he had never missed a deadline for any of his books. His publisher, Shinchosa , said that they would send someone by his house to pick up the last chapter later in the day.

Shortly after 10:00 AM, Mishima saw someone walking up the path through his garden towards his house dressed in the uniform of his private army,"The Tatenokai" or "Shield Society". This person was Chibi-Koga, one of his followers from the organization. Chibi-Koga was a student like many of the other members of the Tatenokai. Mishima handed Chibi-Koga three envelops and told Chibi-Kogu to take the envelops out to the car and tell everyone to read them immediately. Mishima then picked up his military sword, an antique that he had made in the same style of other 17th swords of Japan and he and Chibi-Koga left the house and went down to the street to enter a car, a white Toyota Corona, that was parked on the street. Already in the car were three other students, all in the uniform of Mishima's private army. Their names were Furu-Koga , Ogawa, and Masakatsu Morita. Mishima asked them if they had read the letters in the envelopes. He told all of them with the exception of Masakatsu Morita that they were not to kill themselves. That they were to make sure that the general did not try to commit suicide either. The five men then drove away towards their destination.


Ichigaya Military Base

The car with Mishima and the four students arrived at the Ichigaya military base of the Jietai(Japan's Self-Defense Forces) a little before 11:00 AM. Mishima and his followers had received permission from the government to train at the base in 1966, so many people at the base knew him. As he drove onto the grounds many of the soldiers on duty greeted him. Mishima drove up to the army headquarters and entered the building.

Once inside the building, Mishima was greeted by Major Sawamoto, an aide to General Kanetoshi Mashita, commander of the Eastern Army in Japan. The major left the room with Mishima and his four followers for a moment and then reappeared telling Mishima that the General was ready to see him. Mishima and his group followed the major into the room.

Once inside the room the major pointed to four chairs lined up against the wall of the office and told the four students to sit in those chairs. Mishima stepped forward to greet General Mashita. General Mashita was a gray-haired man of 57 years old who had served in the Pacific war. The General greeted Mishima warmly by saying "How nice to see you again." Mishima told the General that he wanted the four students with him to meet the General since they had distinguished themselves by carrying other members of his army down from Mt. Fuji who had been injured during training. Mishima told the General that these four were to receive a special commendation later in the day.

Mishima and the General began to talk when Mishima offered to show the General his sword which he was carrying with him. While the General was admiring the sword, Chibi-Kogu grabbed the General. Furu-Koga and Ogawa came forward to help Chibi-Kogu subdue the General while Masakatsu Morita tried to fasten the doors closed, but he couldn't find anything solid to tie the wire to so that that the door would be secured. Eventually the group barricaded the door to the office with tables and chairs.

Unknown to everyone in the room, there was a peephole that looked into the General's office from the just outside the entrance door. Major Sawamoto happened to be looking into the office to see if they were all ready for tea when he saw what was happening to the General. Major Sawamoto then went to get his immediate superior Colonel Hara. The two men tried to get into the room, but they couldn't get past the barricade. After trying to get into the room unsuccessfully, the two men went to get General Yamazaki, the chief of staff. At 11:20 AM a group of men from the Jietai pounded on the door to the General's office and eventually broke through the barricade. After a brief confrontation where Mishima threatened to kill General Mashita if the men did not leave the room, the men withdrew. Mishima then told Colonel Hara that he wanted all of the men at the base to assemble in the courtyard. He had prepared to give a speech to the men at 11:30 AM. It was already 11:30 AM and Mishima's plan was running behind schedule.

While the Colonel was away conferring with his superiors, Mishima told General Mashita what his demands were. He told the General that if his demands were not met that he would first kill him and then commit hari-kari. Mishima ordered one of the students to read the demands to the General. One of the students took out a piece of paper from Mishima's attache case and began to read. His demands went as follows:

At 11:38 AM police sirens could be heard approaching the base. By11:45 the first helicopters began to arrive. Some were police helicopters and others were helicopters belonging to newspapers and television stations. But the 40 members of Mishima's army who were waiting outside the base had refused to assemble in the courtyard for the speech.They didn't know that the order had come from their own leader.

Shortly before Mishima was to make his speech , Morita and Ogawa came out onto the balcony overlooking the courtyard and hung a banner to the parapet which had written on it the conditions which guaranteed General Mashita's safety. The two students began dropping papers over the side of the balcony to the men below. The papers contained Mishima's " last manifesto ", a document which was modeled after statements made by rebel military officers during the abortive government takeover attempts (The Ni Ni Roku incident for example) that took place during the 1930's in Japan.

At noon exactly, Mishima walked out onto the balcony overlooking the courtyard and began to speak. Mishima spoke briefly to the men gathered below. He said that there was a need for the Jietai to overthrow the present government and save Japan. He tried to convince the soldiers gathered below that it was necessary for the Jietai to rise up and save not only Japan, but its history and its culture. Mishima's speech was met with jeers and insults. After speaking on the balcony for only a little over 5 minutes, Mishima ended his speech and along with Morita withdrew from the balcony to General Mashita's office.


Back Inside General Mashita's Office

Shortly after re-entering the General's office, Mishima committed seppuku(ritual suicide) or hari-kari as it is often called. Mishima said to Morita after he had first cut his stomach open "Do not leave me in agony too long". Morita then made his first attempt to behead Mishima, but as he swung the sword, Mishima fell forward and Morita hit the carpet of the General's office, cutting Mishima across the back and shoulders. Morita tried again to behead Mishima, but he hit his body and not his neck giving Mishima a severe wound to his body. Once again Morita swung his sword. This time he struck Mishima's neck, but he didn't cut his neck completely.Furu-Koga took the sword from Morita and beheaded Mishima with one blow. After Mishima was beheaded, Morita tried to commit seppuku as well, but he was too weak after trying to behead Mishima. Morita then signaled to Furu-Koga to behead him. Furu-Koga then beheaded Morita with one stroke of his sword.

Furu-Koga then untied General Mashita. One of the students told the General that no one else would commit suicide. He said that Mishima had ordered them not to kill themselves, so that they could hand the General over safely to the authorities that were present at the scene. Finally the three remaining students then escorted the General out of his office and then surrendered to the Japanese police.

At 12:23 PM the police doctors declared Yukio Mishima and Masakatsu Morita had died as a result of hari-kari (seppuku).


" kichigai..... "

The incident involving Mishima and the four other Tatenokai students was met by disbelief when it was first reported in the Japanese media. No one seemed to believe the story at first. After all, there hadn't been a reported case of hari-kari in Japan since the end of the Second World War. When the initial report of what had finally happened to Mishima and Morita was sent to police headquarters in Tokyo, the orders that were sent back to the police at the scene were " if the body is still warm do your utmost to save Mishima's life". When a reporter for a leading Japanese newspaper, the "Mainichi Shimbun", who was present at the Ichigaya base during the incident, reported his story by phone, he was told to " go back and check your facts " by his superiors at the paper. The paper then ran the headline "INJURED MISHIMA RUSHED TO HOSPITAL" for its late afternoon edition.

The first official goverment comment on the affair at the Ichigaya base was made by a friend of Mishima's, the Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato. Mishima had been friends with both the Prime Minister and his wife. When reporters asked Prime Minister Sato what he thought of the incident at the Ichigaya base, as he was leaving a meeting of the Japanese Diet where he was making a speech, the prime minister stated about Mishima that "He must have been kichigai ,out of his mind."

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