Yukio Mishima

Confessions of a mask

I had a presentiment then that there is in this world a kind of desire like stinging pain. (8)

What I mean is that toward his occupation I felt something like a yearning for a piercing sorrow, a body-wrenching sorrow. His occupation gave me the feeling of "tragedy" in the most sensuous meaning of the word. A certain feeling as it were of "self-renunciation," a certain feeling of indifference, a certain feeling of intimacy with danger, a feeling like a remarkable mixture of nothingness and vital power—all these feelings swarmed forth from his calling, bore down upon me, and took me captive, at the age of four. Probably I had a misconception of the work of a night-soil man. (9)

The period of childhood is a stage on which time and space become entangled. (15)

What was it I understood at that moment, or was on the verge of understanding? Did the motif of later years‐that of "remorse as prelude to sin"‐show here the first hint of its beginning? Or was the moment teaching me how grotesque my isolation would appear to the eyes of love, and at the same time was I learning, from the reverse side of the lesson, my own incapacity for accepting love? ... (79)

Hence it was on this visit that I ate my first blue-skinned fish‐a yellowtail‐which I devoured with immense satisfaction. Its delicate flavor signified for me that I had finally been accorded the first of my adult rights, but at the same time it left a rather bitter tang of uneasiness upon the tip of my tongue—uneasiness at becoming an adult—which still recalls to me a feeling of discomfort whenever I taste that flavor. (26)

The reluctant masquerade had begun. At about this time I was beginning to understand vaguely the mechanism of the fact that what people regarded as a pose on my part was actually an expression of my need to assert my true nature, and that it was precisely what people regarded as my true self which was a masquerade. (27)

My memory runs head-on into a scene that is like a symbol of those years. To me as I am today, that scene represents childhood itself, past and irrecoverable. When I saw the scene I felt the hand of farewell with which childhood would take its leave of me. I had a premonition at that instant that all my feelings of subjective time, or timelessness, might one day gush forth from within me and flood into the mold of that scene, to become an exact imitation of its people and movements and sounds; that simultaneous with the completion of this copy, the original might melt away into the distant perspectives of real and objective time; and that I might be left with nothing more than the mere imitation or, to say it another way, with nothing more than an accurately stuffed specimen of my childhood. (28–29)

My heart was beating so suffocatingly that I could scarcely stand. (Ever since then violent anticipation has always been anguish rather than joy for me.)

...I was ready to run away at the first excuse. (Ever since those days this has been the attitude with which I have always confronted life: from things too much waited for, too much embellished with anticipatory daydreams, there is in the end nothing I can do but run away.) (30)

When the train, still almost empty, was nearing the station for my school, I saw the sun rise beyond the factory district. The scene suddenly became one of joy and light. Now the columns of ominously towering smokestacks and the somber rise and fall of the monotonous slate-colored roofs cowered behind the noisy laughter of the brightly shining snow mask. It is just such a snow-covered landscape that often becomes the tragic setting for riot or revolution. And even the faces of the passers-by, suspiciously wan in the reflection of the snow, reminded me somehow of conspirators. (54)

Something about his face gave one the sensation of abundant blood coursing richly throughout his body; it was a round face, with haughty cheekbones rising from swarthy cheeks, lips that seemed to have been sewn into a fine line, sturdy jaws, and a broad but well-shaped and not too prominent nose. These features were the clothing for an untamed soul. How could anyone have expected such a person to have a secret, inner life? All one could hope to find in him was the pattern of that forgotten perfection which the rest of us have lost in some far distant past. (63)

It is a common failing of childhood to think that if one makes a hero out of a demon the demon will be satisfied. (107)

It was a painful awakening. Why were things wrong just as they were? The questions which I had asked myself numberless times since boyhood rose again to my lips. Why are we all burdened with the duty to destroy everything, change everything, entrust everything to impermanency? Is it this unpleasant duty that the world calls life? Or am I the only one for whom it is a duty? (166)

Prudery is a form of selfishness, a means of self-protection made necessary by the strength of one's own desires. But my true desires were so secret that they did not allow even this form of self-indulgence. And at the same time any imaginary desires—that is, my simple and abstract curiosity concerning women—allowed me such a cold freedom that there was almost no room for this selfishness in them either. There is no virtue in curiosity. In fact, it might even be the most immoral desire a man can possess. (222)