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Tea Leaves

Yukio Mishima in the 21st century

Fifty years after his suicide, controversial Japanese novelist's popularity soars

Mishima addresses members of the Self-Defense Forces in Tokyo shortly before his suicide on Nov. 25, 1970.(Photo by Nikkei) 

Can you imagine bestselling novelist Haruki Murakami leading a coup attempt against Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga? Or Booker Prize winner Ian McEwan taking a top general hostage in a British Army base and inciting a rebellion against Boris Johnson's government? Or any of the legions of writers and artists who regularly hammered U.S. President Donald Trump on social media choosing to die for their cause?

Probably not, but that would be the modern equivalent of what happened on Nov. 25, 1970, when the brilliant Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima and four accomplices invaded the office of the commander of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, called on his troops to topple the government of Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, and then committed seppuku, or ritual disembowelment (vulgarly known as hara-kiri).

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