November 25, 1970: Japanese Coup Leader Commits Seppuku!

yukio-mishima-attempts-coup-detat-japan

A Brief History

On November 25 in 1970, Japanese author, Yukio Mishima (a nom de plume), a man with multiple nominations for the Nobel Prize for literature, attempted a coup d’etat in Japan!

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find an incredibly accomplished man, writer of novels, plays and poems, as well as directing plays and movies, acting and modeling, fascinated by politics of the right wing and veneration of the emperor.

Mishima created his own emperor protecting/venerating militia he called Tatenokai, some sort of martial arts private mini-army like something a warlord would have in a Bruce Lee film!

In an attempt to restore absolute rule by the emperor, Mishima and a small cadre of followers seized a military headquarters, tied up the commanders, and addressed the soldiers, announcing the coup.  Alas!  Mishima’s exhortations were for naught, and the soldiers jeered and booed.

Facing this not totally unexpected result, Mishima then committed ritual suicide, seppuku, slicing open his own belly and having an attendant behead him with a sword.

After several unsuccessful attempts, the attendant deferred to a second attendant who cut of the stubborn head and then did the same for the first attendant, who meanwhile had also disemboweled himself!  Anticipating the strong possibility of failure, Mishima had already prepared his pre-seppuku traditional poems, causing some speculation that the coup was just an excuse for the suicide.

Actually named Kimitake Hiraoka, Mishima wrote under his pen name, and beyond the accomplishments listed above, also was known as a body builder in Japan.

Historical Evidence

This remarkable man is remembered today by multiple books about his life, as well as a BBC documentary and a play.


The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima (Paperback)

By (author): Henry Scott Stokes

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Matthew Zarzeczny

Matthew graduated with a B.A. in French and history from Baldwin-Wallace College. At BW, Matthew minored in political science. He earned a Master’s in History at Kent State University and a Ph.D. in History from the Ohio State University. He teaches history at Ashland University, John Carroll University, and Kent State University at Stark.

  • James S

    Well, if you absolutely have to die, I suppose this is at least a cool way to go. By this I mean nobody should ever commit seppuku.

  • KRT

    As we learned in class about the Japanese ritual suicide, it is understandable why we could see this occurring in the 20th century. Japanese are well known for many traditions and they are mainly in the form of honoring yourself and family. So I can see why he would feel the need to preform this ritual to regain honor because of his failures in life. But hopefully others who feel the need to preform this ritual will find someone who is been acquainted with katana and could cleanly cut of their head.

  • Ty Rodgers

    As KRT stated, the traditions and rituals of the Japanese are very prominent still today. I think that Seppuku should be remembered by 21st “century-ans” as a practice of love for ones country. The idea that people should go back to using Seppuku is not one that I support. As with most parts of history, I feel it is important to know the past in order to avoid the bad and acknowledge the good.

  • Angela Reed

    I don’t think that It has occurred during the 21st century, and if it has I haven’t learned about it! I think we should practice it so we have a grasp on Japanese culture, but not on humans!

  • Ashley Arthur

    I agree with Angela it is definitely something we need to practice but not on humans. It would definitely be interesting to learn that aspect of the Japanese culture and I would definitely want to learn it.

  • JLS

    No, I do not think it should be practiced.

  • Karl Paulik

    I do not think this should be practiced, however every country has their own culture and traditions that are mainly focused around the belief of after life and the honor of the family. If a group of people wish to practice this type of act i do not think it should be prevented.

  • Lia Hart

    This practice does not have any place in the 21st century because no one should ever commit suicide.

  • Justin D.

    I don’t think this has any place at all in the 21st century people can redeem there self and do great things and not just end it for some ancient beliefs they can honor there family by life and not death.

  • rf

    I would hope this isn’t still practiced, but I’m sure in some places it is still honored.

  • Titus Rice

    There is a forest in Japan called Aokigahare aka the Suicide
    Forest; it is at the base of Mount Fuji. Hundreds of people go there every year
    to commit suicide. The mountain is belived to be a gateway to heaven and in
    ancient Japanese legend is the place where the goddess fugi first came down and
    inhabited Japan.

  • Brandon Yurick

    I believe to us, as an american culture it is easy to see this as cowardice, but knowing a little bit about japan history it is a very honorable way to go.

  • Jake Woolf

    To each their own; if someone wants to go out this way, why not let them? Let it have whatever place in modern times it is given by people who view the practice as a potential go-to.

  • History Student

    Hey, we learned about this practice in today’s class!