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Whenever I said so, the grownups would laugh at first, but then, wondering if they were not being tricked, they would look distastefully at the pallid face of that unchildlike child. Sometimes I happened to say so in the presence of callers who were not close friends of the family; then my grandmother, fearing I would be taken for an idiot, would interrupt in a sharp voice and tell me to go somewhere else and play. While they were still smiling from their laughter, the grownups would usually set about trying to confute me with some sort of scientific explanation. Trying to devise explanations that a child's mind could grasp, they would always start babbling with no little dramatic zeal, saying that a baby's eyes are not yet open at birth, or that even if his eyes are completely open, a newborn baby could not possibly see things clearly enough to remember them. But just then they would seem to be struck by the idea that they were on the point of being taken in by the child's tricks: Even if we think he's a child, we mustn't let our guard down.
Into this house my father had brought my mother, a frail and beautiful bride. On the morning of January 4, , my mother was attacked by labor pains.
At nine that evening she gave birth to a small baby weighing five pounds and six ounces. On the evening of the seventh day the infant was clothed in undergarments of flannel and cream-colored silk and a kimono of silk crepe with a splashed pattern.
In the presence of the assembled household my grandfather drew my name on a strip of ceremonial paper and placed it on an offertory stand in the tokonoma. My hair was blondish for a long time, but they kept putting olive oil on it until it finally turned black. My parents lived on the second floor of the house. On the pretext that it was hazardous to raise a child on an upper floor, my grandmother snatched me from my mother's arms on my forty-ninth day.
My bed was placed in my grandmother's sickroom, perpetually closed and stifling with odors of sickness and old age, and I was raised there beside her sickbed. When about one year old I fell from the third step of the stairway and injured my forehead. My grandmother had gone to the theater, and my father's cousins and my mother were noisily enjoying the respite.
My mother had had occasion to take something up to the second floor. Following her, I had become entangled in the trailing skirt of her kimono and had fallen.
My grandmother was summoned by telephone from the Kabuki Theater. When she arrived, my grandfather went out to meet her. She stood in the entryway without taking her shoes off, leaning on the cane that she carried in her right hand, and stared fixedly at my grandfather.
When she spoke, it was in a strangely calm tone of voice, as though carving out each word: On the New Year's morning just prior to my fourth birthday I vomited something the color of coffee.
The family doctor was called. After examining me, he said he was not sure I would recover. I was given injections of camphor and glucose until I was like a pincushion. The pulses of both my wrist and upper arm became imperceptible. Two hours passed. They stood looking down at my corpse.
A shroud was made ready, my favorite toys collected, and all the relatives gathered. Almost another hour passed, and then suddenly urine appeared.
My mother's brother, who was a doctor, said, "He's alive! A little later urine appeared again. Gradually the vague light of life revived in my cheeks. That illness—autointoxication—became chronic with me.
It struck about once a month, now lightly, now seriously. I encountered many crises.
By the sound of the disease's footsteps as it drew near I came to be able to sense whether an attack was likely to approach death or not. My earliest memory, an unquestionable one, haunting me with a strangely vivid image, dates from about that time. I do not know whether it was my mother, a nurse, a maid, or an aunt who was leading me by the hand. Nor is the season of the year distinct. Afternoon sunshine was falling dimly on the houses along the slope.
Led by the hand of the unremembered woman, I was climbing the slope toward home. Someone was coming down the slope, and the woman jerked my hand. We got out of the way and stood waiting at one side. There is no doubt that the image of what I saw then has taken on meaning anew each of the countless times it has been reviewed, intensified, focused upon.
Because within the hazy perimeter of the scene nothing but the figure of that "someone coming down the slope" stands out with disproportionate clarity. And not without reason: It was a young man who was coming down toward us, with handsome, ruddy cheeks and shining eyes, wearing a dirty roll of cloth around his head for a sweatband.
He came down the slope carrying a yoke of night-soil buckets over one shoulder, balancing their heaviness expertly with his footsteps. He was a night-soil man, a ladler of excrement. He was dressed as a laborer, wearing split-toed shoes with rubber soles and black-canvas tops, and dark-blue cotton trousers of the close-fitting kind called "thigh-pullers.
Although I did not clearly perceive it at the time, for me he represented my first revelation of a certain power, my first summons by a certain strange and secret voice.
It is significant that this was first manifested to me in the form of a night-soil man: I had a presentiment then that there is in this world a kind of desire like stinging pain. Looking up at that dirty youth, I was choked by desire, thinking, "I want to change into him," thinking, "I want to be him.
The first was his dark-blue "thigh-pullers," the other his occupation. The close-fitting jeans plainly outlined the lower half of his body, which moved lithely and seemed to be walking directly toward me. An inexpressible adoration for those trousers was born in me. I did not understand why.
