COMMENTARY Lelia MUNTEANU: Honor and dumplings

Who else but Yukio Mishima could tell that? (“Galloping Horses”, Humanitas Publishing House, 2010) On November 25, 1970, after completing his last novel, he did it himself.

A prince of the imperial family pays homage to a very young and exalted patriot, a kendō fighter (3 dan), in a private audience.

“If Her Majesty had the opportunity to be dissatisfied with your behavior, what would you do?” The prince (career soldier) asks.

The 19-year-old responds without hesitation: “I would split my stomach immediately (…).

“Then I ask you something else. If Her Majesty were pleased with you, what would you do?”

“I’d do the same, split my stomach right away.”

– How so? Explain me.

– It’s about loyalty. Let’s just say I’m making some rice dumplings with the intention of giving them to Her Majesty. As for the result, if His Imperial Majesty is not hungry and simply does not want them, or if he tells me and he threw them in front of me, I would retreat, with the rice still glued to my cheek, and I would gratefully make a seppuku. On the other hand, if His Majesty is hungry and eats my rice dumplings with pleasure, I would likewise retire to make my seppuku at once. Why? Because making dumplings with my unworthy hands and offering them to His Majesty would be a sin to be punished with a thousand deaths. But if I were to make dumplings to offer as an offering and still not offer them, holding them in my hand, what would happen? After a while it would break down. And this could be called loyalty, but it would be a lack of courage. Courageous loyalty is shown by one who, without fear of death, dares to offer the dumplings he has made with a devout soul. ”

It should be noted that Japan was in a period of great economic turmoil during the Shōwa Era (1926–1945), when the aristocracy knelt before a rapacious and cosmopolitan bourgeoisie, and the “Son of the Sun”, the Emperor, seemed to be overshadowed. Behind the words of the young kendō fighter pulses one of the patriotic beliefs of the moment – the so-called “desperate loyalty”.

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