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A Call to Arms:
The Final Speech of Yukio Mishima

2,338 words

Translated by Riki Rei.

Translator’s Note:

This text, entitled A Call to Arms, was left on the spot when Yukio Mishima committed seppuku in the General’s office of the East Japan Division of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at the Ichigaya military base, Tokyo, on November 25, 1970. Mishima’s speech to the servicemen right before his suicide was largely based on this script with slight variations. This is perhaps the first complete English translation of Mishima’s historic and dramatic final speech. The Tatenokai (Shield Society) was Mishima’s militia. The Jieitai is the Japanese Self-Defense Force. 

Our Tatenokai has received training from the Jieitai [1] [1]. In this sense, the Jieitai is like our father or our elder brother. We ought to show our gratitude to you; so why are we now taking this seemingly ungrateful action? In retrospect, we have received the treatment of quasi-serviceman within the Jieitai and have been given selfless cultivation in the past four years, and three years, for me, myself, and for my students respectively. We love the Jieitai from the bottom of our hearts, we dreamed about the “real Japan” here that could no longer be found outside the fences of the Jieitai, and we came to know what “man’s tears” were right here that otherwise had never been known about in post-War Japan. The sweat we shed here was pure and unadulterated, and we had galloped together in the field of Fuji as comrades sharing the same patriotic spirit. About this, I haven’t had the slightest doubt. To us, the Jieitai was our home and was the only place where we could breathe a brisk and sharp air in today’s lukewarm Japan. The love and care we had received from our drill instructors and assistant instructors were boundless. However, we still chose to take this action now. Why? At the risk of being called a sophist, I want to assert that it is all due to our love for the Jieitai.

The post-War Japan has wallowed in economic prosperity, forgot the fundamentals of a nation, lost its national spirit, neglected the essentials in pursuit of trifles, engaged in makeshift and hypocrisy, and is itself falling into a blankness of soul. This is what we saw.

Politics is devoted solely to embellishing contradictions, politicians’ self-preservation, power grabs, and hypocrisy. Matters of vital and lasting importance are being entrusted to a certain foreign country, the humiliation of the war defeat has never been truly examined, or erased, but was just muddled through, and the Japanese are themselves defiling the history and traditions of Japan. All these scenes we had to watch while grinding our teeth. We thought the Jieitai is the only place in today’s Japan where real Japan, the real Japanese, and the spirit of real warriors exist. But it is clear that legally and theoretically, Jieitai’s very existence is against the post-War Constitution, and the national defense, as a fundamental component of a nation, is being muddled through with convenient legal interpretations to assume the mantle of armed forces without using the name of armed forces. I saw this fact as something that constitutes the fundamental reason for the decay of the soul and the decline of the morals of the Japanese.

The military force that ought to care the most about its honor has thus existed to this day under the shadow of the most malignant deception. The Jieitai has continued to carry on its back the cross of the stigma of a defeated nation. The Jieitai is not Japan’s national army in status, is not endowed with the genuine meaning of the Japanese army at its origin, was only set up as a giant police force of material, and the object of its allegiance was not made clear. We were angry at this unduly long period of slumber of the post-War Japan. We believed that the time the Jieitai wakes up would be the time Japan wakes up; and without the Jieitai itself waking up, the sleeping Japan would never wake up. We also believed that in order for the Jieitai to return to the origin of the founding of the Japanese military and to become an authentic national army through constitutional reform, there is no bigger duty on our part as Japanese nationals than exhausting our all humble efforts for the above purpose.

You can order Kerry Bolton’s More Artists of the Right, featuring Yukio Mishima, here. [2]

Four years ago, I harbored this ideal and entered the Jieitai myself. The next year, I set up Tatenokai. The fundamental purpose of Tatenokai lay in our undistracted will and determination to sacrifice our lives to help restore the Jieitai to the honorable military force of Japan when it wakes up. If Constitutional reform becomes difficult under the current parliamentary system, mobilization of the military for public security will be the only real opportunity. We aimed to be the advance guard of the Jieitai mobilization, sacrificing our lives and becoming the cornerstone for the remaking of the national military forces. The military is for the protection of nationhood, while police are for the protection of the regime. When it comes to the stage where the police force cannot sufficiently protect the regime, it is the time to dispatch the military force by which the nationhood is to be reclarified and the military reclaims its founding significance. The original and founding significance of Japan’s military consisted in nothing else but the “protection of history, culture, and traditions of Japan centered on the Monarchy.” To fulfill our mission to rectify the warped fundamentals of our nation, despite our small numbers, we chose to undertake hard training and have prepared for the very moment to offer ourselves.

Nevertheless, what happened on October 21 of last year? The planned leftist demonstration that was supposed to reach the climax right before the Prime Minister’s visit to America ended up a damp squib in the presence of an overwhelming police force. Watching this scene in Shinjuku, I sighed with much regret and knew there would be no chance for Constitutional reform.

What happened on that day? The government had seen through the limitation of the radical Left, predicted the public reactions to the police action that resembled a curfew, and was confident it could put the situation under control without risking pulling the chestnut out of the fire, that is to say, to attempt Constitutional reform. As a result, the dispatch of the military for public security became unnecessary. To maintain the current political system, the government was confident it could deal with the situation merely with the police force, which stays comfortably within the current Constitutional framework, so that it could continue to turn a blind eye to the fundamental national question. In this way, the government allowed the Leftist forces to continue sucking on the sweet candy of defending the Constitution and also garnered the merit of being an advocate for Constitutional defense itself by adopting the tactic of “discarding the name and retaining the substance.” Yes, that’s it, the government gained what it wanted without minding the name. This result was fine for the politicians but fatal to the Jieitai, which the politicians certainly knew. Here we saw another round of hypocrisy, concealment, pandering, and deception unfolding before our eyes, which was even worse than the previous occasion.

