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In 1970, the world-famous Japanese writer Yukio Mishima plunged a knife into his belly and was decapitated using his own antique sword. In the decades since, people have asked endless far-ranging questions about this spectacular suicide. Christopher Ross wondered, What on earth happened to Mishima's sword? And so Ross sets off for Tokyo on a journey into the heart of the Mishima legend---the very heart of Japan. It was a country Ross knew well after nearly five years of living there--but nothing could have prepared him for this. While searching for the fabled sword, Ross encounters the rather startling range of those who knew Mishima...a world, or perhaps more accurately a demimonde, of craftsmen and critics, soldiers and swordsmen, boyfriends and biographers (even the man who taught Mishima hara-kiri). The trail Ross follows inspires a travelogue of the most eye-opening--and occasionally bizarre--sort, a window into the real Japan that is never seen by tourists and the occasion for digressions on, among other things, socks and the code of the samurai, nosebleeds and metallurgy... even how to dress for suicide. Mishima's Sword is a dazzling read--the perfect book for all those intrigued by things Japanese, from gangsters to Genji, from manga to Mishima.
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Christopher Ross lives in Paris. His first book, Tunnel Visions: Journeys of an Underground Philosopher, was a bestseller in the United Kingdom.From Publishers Weekly:
Ross (Tunnel Visions) pursues the life and especially the violent suicide by seppuku, or hara-kiri, of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, at age 45 in 1970. An English journalist who studied martial arts and later worked in Japan and learned Japanese, Ross was intrigued by overlaps in Mishima's life and his own, in terms of wondering how to make one's life more worthwhile and productive, and one's death "magnificent." Mishima's novels harked back to the heroism of samurai warriors of early eras, and during his life he assiduously mastered the code of the knightly class and conditioned his body in ritual sword fighting. In fact, Ross learns that the famous sword Mishima used on himself in Tokyo's Eastern Army Group Headquarters was made by Seki no Magoroku in the 16th century, and has subsequently vanished. In between a visceral blow-by-blow account of Mishima's last hours, Ross alternates his detailed, gently meandering narrative with fascinating research into the art of Japanese sword making. Ross's journey is wonderfully elucidating, not only of the writer who wanted to ensure he lived forever but of a holistic history and culture of Japan. (Nov.)
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