goh mishima
biography


image goh mishima

Ironically, the Japanese artist Goh Mishima, born Tsuyoshi Yoshida in 1924, was one year older than Yukio Mishima, the iconoclastic writer whose surname he appropriated for his own artistic pseudonym. Furthering the irony, "Yukio Mishima" was itself a pseudonym, concocted as an admiring tribute to an older Japanese poet, who presumably wrote under the name he had been born with.

Goh Mishima had a traditional education, and was inducted into the army at age 18 where he had his first homosexual encounter with another soldier. After Japan"s defeat and the end of World War II, Mishima immersed himself in the emerging gay subculture in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo where he had frequent contacts with American soldiers, and became accustomed to a lavish lifestyle thanks to the patronage of an American officer.

In 1972, Barazoku, Japan's first gay magazine, began publication. Mishima contributed photographs and illustrations, but quickly became disenchanted with the magazine's "pretty boy" image and created his own publication, Sabu, which was named for his favorite bartender. Sabu promoted a new male image with a more masculine and sexually aggressive attitude, and Mishima was responsible for all cover art for the magazine.

Mishima's reputation as an artist and magazine editor continued to grow in the small and cohesive gay community in Tokyo, with the artist producing great numbers of drawings in his small apartment above a sushi restaurant in the Meguro district of Tokyo, where he eventually dies on January 5, 1988 of complications from a year-long sickness with cirrhosis of the liver. A special issue of Barazoku is published to memorialize and honor Mishima; the issue celebrates his greatness and acknowledges him as a pioneer in the new freedoms of a gay sensiblilty.

In 1999, Bungaku Ito, editor in chief of Barazoku and another pioneer in Japan's gay community, presents the Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles, with three homoerotic artworks by Mishima for its permanent collection; the works are selected from Mishima's private collection, which is known to be one of the largest collections of homoerotic art in Japan.

timeline

1924
Born in Tokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan; given name is Tsuyoshi Yoshida; attends traditional Japanese schools.

1942
At 18 he is inducted into the Japanese army; first homosexual experiences occur at this time with other soldiers.

1945
Leaves army after defeat of Japan and end of World War II; becomes active in the emerging underground nightlife of bars and clubs in Shinjuku area of Tokyo, and engages in frequent sexual contact with American soldiers stationed in Tokyo -- soldiers who are the sole source of alcohol and tobacco; despite the poverty and destruction of postwar Japan, he maintains lavish lifestyle and is supported by an American officer.

The disarray of post-war Tokyo creates many opportunities for illegal activities, and the Yakuza (Japanese style mafia) emerges and becomes powerful in nightclubs, gambling, prostitution, and shipping businesses; the Yakuza style consists of hypermasculine attitude, violent behavior, expressionless faces, short haircuts called "kakugari" and elaborate body tattoos; his contact with Yakuza and his fascination with their look exerts strong influence on later artwork.

1955
First meets Yukio Mishima at athletic gym; they quickly establish close and meaningful relationship, and share interests in bodybuilding, karate, fencing, and exercise; more importantly, they both have an interest in and admiration of male body, attributes of masculinity, and homosexuality; and share a sexual attraction to the same type of body style and similar male fetishistic obsessions; Yukio Mishima encourages him to express homoerotic desires in his artwork, and he seriously begins to draw the male nude (including the realistic depiction of genitals which was illegal) and would pursue for the rest of his life; in respect and admiration, he adopts Yukio Mishima's last name, and creates the pen-name of Goh Mishima. During the late 1950s and 1960s, Goh Mishima becomes familiar with and a great admirer of the drawings of Tom of Finland. He and Tom of Finland (1920-1991) are of the same generation, and their artistic careers and sociosexual impact share many similarities.

At this time, Yukio Mishima had published a number of distinguished articles and books that had established him as one of the most important authors to emerge in Japan during the twentieth century. It is of interest to note that Yukio Mishima (born one year after Goh Mishima) had also changed his name (at age sixteen) from Kimitake Hiraoka to Yukio Mishima, a pen-name that was somehow related to his admiration of the famous poet, Sachio Ito. He continued an illustrious career as an author, lecturer, and intellectual.

1970
Yukio Mishima commits "seppuku" or "hara-kiri" (a ritualized disembowelment) and is subsequently beheaded by one of his political followers. In keeping with Yukio Mishima's death, Goh Mishima realistically depicts torture, bondage, self-inflicted pain, and hara-kiri in numerous drawings completed after Yukio's demise.

1972
Barazoku, the first gay magazine in Japan, begins publishing; Goh Mishima is responsible of photographs and illustrations in the magazine, but contributes only one cover drawing in 1973.

1974
Dissatisfied with the "pretty boy" image of Barazoku magazine, Mishima begins his own male magazine, Sabu, which was named after the artist's favorite bartender. Sabu promotes a new style and type of male image, preferring a more "masculine" and sexual attitude. Mishima is responsible for all cover art for the magazine.

Mishima's reputation as an artist and magazine editor continues to grow in the small and cohesive gay community in Tokyo. He produces great numbers of drawings in his small apartment above a sushi restaurant in the Meguro district of Tokyo, and both gives away and sells artworks.

1988
Goh Mishima dies in Tokyo on January 5, of complications from a year-long sickness with cirrhosis of the liver. Mishima dies three days before the Japanese Emperor also dies, which brings an end to the Showa era. A modern era then begins that slowly, but gradually, sees the emergence of a more visible and vocal gay population in Japan, and the increasing appreciation of homoerotic artworks, especially those by Goh Mishima.

1989
A special issue of Barazoku is published to memorialize and honor Goh Mishima; this issue celebrates his greatness and acknowledges him as a pioneer in the new freedoms of a gay sensiblilty.

1999
Bungaku Ito, editor in chief of Barazoku and another pioneer in Japan's gay community, presents the Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles, with three homoerotic artworks by Goh Mishima for the Foundation collection; the works are selected from his private collection, which is known to be one of the largest collections of homoerotic art in Japan.