Bear this in mind!

The very day of October 21 of last year was in fact a tragic day for the Jieitai. Since its founding 20 years ago, the Jieitai had anxiously awaited Constitutional reform. But on this day, its hope was quashed decidedly, Constitutional reform was excluded from the government’s political agenda, and the possibility for a non-parliamentarian method was openly swept away by the Liberal Democratic Party and the Communist Party who are both parties of parliamentarianism. It could be perfectly said that, theoretically, from that day onward, the Jieitai that had so far remained an illegitimate child of the Constitution would be perceived as the “army of Constitutional defense.” [2] [3]

Is there a bigger paradox than that?

We have been watching the Jieitai every moment ever since that day. We feel as if we were in a dream. If there was still a trace of warrior spirit left in the Jieitai, how could it watch all this quietly without taking any action? Defending something that negates the very existence of oneself — what a contradictory and weird logic that is! How can a man’s self-pride allow such a thing to happen? For all the forbearance upon forbearance, when the last line that must be defended is crossed, it is for a real man and soldier to stand up and fight in a determined manner. We have listened all along with sharpened ears.

Yet we heard no voice of man from anywhere within the Jieitai that defies the dishonorable and humiliating order to “defend the Constitution that denies yourself!” As it has come to this point, the only way left is to be aware of and rely on one’s own power, and act to rectify the theoretic distortion of the state. Yet despite fully understanding that, the Jieitai has remained silent, like a canary deprived of her voice.

We felt sad, we felt angry, and finally, we felt indignant. You said you could do nothing you were not given any mission to do. It is so sad that ultimately there was no mission coming for you from Japan. It is also said that civilian control is the essential nature of an army under democracy.

But the so-called civilian control of the British and American militaries refers to financial control related to military governance. It is by no means like the case of the Japanese military where even the power over personnel is taken away from it and the military becomes castrated, manipulated by treacherous and capricious politicians, and exploited for the interests and strategies of political parties. Moreover, to such a Jieitai that thoughtlessly bought the claptrap of politicians and was about to walk on a path of ever deeper self-deception and self-desecration, I want to ask: Was its soul completely rotten? Where did the spirit of the samurai go? As a giant arsenal with a dead soul, where is it heading? There were textile industrialists who called the LDP a traitor on the issue of textile trade negotiation and said the government’s stance on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [3] [4], an issue of crucial and lasting importance to Japan, was but a recurrence of the former ”5 vs. 5 vs. 3” unequal treaty [4] [5]. Despite all these, there wasn’t a single general of the Jieitai who disemboweled himself in protest of the traitorous government policies.

How about the return of Okinawa? And what are the responsibilities of homeland defense?

It is self-evident that America won’t be happy at a truly independent and self-directed Japanese army defending the territory of Japan. If the Jieitai fails to regain its independence in the next two years, it will, as the Leftists have remarked, stay as a mercenary force of America forever.

We have waited four years. We waited the last year with nothing but eager expectations. We can’t wait anymore. One who degrades and defiles himself is not worth waiting.

But we will wait for the next 30 minutes, the last 30 minutes.

Let’s rise together and die together for principles of righteousness.

Let’s return Japan to its authentic looks and die by its side. Is it really fine to hail “respect for life” while one’s spirit goes to death? How can one be called a military force if it has no value or belief above mere life itself? Right now we are going to demonstrate before your eyes the existence of a value that goes beyond “respect for life.” It is neither liberty nor democracy! It is Japan, the Japan we love as a nation of history and traditions! Is there not anybody who is willing to die by throwing himself at the Constitution that has deprived Japan of its spine!?

If there is still such a man, even at this time, let’s rise up together and die together. We desired so strongly and intensely that you soldiers, possessing the purest soul, would revive as real men and real samurai, and that’s why we made this move.

 — November 25, the 45th Year of Shōwa.


[1] [6] Japanese for “Japan Self-Defense Forces.”

[2] [7] Mishima had hoped for the scenario that rampant leftist protests against the Japanese-American security pact and resultant social upheaval would give rise to an opportunity of revising the Japanese Constitution, leading to the restoration of the honorable status of the Japanese military. But the government managed to contain the protest and limit social chaos with merely police force, which dashed Mishima’s dream, drove him into desperation, and presumably became an impetus for his eventual suicide.

[3] [8] Mishima protested against the Japanese government’s ratification of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty which occurred about nine months before his suicide. In fact, by that time, Japan’s nuclear armament had been a realistic option and was not completely ruled out. Yet the ostensibly conservative regime yielded to the pressure of the United States, and gave up potential plans for nuclear armament for which Prime Minister Sato was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But, as a consequence, it was unable to possess its own nuclear deterrence and was shut out from the path toward real independence.

[4] [9] On the world’s first Navy disarmament conference held in Washington, DC from November 1921 to February 1922, Japan was diplomatically pressured to sign the Navy arms reduction treaty together with the US, UK, France etc., which limited the tonnage of main battleships of the US, UK, Japan, and France at 500,000, 500,000, 300,000, and 100,000 respectively. The US, being the main creditor to UK, dominated the negotiations and managed to not only force Japan to accept an unequal share of navy power with only 60% of those of the US and the UK, but also make the UK abolish the long time Anglo-Japanese alliance. The treaty had been widely regarded as one of unfairness and hostility of the US toward Japan in pre-War Japan.