Spring Snow

Translation: Michael Gallagher


The first volume of the tetralogy considered to be Mishima’s masterpiece. A tragic story of the forbidden love of Kiyoaki, a beautiful young man from an aristocratic family, and Satoko, his childhood friend. The couple, raised together, was indifferent to each other for many years, but when Satoko becomes engaged to a prince, Kiyoaki suddenly falls in fierce love with her. Kiyoaki’s close friend, Honda, follows the dramatic fate of the lovers.

Tetralogy, or four volumes published under the joint title Hōjō no Umi (Mare Fecunditatis, Sea of Plenty, one of the lunar “seas”, that is darker spots or rather plains, on the surface of the Moon) is the magnum opus of Yukio Mishima’s life. He wrote the four parts between 1964 and 1970. Ot is said that when he finished the last one, he was ready to carry out his military coup, and, if necessary, take his own life.

In his farewell letter, Mishima is said to have written: Human life is limited but I would like to live forever (限りある命ならば永遠に生きたい). He reportedly did not believe in reincarnation, although reading the Tetralogy may give you a different impression. The series of consecutive incarnations binds the plot together. One of the characters, whose viewpoint we follow, finds traces of his deceased friend in various, often surprising characters. If you enjoyed reading David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas”, then be sure to give this classic a try.

You often ask us whether the Tetralogy can be read out of sequence – in our opinion yes, since each of the novels is completely different. Spring Snow is a coming-of-age novel and the most tragic love story you’ll find in Japanese literature; Runaway Horses is a political thriller; “The Temple of Dawn” will take you to Siam to have an audience with a Thai princess, and the closing series “The Decay of the Angel” is a metaphysical drama, a story about obsession and transcience of life. Regardless of the genre, Mishima’s talent never disappoints.

See also the remaining volumes: Runaway Horses,The Temple of Dawn,The Decay of the Angel.

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