‘Three Million Yen’ by Yukio Mishima

Mishima, Yukio 1960

Three Million Yen by Yukio Mishima, 1960

The magic trick:

Setting up the couple as childlike innocents

The setup here has a young married couple arriving at a mall to meet an older woman, and this meeting and what it entails is absolutely crucial to the story’s message. However, the vast majority of the story consists of what the couple does to kill time before that meeting. These sections allow Mishima to portray the couple as smart and careful with their money, but also essentially childlike. We see Kenzo play in the toy store. We see the couple play house in Magicland. We see Kiyoko pretend to be scared on the roller coaster. Their naivete is established fairly meticulously through this series of scenes, thereby establishing the stark contrast that swoops in during the story’s conclusion. And that’s quite a trick on Mishima’s part.

The selection:

At a landing like a railway platform five or six little boxcars, each large enough for two people, stood at intervals along a track. Three or four other couples were waiting, but the two climbed unabashedly into a car. It was in fact a little tight for two, and Kenzo had to put his arm around his wife.

The operator was whistling somewhat disdainfully. Kenzo’s powerful arm, on which the sweat had dried, was solid against Kiyoko’s naked shoulders and back. Naked skin clung to naked skin like the layers of some intricately folded insect’s wing. The car began to shake.

“I’m afraid,” said Kiyoko, with the expression of one not in the least afraid.

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