Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

"Patriotism" is a short story about the marriage of two young Japanese people whose passion for each other is matched only by their loyalty to their country and its emperor. Yukio Mishima follows their marriage through the few months it endured and locates their personal experience within the tumultuous political events that occurred in Japan in the 1930s.

Takeyama, a young military officer, has married Reiko, who is fully committed to the solemn responsibility of being an officer's wife. They both are devoted to the emperor, keeping his picture in a shrine in their home. She has agreed to die with him if he must give his life for their country. The young couple is passionately in love, and Mishima emphasizes the depth of their erotic attachment; sometimes, when Takeyama arrives at home, they make love immediately, before he even takes off his uniform.

The couple's ritual suicide takes place in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt. In the actual event, a treasonous cadre of more than a thousand officers stormed multiple sites, attacking the prime minister and other officials. The aborted coup lasted four days before the responsible parties were rounded up and executed.

Takeyama was not one of the mutineers, but he had to report for duty; meanwhile, Reiko (who had not heard from him) hears on the radio that his unit members have been denounced; his unit had anticipated that he would remain loyal, so they had kept him in the dark about their plans.

When he returns home, he is determined to do the honorable thing and die rather than be forced to attack the men he had commanded. Reiko agrees to kill herself as well, and they carefully prepare for the ritual: taking a bath, making love, and writing a note. Takeyama kills himself first, performing the ritual disemboweling with a knife, but Reiko must help him slit his throat because he is too weak. She follows by slitting her own throat.

Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Patriotism by Yukio Mishima is a short story based on an insurgence that occurred on February 26, 1936. Approximately 1500 First Division military personnel raided the houses of politicians, including the prime minister. They took control of various areas in Tokyo. The uprising lasted for four days and insiders, under the orders of the state, stopped the actions of the rebellious officers. The organizers of the attempted coup were executed.

In Patriotism, the author venerates ritual suicide. Mishima writes about 31-year-old Lieutenant Takeyama Shinji, who performs seppuku on himself to avoid choosing between the emperor and his comrades in the military. The emperor had instructed him to fight against his friends. Shinji’s 23-year-old wife, Reiko, performs the same ritual after her husband’s death.

In narrating Shinji’s story, the author conveys to the reader the importance of patriotism. Upon discovering that his fellow soldiers are mutineers, Shinji goes back home and informs his wife. To avoid choosing sides, they decide to kill themselves. After Shinji performs the ritual, he leaves a note reaffirming his support for the Imperial Forces. Reiko’s note shows her acceptance of death and fate.

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