Mishima Yukio, the Japanese Police, and the Sovereign Crisis that Never Came

Mr Max Ward1

1Middlebury College, Middlebury, United States

Mishima Yukio’s rightist critique of postwar Japanese society is well known, as is his staged coup attempt and ritual suicide at the headquarters of Japan’s Security Defense Forces in November 1970. Up to that point, Mishima published essays in which he railed against the postwar “peace” constitution and the supposed limits it put on Japan’s ability to realize the ultimate sign of sovereignty: a standing military. In his later writings, Mishima often placed his hopes in the radical left, which he thought would bring about a revolutionary crisis requiring military intervention, thereby creating a constitutional crisis. However, Mishima’s much-desired crisis never came, for standing in the way were the formidable Japanese police. In this paper, I utilize Mishima’s critique of the Japanese police as a point of departure to consider critical theories of police power and its relationship to politics, security and sovereignty.


Max Ward is Associate Professor of Japanese History at Middlebury College and author of Thought Crime: Ideology and State Power in Interwar Japan (Duke 2019). He is currently working on his next book project titled Police Power in Modern Japan.



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