Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sayonara, cruel world

On this day in 1970, the world-renowned Japanese writer Yukio Mishima committed suicide.

One of Mishima's subjects as a novelist was the spiritual barrenness of modern life. He contrasted the old Japan, with its patriotism and traditional values, to the new, materialistic, westernized Japan that arose after 1945.

On November 25, 1970, Mishima delivered to his publisher the last installment of The Sea of Fertility, his four-volume epic on Japanese life in the 20th century. He then went with several followers to a military building in Tokyo and seized control of a general's office. There, from a balcony, he gave a brief speech to about 1,000 assembled servicemen, in which he urged them to overthrow Japan's constitution.

Instead of inspiring a coup d'etat, he was mocked and jeered. When he finished, he went into the general's office and committed seppuku. Another member of his entourage then beheaded him.

John Nathan, Mishima's biographer, translator and friend, suggests that the coup attempt was a pretext for the ritual suicide. Mishima had made sure his affairs were in order, even leaving money for the defense trial of his three surviving followers.

Item in News of the Weird:

As an alternative to burial, cremation is no longer green enough, say environmentalists, because it releases smoke and mercury, and thus the industry is considering "promession," in which the body is frozen in liquid nitrogen to minus-320 degrees (F) and then shaken until it disintegrates into powder.

For green burials, the United States has at least six cemeteries that require biodegradable casings and for bodies to be free of embalming chemicals. The Forever Fernwood cemetery in Mill Valley, Calif., goes even further, according to an October Los Angeles Times story, banning grave markers, but, said the owner, "We issue the family a Google map with the GPS coordinates" so they can find their loved one.