Yukio Mishima felt the Japanese government needed to return to a system based on the samurai code. He was descended from samarais and believed that this code, advocating complete command of one's body and soul combined with a complete loyalty to the emperor, was necessary for Japan to return to prominence. He formed his own army in 1970 and attempted a coup d'état. With a few friends he overpowered the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp — the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan's Self-Defense Forces and tied the commandant to a chair. Mishima then stepped onto a balcony outside the commandant's office and gave an impassioned speech to the government troops to join his cause. He was jeered and mocked off the balcony.
He returned to the commandant's office and committed seppuku, a ritual suicide. The friend he had chosen to slice his head from his body at the end of the ritual could not complete his responsibilities and another friend stepped in to end his pain. Mishima had been planning his suicide for almost a year. For those with a more gruesome bent you can find pictures of his severed head on the internet.
Mishima was only 45 on November 25th, 1970. He had been a successful actor, kendo master, and of course writer. Mishima wrote 40 novels, 18 plays, 20 books of short stories, and at least 20 books of essays, one libretto, as well as one film. Like Fitzgerald, he dashed off a lot of work for quick cash, but even if those inferior works are discarded, he still had an impressive body of work for a man who died so young. He had just finished the final volume in The Sea of Fertility tetralogy, of which Spring Snow
is the first, before his suicide.
Spring Snow is a novel of pride, misplaced loyalty, blackmail, intrigue, lust, selfishness, sacrifice, and misery. It is the story of star crossed lovers, steadfast friends, political mishaps, and conniving servants. The setting is 1912 Tokyo in the inner circle of imperial court. Our hero is Kiyoaki, who was born so beautiful he stirred the blood of women from 8 to 80. He was a young man of 19 whom women wanted and men wanted to be like. Those people too enamored with him soon found themselves rebuffed. Honda, a fellow classmate of Kiyoaki observed this tendency and modified his approach to Kiyoaki forsaking fawning for aloofness. "He knew only too well how Kiyoaki reserved his keenest displeasure for any excessive show of friendship."
Now his name is HONDA not HONDO.
It must be the fact that Hondo was one of my favorite John Wayne movies when I was a kid combined with the fact that I really liked Honda, by far my favorite character in the book, that I kept changing his name in my head to Hondo.
Kiyoaki as a young lad of 13 was asked to participate in a ritual ceremony that brought him in close proximity to the princess. He missteps and disrupts the trail of her ermine coat. "Princess Kasuga's lavish use of French perfume extended to her train, and its fragrance overpowered the musky odor of incense. Some way down the corridor, Kiyoaki stumbled for a moment, inadvertently tugging at the train. The princess turned her head slightly, and, as a sign that she was not at all annoyed, smiled gently at the youthful offender. Her gesture went unnoticed; body perfectly erect in that fractional turn, she had allowed Kiyoaki a glimpse of a corner of her mouth. At that moment, a single wisp of hair slipped over her clear white cheek, and out of the fine-drawn corner of an eye a smile flashed in a spark of black fire. But the pure line of her nose did not move. It as as if nothing had happened...this fleeting angle of the Princess's face--too slight to be called a profile--made Kiyoaki feel as if he had seen a rainbow flicker for a bare instant through a prism of pure crystal."
This scene stays with Kiyoaki for the rest of his life. He considered it one of the most defining moments of his life, which makes it all the more inexplicable why it takes him so long to realize the extraordinary beauty of his life time friend Satoko. Only after his friends at school see her and react extravagantly to her charms does Kiyoaki for the first time see her as a woman and not as an annoying child. She is acerbic, sarcastic, intelligent, and head over heels in love with Kiyoaki. Her wit and his pride contribute to the continued cross purposes of their relationship. Honda proves himself time and time again helping Kiyoaki with insane plans to get unsupervised time with Satoko. He rejects her and then wants her more than ever. "His own heart seemed to him to be much like an arrow stripped of the flashing white feathers that gave it direction."
The minor characters provide twisty plot turns that add inspiring flavor to the plot. Jaw dropping, unexpected moments of blackmail with a dash of spicy intrigue keep the pages turning even when the main characters are off the stage. Beautiful descriptive passages, bits of Zen, and an ending that Shakespeare would certainly approve of lead me to say HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.