Rainbow Educators' Network

Yukio Mishima: The Sword and the Red Pigment of Winter

Wednesday, April 1, 1998

Japan Bans the Sale of Mishima Book

TOKYO -- The Associated Press reports a book detailing a gay affair with the late Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima has been banned for breaking copyright laws.

Bungei Shunju Ltd., a leading Japanese publishing house, was ordered by a Tokyo District Court to cease the sale of "Yukio Mishima: The Sword and the Red Pigment of Winter" and to pull remaining copies from bookstore shelves.

The book details an affair between Mishima and author Jiro Fukushima. It is unclear if this is what drew the ire of the Mishima's survivors, who claimed they did not give Fukushima permission to print the letters. They sued for copyright infringement.

"It's a shame that an important key to understanding Mishima's work will be hidden from the public," said Hideki Amemiya, Bungei Shunju spokesman. He said the publisher would comply with the court order.

The book quotes portions of 15 previously unpublished letters from Mishima to Fukushima. Though Fukushima was the legal owner of the letters, the court ruled Monday that using the letters in the book was illegal because Mishima's family was not consulted.

A Tokyo newspaper noted it was the first time a Japanese court had recognized portions of a letter as copyright material.

A right-wing nationalist, Mishima committed ritual suicide in 1970 after urging soldiers to revolt against Japan's U.S.-written constitution. The issues of manhood and masculinity were constant themes in his work, and this is not the first time details of his gay affairs have been made public.

The lawsuit against the book was brought by Mishima's daughter, Noriko Tomita, and his son, Iichiro Hiraoka. Surviving family members also prevented movie houses from showing a film that depicted a time in the novelist's life when he was a male prostitute.

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