Confessions of a Mask
His occupation… At that instant, in the same way that other children, as soon as they attain the faculty of memory, want to become generals, I became possessed with the ambition to become a night-soil man. The origin of this ambition might have been partly in the dark-blue jeans, but certainly not exclusively so.
In time this ambition became still stronger and, expanding within me, saw a strange development. What I mean is that toward his occupation I felt something like a yearning for a piercing sorrow, a body-wrenching sorrow. His occupation gave me the feeling of "tragedy" in the most sensuous meaning of the word.
A certain feeling as it were of "self-renunciation," a certain feeling of indifference, a certain feeling of intimacy with danger, a feeling like a remarkable mixture of nothingness and vital power—all these feelings swarmed forth from his calling, bore down upon me, and took me captive, at the age of four.
Probably I had a misconception of the work of a night-soil man. Probably I had been told of some different occupation and, misled by his costume, was forcibly fitting his job into the pattern of what I had heard. I cannot otherwise explain it. Such must have been the case because presently my ambition was transferred with those same emotions to the operators of hana-densha—those streetcars decorated so gaily with flowers for festival days—or again to subway ticket-punchers.
Both occupations gave me a strong impression of "tragic lives" of which I was ignorant and from which it seemed I was forever excluded. This was particularly true in the case of the ticket-punchers: Existences and events occurring without any relationship to myself, occurring at places that not only appealed to my senses but were moreover denied to me—these, together with the people involved in them, constituted my definition of "tragic things.
If such were the case, the so-called "tragic things" of which I was becoming aware were probably only shadows cast by a flashing presentiment of grief still greater in the future, of a lonelier exclusion still to come.
There is another early memory, involving a picture book. Although I learned to read and write when I was five, I could not yet read the words in the book. So this memory also must date from the age of four. I had several picture books about that time, but my fancy was captured, completely and exclusively, only by this one—and only by one eye-opening picture in it.
I could dream away long and boring afternoons gazing at it, and yet when anyone came along, I would feel guilty without reason and would turn in a flurry to a different page.
The watchfulness of a sicknurse or a maid vexed me beyond endurance. I longed for a life that would allow me to gaze at that picture all the day through. Whenever I turned to that page my heart beat fast.
No other page meant anything to me. The picture showed a knight mounted on a white horse, holding a sword aloft. My lapse from faith occurred as is usual among people on our level of education. In most cases, I think, it happens thus: Religious doctrine is professed far away from life and independently of it. If it is encountered, it is only as an external phenomenon disconnected from life. Then as now, it was and is quite impossible to judge by a man's life and conduct whether he is a believer or not.
If there be a difference between a man who publicly professes orthodoxy and one who denies it, the difference is not in favor of the former. Then as now, the public profession and confession of orthodoxy was chiefly met with among people who were dull and cruel and who considered themselves very important. Ability, honesty, reliability, good-nature and moral conduct, were often met with among unbelievers.
Confessions of a Mask|Yukio Mishima|Free download|PDF EPUB|Freeditorial
The schools teach the catechism and send the pupils to church, and government officials must produce certificates of having received communion. But a man of our circle who has finished his education and is not in the government service may even now and formerly it was still easier for him to do so live for ten or twenty years without once remembering that he is living among Christians and is himself reckoned a member of the orthodox Christian Church. So that, now as formerly, religious doctrine, accepted on trust and supported by external pressure, thaws away gradually under the influence of knowledge and experience of life which conflict with it, and a man very often lives on, imagining that he still holds intact the religious doctrine imparted to him in childhood whereas in fact not a trace of it remains.
On a hunting expedition, when he was already twenty-six, he once, at the place where they put up for the night, knelt down in the evening to pray - a habit retained from childhood. His elder brother, who was at the hunt with him, was lying on some hay and watching him. When S. But from that day S. And now he has not prayed, received communion, or gone to church, for thirty years.
And this not because he knows his brother's convictions and has joined him in them, nor because he has decided anything in his own soul, but simply because the word spoken by his brother was like the push of a finger on a wall that was ready to fall by its own weight.
The word only showed that where he thought there was faith, in reality there had long been an empty space, and that therefore the utterance of words and the making of signs of the cross and genuflections while praying were quite senseless actions. Becoming conscious of their senselessness he could not continue them. So it has been and is, I think, with the great majority of people. I am speaking of people of our educational level who are sincere with themselves, and not of those who make the profession of faith a means of attaining worldly aims.
Such people are the most fundamental infidels, for if faith is for them a means of attaining any worldly aims, then certainly it is not faith.
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