The pleasure of dark places: heterotopia in Mishima Yukio’s Inochi urimasu (Life for Sale)
(2020) Japan Forum.
While utopia implies an ideal space, and dystopia a site of dysfunction, Michel Foucault coined the word heterotopia to depict a space containing multiple, overlapping and sometimes conflicting layers of meaning. This article first considers Mishima Yukio (1925–1970) himself as a heterotopian body, both physical and textual, and then goes on to examine how his novel, Inochi urimasu (Life for Sale, 1968), employs a range of heterotopian tropes as a means to critique post-war Japanese society. The novel, which was first serialized in the Japanese Weekly Playboy Magazine, is one of Mishima’s many popular novels that have not attracted much attention to date because it was not considered ‘serious’ enough: it may be described as trashy, kitsch, camp, shallow and sexy. However, I argue that Inochi urimasu conveys a serious intent by employing those very qualities in order to analyse critically a breakdown in human relations that emerged from the ashes of Japan’s wartime defeat. Moreover, beneath the novel’s fast-paced and humorous veneer, there lurks a bleak nihilism–represented through themes such as prostitution, vampirism, violence, and sadomasochism–that provided Mishima with the opportunity to construct alternative and what he considered to be more positive paradigms in the face of an unbearably bourgeois and anodyne lived experience in post-war consumerist Japan. © Copyright © 2020 BAJS.
Foucault; heterotopia; Inochi urimasu; Life for Sale; LSD; Mishima; Star; Sutaa; television; vampire