Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima tells the story of a young man nicknamed Kochan growing up in 1920s Tokyo who, upon experiencing a personal awakening, attempts to reconcile his homosexuality with an intolerant Japanese society.
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The book begins with Kochan as, from a first-person perspective, he claims he remembers the day of his own birth. He is brought up by his ailing but kind grandmother who took him from his parents for undisclosed reasons. As a one-year-old boy he falls down a set of stairs and injures his head, and at four he exhibits symptoms of autointoxication, in which he appears dead for hours at a time. In lieu of all these strange happenings, Kochan becomes oddly thoughtful for a young age. He begins to take on strange affectations. When admiring a picture of a samurai, for instance, he discovers that he thinks the picture would be even more beautiful if the man were dead. He also witnesses a group of processional bearers at a summer festival destroy the flowers in Kochan's garden, and is elated by the scene. He realizes that he is attracted to men because of their lack of restraint, particularly among the lower class.
As Kochan grows up and enters his teens, he becomes more sexually active. The first time he ejaculates is while masturbating to a painting of Saint Sebastian, which depicts not only a handsome Roman youth, but a handsome Roman youth being skewered by arrows to achieve martyrdom. Kochan soon after becomes attracted to an older schoolmate of his named Omi. Omi is rumored to be sexually experienced, and, although slightly unintelligent, is handsome and manly. One morning, Kochan follows Omi, and the boy touches Kochan's cheeks, but nothing more. Kochan begins to lust over Omi, fetishizing parts of his body, like his armpits, and becomes obsessed.
At this time, Kochan also develops anemia he begins to have violent visions while affected, such as slaughtering a fellow classmate and eating his flesh. He begins to realize there is something deeply wrong with his psyche, and that he doesn't understand how to act normal like the rest of his peers.
Kochan struggles with his sadistic psychological makeup as, at the age of twenty, he enters university. There he attempts to get involved with women named Sonoko. After a while, he surprises himself by actually feeling connected to her in a genuine fashion. After he joins her family on a trip to visit their recently recruited son at a local barracks, he is enamored with by her presence. When the two eventually kiss, however, Kochan is infuriated not to have experienced any intimacy. Sonoko's family wishes for him to marry her, and he fabricates family obligations to get out of the affair. He then goes to a brothel in attempts to accustom his body to heterosexuality, but it doesn't work. He decides he must thus die, attempting to get in the way of a bomb raid during WWII. When he survives that, however, and peace is made between the neighboring countries, his aspirations are thwarted.
As the book nears its end, Sonoko marries another man. She and Kochan come across each other on a chance meeting and schedule a lunch. Sonoko questions Kochan directly on whether or not he was ever really interested in women. The answer he gives her is left ambiguous, and they go to a dance club. There Kochan notices a man, a gangster, on the other side of the room and becomes aroused. He then realizes that he can't hide from his sexuality, and he and Sonoko part.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked it because it depicted the extreme heterodoxy of Japanese culture at the time, and the way in which the main character fit into it as a gay male.
Best scene in story:
I like the scene when he accompanies Sonoko and her family to her brother's barracks. It's sad because he's trying to convince himself he's something he's not.
Opinion about the main character:
Kochan makes me sad for the manner in which he has to hide his identity from the general public.