(Image source: Wikipedia)
Related to some recent research, I’ve been looking at Mishima Yukio’s manifesto (檄geki), which he famously read from the balcony of a Japan Self Defense Force commander’s office to a crowd of JSDF officers, after taking that commander hostage and just before committing ritual suicide in 1970. I haven’t been able to find a complete English translation of the manifesto (although I found a partial translation in John Nathan’s Mishima: A Biography). Since this manifesto is of some literary and historical interest, I decided to translate it here. Note that this is the text version of the speech sent to journalists, not what he actually read on that balcony: apparently he rushed through it as the JSDF officers below jeered and booed him.
Captain of the Shield Society, Mishima Yukio
We of the Shield Society were raised by the Self Defense Forces, and it could be said that the SDF is our father and older brother. So why have we repaid that debt with this act of ingratitude?
Looking back, during the four years – three years for my students – we spent as a reservists within the Forces, we received an education that contained not a hint of mercenary self-interest, and we in turn loved the SDF. Here we saw the dream of a “true Japan” that no longer exists outside the Forces, and here we finally knew the tears of true men, unknown since the end of the war. The sweat we shed here was pure, as we ran about the plains of Mount Fuji with comrades who shared our patriotic spirit. On this point there can be no doubt. To us, the SDF is our homeland, and the only place in today’s listless Japan where we could breathe a rigorous, bracing atmosphere. We received incalculable love from the instructors and assistant teachers. Why, then, have we come to take this action? Although it might sound implausible, I declare that we have done it precisely because we love the SDF.
We have watched as postwar Japan has become infatuated with economic prosperity and forgotten the foundational principles of the nation. Citizens have lost their solidarity, rush ahead without correcting fundamental problems, have fallen into stopgap measures and hypocrisy, and have cast their own souls into a state of emptiness. Politics is just a facade over a mass of contradictions, self-preservation, lust for power and hypocrisy. Any long-term plans for the nation a hundred years from now have been consigned to foreign countries. We have watched with gritted teeth as the the shame of defeat has been ducked and avoided rather than wiped away, and as Japanese themselves sully their own history and traditions.
Even now we dream of the SDF as the only place where the true Japan, true Japanese, and the true soul of the warrior remains. Furthermore, it is clear that legally the SDF is unconstitutional. The fundamental issue of the nation’s defense has been weaseled around with an opportunistic legal interpretation, and we have seen how having a military that does not use the name “military” has become the source of corruption of Japanese souls and the degeneration of morality. The military, which should hold the loftiest honor, has been subject to the basest of deceits. The SDF continues to bear the dishonorable cross of a defeated nation. The SDF is not a national military, has not been accorded the foundational principles of a military, has only been given the status of a physically large police force, and even the target of its loyalty has not been made clear. Postwar Japan’s long slumber enrages us. We believe that the moment the SDF awakens will be the same moment Japan awakens. And we believe that if the SDF does not awaken itself, Japan will also fail to awaken. And we believe that our greatest duty as citizens is to exert all our effort, however feeble, to work towards the day when, through constitutional reform, the SDF can be made into a true national military and stand upon a military’s foundational principle.
Four years ago I entered the SDF alone with this ambition, the next year I formed the Shield Society. The fundamental principle of the Shield Society is the resolve to sacrifice our lives so that the SDF might awaken, to make it into a national military, a national military with honor. Since constitutional reform was already difficult under the parliamentary system, a domestic security operation* offered our only chance. So we aimed to cast aside our lives as the vanguard of a domestic security operation and become the keystone of the national military. A military protects its nation, a government is defended by the police. When we arrive at the stage where the government can no longer be effectively defended by the police, a deployment of the military will make it clear just what the nation is, and the military will revive its foundational principle. The foundational principle of a Japanese military can only be “protecting Japanese history, culture and tradition centered on the emperor.” In order to correct the twisted foundation of this nation, we, though few in number, trained ourselves and volunteered ourselves to this task.
