Mishima uses Japanese culture to illustrate his argument for imperialism. He does this in such a proud way, showing his reverence for Japanese culture and traditions. The honor, loyalty and patriotism that ruled the lives of ancient samurais and the soldiers of the Imperial Army on the eve of World War II embodies the true essence of what it meant to Mishima to be Japanese. Love of the government and love of family are almost inseparable, but loyalty to the government comes first.
This story makes much more sense in the context of Japanese culture and tradition. The two main characters commit suicide by mean of the ritualistic samurai death, harakiri. This is common knowledge to the Japanese people, while it seems horrible and grotesque to people of the Western world. Many of the domestic dynamics that are normal in the story are also making reference to Japanese culture from pre-World War II Japan. The traditional dress and bathing rituals seem foreign to members not of the Japanese society.
Even the format Mishima uses is reminiscent of the calm, methodical stages that the couple goes through in undertaking their suicides. Each numbered section relays specific information, and each section has a different focus. There is a time and place for all of the information that needs to be relayed to the reader.
Honor, loyalty, intelligence and integrity are the basis of the Code of the Samurai. "The samurai's life was like the cherry blossom's, beautiful and brief. For him, as for the flower, death followed naturally, gloriously." A quote from "Ancient Warriors - The Samurai", The Learning Channel (1994) These ancient ideals and codes contributed to the ethic of the soldier's life in subsequent years. Mishima uses seppuku, or harakiri, to display both the lieutenant's and his own unfaltering nationalism and loyalty to the emperial system. Harakiri developed as an integral part of the code of bushido and the discipline of the samurai warrior class, it is an act of loyalty and dignity and also a means of redeeming failure through an honorable death. The samurai understood seppuku--whether ordered as punishment or chosen in preference to a dishonorable death at the hands of an enemy-as an unquestionable demonstration of their honor, courage, loyalty, and moral character.
Seppuku is not the act itself, but the state of mind reached by the samurai during the ceremonial disembowelment. Mishima makes reference to this in section four, "Was this seppuku? -he [Lieutenant] was thinking." Harakiri was a very formal ceremony, requiring certain etiquette, witnesses and considerable preparation. Reiko and Shinji make these preparations in the third section. Reiko wraps her possessions, such as dresses and small ceramic figurines, and prepares them to be given to her family and friends after her death. Each of them writes a single note to be read by the person who discover the bodies and the mourners. Reiko uses her note to apologize for her "unfilial conduct in thus preceding her parents to the grave". Shinji writes simply "Long live the Imperial Forces", reiterating the dedication to the ruling regime. Through adherence to the ancient customs, they are to be rewarded by the regaining of honor by such an honorable death.
By painting such a vividly dignified picture of ancient, traditional Japanese culture, Mishima voiced his opinion on the governing powers in Japan during the nineteen-sixties. His love of emperialism, unfaltering nationalism and loyalty to the emperial system were in accordance with his political beliefs of fascism and military superiority. This affection for fascism and the resurrection of a romanticized samurai ideal is what Mishima hoped that Japan would recognize and return to the Emperor system. "Patriotism" is an especially important example of the success of his literary works in keeping his opinions alive.
A nice chronologically ordered biography