On the 25 November, 1970 after a failed coup d’état, the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima stuck a knife into his belly, then had his head cut off with his own sword.
Twenty years later I enjoyed a brief flirtation with a member of Mishima’s private militia, the Tate no Kai or Shield Society. Matsumura, like Mishima, proved a series of contradictions. A right-wing nationalist who owned a coffee shop in the centre of Tokyo, he had spent the 1960s cracking left-wing students over the head with a drain- pipe. His best friend, Morita, Mishima’s second-in-command, had beheaded the writer before killing himself. But Matsumura also spoke fluent English, enjoyed arguing with me and baked an excellent cheesecake. He railed against the West and dismissed democracy as ‘just another attempt to colonise us’.