Japanese novelist Jiro Fukushima (1930-2006) passed away February 22nd, at the age of 76. Though Fukushima wrote many works and was nominated for the Akutagawa Award twice, perhaps his most recent (and enduring?) fame will be from the revelations in his autobiographical book Yukio Mishima — Sword and Winter Red (Yukio mishima — Ken to Kankou).
Jiro Fukushima was one of Mishima’s many male lovers. Mishima was rumored to have over 100 homosexual lovers, including perhaps his most famous student, Kawabata Yasunari. Fukushima’s book shares intimate details of their relationship, as well as fifteen Mishima letters. The book caused outrage with Mishima’s wife and family, who successfully led a fight to get the book banned in 1998 (with more cases, I presume appeals, in 1999 and 2000), presumedly to protect her husband’s reputation. The Mishima family had all Mishima’s letters and writings declared copyrighted to them, so that they can control any and all publications. This case forced Fukushima’s book out of print plus he was ordered to compensate the Mishima heirs 5-million yen for damages. It is weird the Mishima heirs feel the need to vigorously “protect” his already well-known image. Being a brilliant author nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Luterature is probably a secure legacy. And, no surprise, the world is well aware that Mishima was, gasp, bisexual. One would think that maybe the question of Mishima’s suicidal psychosis, his hostage taking of generals, and his death by seppuku would be a larger issue. Or even the fact that his name wasn’t even Mishima Yukio or Misima Yukio, but rather Kimitake Hiraoka. Perhaps I digress, but I am making the point that life is always multilayered and one should not pick and choose one’s facts.
For instance, there are small nuisances such as the fact that Jiro Fukushima is also spelled Hukusima Ziro and his controversial book is also titled Misima Yukio — Turugi to Kanbeni, which means something more like “A sword and rouge refined in winter.” But all these details just muddy the waters inside my crystal ball, so let’s get back to the sex.
So, this sexual controversy still swirls and seems to overshadow Fukushima’s death and own writings, such as is evident in this notice and exchange.
People should stay on point and leave Zorro’s gay blade completely out of it.
But even in all the news blurbs, like this Yahoo one, the dominating story is Mishima. He simply pushes Fukushima out of the way. The story of Fukushima’s death in that article has 4 out of 6 paragraphs about Mishima, while the first paragraph mentions him even as it says Fukushima died, and, of course, all the titles say some variation of “Fukishima, male lover of Mishima, dies.” That’s sad.
Is it that Mishima is such a literary giant or that we are so obsessed with celebrity and scandal? I think it is that anything salacious dominates. If there was a way to get the Princess of Helium Head, Her Majesty the Paris Hilton, involved in the story, I’m sure I will be writing this sentence even now. But that is the point, these things crowd out the real aman, the author and his life. If Fukushima had instead authored a non-controversial biography of Mishima as one of his many works, it probably wouldn’t even be mentioned, unless as an aside. But because of its gay nature it is the major story. I couldn’t find a single news item that told more than a few sentences of his life and accomplishments.
What is it with American corporate pop news culture? You’d think our news was only full of frivolity, with even international news becoming diluted perfume such as this detailed study of the vanishing breed of Japanese blondes. What’s next, critical analyses of the historic first-ever Olympic gold in women’s figure skating for Shizuka Arakawa? Stunning indeed. This is all so Afro Samurai. I think we need to concetrate on American Idol more. It’s the family friendly WWE.
All that said, I am having a hell of a time trying to find any of Jiro Fukushima’s works. If anyone has a lead, drop me a line. I have a large collection of Japanese literature — plenty of Mishima! — but sadly none of Fukushima’s books. Seems like I should rectify that, just to make the point. This man did not die just to become a snickering headline and should not be forgotten merely because he happened to sleep with a more famous homosexual.
Here’s my encapsulation of his life.
Jiro Fukushima was born in the Kumamoto Prefecture in 1930. He attended university in Tokyo and when 21 he had the life-changing event of reading Mishima’s Forbidden Colors. This dark and in ways depraved story unveiled the life of gay Tokyo to Fukushima in all its potential. Excited, he brazenly sought out Mishima and soon they became lovers. The romance died, though, after Fukushima encountered a beautiful boy named Yu-Chan, who was Mishima’s former lover and the model for the protagonist of Forbidden Colors, Minami Yuiti. Fukushima was heartbroken to discover he was a mere substitute and left the relationship feeling inferior. Mishima continued to write letters to his disillusioned new lover (the ones included in Fukushima’s book) and they were reconciled together after ten years. There lives had moved on though and both writers maintained their cover lives and created succesful careers for themselves. Later, now a high school teacher and respected author, Fukushima published a memoir about his love affair with Mishima, prompting a controversy and fierce legal assault by the Mishima clan, resulting in its banning. Fukushima died in 2006.