Art + Culture

ドナルド・キーンと三島由紀夫、運命論の関係性 Donald Keene and Yukio Mishima, a fatalistic relationship

ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene 鬼怒鳴門
ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene 鬼怒鳴門

Magical pink ceiling in Tokyo’s sky. Cherry blossoms in full bloom in Aoyama Cemetery, the oldest, most exclusive, public cemetery with a large foreign section. Today we said a final goodbye to famed literature expert Donald Keene at his public funeral, conducted in Buddhist-style 仏教, the social norm in Japan. Directly under Keene’s photograph, in the center, – the envelope for condolence donation 祭粢料 (Saishiryo) by the Japanese Emperor (Tenno-heika) 天皇陛下 had been prominently exhibited. In this context I bowed in front of the ceremonial envelope of the Tenno 天皇, the highest authority of the SHINTO 神道 religion. A strange feeling, as I wanted to bow in front of Donald Keene and not the Japanese Emperor. One important, crucial experience to understand the Tenno’s role in contemporary Japan.

I had the opportunity in meeting highly respected Mr. Keene on several occasions, one was in 1990, during the International Book Fair in Frankfurt, where my anthology about Contemporary Japanese Literature (Momentaufnahmen moderner japanischer Literatur 現代日本文学, 34 novelists, from IBUSE Masuji 井伏鱒二 to YOSHIMOTO Banana 吉本ばなな) had been promoted by my German publisher.
At that time I realized a kind of generational gap between Mr. Keene and me. He probably noticed, that my new book surpassed his work. He never showed interest towards novelists like SATA Ineko 佐多稲子, NOMA Hiroshi 野間宏, NAKAGAMI Kenji 中上健次, TSUSHIMA Yuko 津島佑子, MURAKAMI Ryu 村上龍, MURAKAMI Haruki 村上春樹 or SHIMADA Masahiko 島田雅彦.

With profound interest I later read about Keene’s influence (involving betrayal of trust) on MISHIMA Yukio 三島由紀夫, who shockingly ‘lost’ against his early mentor KAWABATA Yasunari 川端康成 regarding the Nobel Prize in Literature.

ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene と 三島由紀夫 Yukio Mishima 昭和39 Showa 39
ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene と 三島由紀夫 Yukio Mishima、昭和39 Showa 39

「様々な意見や批評がある中で、結果的に川端がどのような評価を受けて受賞に 到ったかを、幾つかの視点から考察したが、公開された物の内最新資料(1963 年)からアカデミーは、「日本文学の専門家」2名に日本文学に対する評価を依 頼していたことが分かった。その2名とは、ドナルド・キーン教授(ニューヨー ク コロンビア大学╱日本語学科教授)と、エドワード・サイデンステッカー氏 (三島╱川端文学の翻訳者)であった。」



“He was an extraordinary person,” says Keene, who knew Mishima well. They had met, symbolically enough, outside Tokyo’s Kabuki-za theatre in 1954, and had gone to see plays together. Keene had translated one of Mishima’s modern Noh plays.
“He died, as you know, at the age of 45, leaving at least 45 stacked volumes of novels, plays, criticism, poetry.” Mishima slit his belly after leading a failed, and farcical, coup to restore the emperor’s power but Keene thinks he committed suicide because he was passed over for the Nobel Prize. During the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Mishima had written Keene a letter with the line, “I envy the athletes who know if they are first, second or third.” Keene says: “That was all he said but I knew exactly what he meant.”
From: ‘Lunch with the FT: Donald Keene’
By David Pilling OCTOBER 29, 2011, Financial Times

Today’s Literati at the public memorial probably remembered the crucial, ‘deadly’ relationship between Mishima and Keene as well.
In 2008, Keene became the first foreigner to receive the Order of Culture 文化勲章受章 from the Japanese government, in recognition of his contribution to literature. Therefore the envelope for condolence donation 祭粢料 (Saishiryo) by the Japanese Emperor (Tenno-heika) 天皇陛下.

Japanese Emperor 天皇陛下 と ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene、平成20 Heisei 20
Japanese Emperor 天皇陛下 と ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene、平成20 Heisei 20

Keene became a Japanese citizen in 2012 after he moved to Tokyo, and adopted a Japanese man, Seiki Keene, as his son and heir in 2013, see the charming cover picture.
Dear KEENE Donald 鬼怒鳴門, I loved the Italian music which had been chosen for your funeral: “Vissi d’Arte”. It supposed to be my music during my future funeral at ‘Aoyama Bochi’ 青山墓地. Riposa in Pace.
Tokyo, Heisei 31, April 10th
Mario A 亜 真里男

ドナルド・キーン 鬼怒鳴門 Donald Keene
美し国ぞ あきづしま 大和の国は ドナルド・キーン 鬼怒鳴門
「美し国ぞ あきづしま 大和の国は」 ドナルド・キーン 鬼怒鳴門
ドナルド・キーン 鬼怒鳴門
The Japanese KEENE Donald 日本人 鬼怒鳴門
The Japanese KEENE Donald 日本人 鬼怒鳴門

アップデート up-date, today’s news articles

Screenshot from today’s Sankei
Screenshot from today’s Sankei

Asahi Shimbun 朝日新聞 中村真理子 2019年4月10日

full text, with photographs, see

「キーン先生」との別れ惜しむ 教え子、友人ら参列
Sankei 2019.4.10

full text with photographs at:

Mainichi 毎日新聞 2019年4月10日
full text with photographs:

By Colin Marshall, October 11, 2010
The sexual neutrality Keene puts across in his writing about himself feels so deliberate that it backfires, drawing close attention to the very thing it excises. I have to assume, on his part, either complete asexuality or some variety of closetedness. Certainly the latter is more plausible, especially given what Keene’s peer Donald Richie called “the strange prevalence of people of like preferences among foreign Japanese specialists” of their generation. Indeed, Keene’s contrast with the liberated Richie, who’s written at least one entire unpublished manuscript on his Japanese homosexual encounters alone, could hardly be starker.

ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene 朝日新聞 平成31年2月25日
ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene 朝日新聞 平成31年2月25日
朝日新聞 平成31年2月25日 ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene
朝日新聞 平成31年2月25日 ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene
朝日新聞 平成31年2月25日 ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene 朝日新聞 平成31年2月25日
ドナルド・キーン Donald Keene 朝日新聞 平成31年2月25日
ドナルド・キーン 鬼怒鳴門 略歴
ドナルド・キーン 鬼怒鳴門 略歴 Donald Keene’s biography in Japanese
60年代を注目 How the 60’s had been documented in this biography

2019/10/1 up-date:



Donald Keene @ NHK screenshot













full text at:

Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters

Paul Schrader Discusses Yukio Mishima | The Dick Cavett Show


Please check also:
三島由紀夫のホモエロティシズム写真作品 © 細江英公
MISHIMA Yukio’s homoerotic photoworks © Eikoh Hosoe

猪熊弦一郎、三島由紀夫、イサム・ノグチと他、猪熊弦一郎のニューヨークのアトリエ INOKUMA Gen-ichiro, MISHIMA Yukio, Isamu NOGUCHI a.o. in the atelier of INOKUMA Gen-ichiro, New York 1957
猪熊弦一郎、三島由紀夫、イサム・ノグチと他、猪熊弦一郎のニューヨークのアトリエ INOKUMA Gen-ichiro, MISHIMA Yukio, Isamu NOGUCHI a.o. in the atelier of INOKUMA Gen-ichiro, New York 1957

Please make a comparison with American novelist James Baldwin