But what happened on October 21st of Showa 44?** The demonstrations that reached their peak prior to the prime minister’s visit to America ended fruitlessly under overwhelming police power. Watching the situation in Shinjuku, I came to the bitter realization that with this the constitution would not change. What happened that day? The government ascertained the limits of the far-left’s power, they ascertained the response of a populace faced with police power that amounts to martial law, and gained the confidence that they could control the situation without taking up the burden of constitutional reform. A domestic security operation became pointless. The government gained the confidence that it could maintain the political system through constitutional police power alone, and the confidence they could continue ignoring the fundamental problems of the nation. With this, left-wing power has continued to suck at the pacifier of constitutional preservation, hardening their strategy of abandoning their principles for practical gain, and have gained the advantages that come with positing themselves as champions of constitutional preservation. Abandoning their principles for practical gain! That’s fine for the politicians. But those politicians cannot have failed to notice it is a fatal blow to the SDF. And so the hypocrisy, cover-ups, flattery and deceit began again even worse than before.
Take heed! The truth is that October 21st of Showa 44 was a day of tragedy for the SDF. For the SDF, which has been waiting for constitutional reform for the 20 years since it’s founding, that was the day that its hopes were decisively betrayed, and constitutional reform was removed as a political program. At the same time, it was the day that the Liberal Democratic Party and the Communist Party, which insist on party parliamentarism, expunged the possibility of extra-parliamentary means. Logically, that was the day that the SDF, the bastard child of the constitution, was recognized as a “military of constitutional preservation.” Could there be any greater paradox?
Ever since that day, we have been watching the SDF carefully, moment by moment. If, as we had dreamed, the soul of the warrior still remained in the SDF, how could it ignore this situation? Protecting the very thing that negated it, surely that is a logical contradiction. If you are men, how could a man’s pride allow this? Even after enduring and enduring, rising up with firm resolution once the last line of what you are supposed to protect has been crossed is what it means to be a man, what it means to be a warrior. We desperately strained our ears. But from nowhere in the SDF did we hear a man’s voice rise in response to the humiliating order to “protect that which negates you.” Now that it has come to this, with the awareness of your own power, you knew that the only path forward was the correction of the twisted logic of the nation, but the SDF has been as silent as a canary with its voice stolen.
We were sad, angry, and finally enraged. Gentlemen, can you do nothing without being given a mission? But, sadly, the mission accorded to you will ultimately not come from Japan. It is said that civilian control is the basic principle of a democratic military. However, in England and America civilian control means financial control over military administration. Unlike Japan, it does not mean that the military is castrated without even the right to make personnel decisions, manipulated by treacherous politicians, or used as a pawn in partisan politics.
Furthermore, it seems the SDF has swallowed the flattery of politicians and is walking the path of even deeper self-deceit and self-desecration. Where has the soul of the warrior gone? How will you go on, as nothing but a giant armory whose soul is dead? During textile negotiations, textile workers called the LDP traitors. Yet although it is clear that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which concerns the long-term security of the nation, is the rebirth of the 5:5:3 Unequal Treaty,*** not one general from the SDF has cut his stomach in protest.
What does the return of Okinawa mean? What does the defense of the mainland mean? It is clear that America doesn’t want Japanese territory being defended by a true autonomous Japanese military. If we can’t revive our autonomy within the next two years, the SDF will end forever as, in the left-wing’s words, mercenaries for America.
We waited four years. The last year we waited with particular passion. We can wait no longer. We cannot wait for those who would desecrate themselves. But another thirty minutes; let us wait the final thirty minutes. We rose up together and together we will die for righteousness. To return Japan to Japan’s true form, that is why we die. Is it enough to insist on the sanctity of life, even when the soul is dead? What sort of military holds nothing above the value of life? Gentlemen, we are now going to show you a value even greater than the sanctity of life. That is not freedom, nor democracy. It is Japan. The country of history and tradition that we love, Japan. Is there no one here who will throw their bodies against this degenerate constitution and die? If there is, stand with us and die with us now. We have undertaken this action in the fervent hope that you, gentlemen, who have the purest of souls, may be reborn as individual men and as warriors.
Mishima, Yukio. “Mishima Yukio no ‘Geki’ zenbun.” Asahi Shinbun. November 26, 1970. p.4.
*治安出動, a domestic deployment of the SDF in order to maintain security or civil order in a crisis.
***A 1921 treaty which set the battleship ratio between the United States, Britain and Japan at 5:5:3 respectively.