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A new life for a 50-year old science fiction book

November 9, 2012


Yoroku: An alternative view of nuclear-equipped humanity



In the novel "Utsukushii Hoshi," by Yukio Mishima, four members of an affluent family who see a flying saucer come to believe they are aliens from different planets. Amid the Cold War between East and West, the family members, hiding their backgrounds, launch a peace campaign to prevent nuclear war breaking out between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The science fiction novel, published by Shincho Bunko, came out exactly 50 years ago. This year, it has reportedly started to sell again, thanks to the efforts of a major bookstore in Tokyo. In January, the bookstore created an advertising panel for the book, picking up on the novel's reference to radioactive materials, cesium, half-lives and other terms connected with warnings about the dangers of nuclear testing. This sparked the interest of people whose awareness of such issues has been heightened by the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Later, the publisher prepared a paper advertising wrapper for the book, exclaiming, among various phrases, that "Mishima foresaw a Japan intimidated by radiation!" Officials also prepared store advertising slogans, and the novel started steadily registering sales from around this spring, leading to new editions.

In the novel, a second group besides the family whose members say they are aliens appears, and a fierce argument is waged over the future of humanity. Is it permissible for humans to continue living? What is civilization? The aliens' view of mankind is fairly objective.

The uneasiness that emerges through the turn of events trickles through to current times, in which mankind has acquired nuclear energy. The weighty question of whether humans are worthy to use nuclear energy continues to reverberate.

Since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, people have at least started to think about their daily way of life in fundamental terms. At times, there may be significance in thinking about the future of the world and in humanity in the same way an alien outside this world might see the situation. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)

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