Focusing on the life of Kiyoaki Matsugae, on the cusp of adulthood and the son of a prominent household of high social class and wealth, Spring Snow chronicles the relationship of Kiyoki and Satoko. Initially disinterested, feeling that he is being toyed with, Kiyoaki eventually pursues a relationship with Satoko, a girl from a family of distinction and whom he has known since childhood. After initial difficulties, Kiyoaki and Satoko engage in a secret affair, recruiting staff from both families to help keep their liaisons private. During a brief period of separation, Satoko becomes engaged to a member of the Japanese Royal family, arranged by Kiyoaki’s father. Kiyoaki reunites with Satoko; however, now their relationship must remain under even greater secrecy as Satoko’s infidelity to her fiancé would be considered disobedience to the emperor himself.
Spring Snow creates a captivating portrayal of Japan during the 1900s, encompassing the authority of the royal family, the new experiences of westernisation and the distinctions between class and wealth. Mishima writes characters who battle their convictions and who have contrasting views on society and morality. The story shifts between three characters- Kiyoaki, Satoko and Honda, with Kiyoaki and Satoko showing both sides of their relationship and Honda, their confidant, often in the dark on their affair. Honda gives an onlooker’s perspective on both the relationship and Kiyoaki’s character, an interesting feature that isn’t a common convention in romantic literature.
In the early pages of the novel, why do you think Kiyoaki dismissed Satoko’s affections so quickly? What was the cause of his change in attitude towards her?
Social expectations, class and wealth are all prominent features of Spring Snow, in many cases Yukio Mishima shows these as hindrances rather than advantages, why do you think this is? Do you think Mishima was trying to make a political statement about individuals of that social standing?
Kiyoaki’s attitude towards the Japanese royal family changes during the course of the book, from one that is in awe of them to one that finds them problematic. Kiyoaki has no doubts about disobeying their wishes and performing actions that could cause shame to both his and Satoko’s families. Why do you think there is this shift? Is it that Kiyoaki feels his needs outweigh the wishes of the royal family?
Do you think that Mishima is demonstrating the loss of authority of the royal family? In the novel, it is mentioned that several of the actions towards the royal family would have resulted in death in the past but no longer such serious repercussions are taken.
Why do you think that Honda is such a central character in the novel and why do you think Mishima chose to write him as a character whose views don’t mirror Kiyoaki?
Why do you think Satoko chose to devote herself to the church and refrained from seeing Kiyoaki?
Westernisation in Japan appears to be a theme that Mishima wanted to focus on, especially in the early parts of the novel, he shows it as a trend that is popular among the upper classes and a sign of status. Why do you think that westernisation was an important feature to Mishima to include and do you think he describes it as a positive or negative influence?
During the first chapter there is a dead dog on the waterfall of Kiyoaki’s family home, do you think it holds some symbolism for the rest of the novel?
Discuss Mishima’s use of snow and its contrasting appearances both during Kiyoaki and Satoko’s courtship and during Kiyoaki’s journeys to the Gesshu temple to see Satoko?
Why do you think Kiyoaki decides to leave Honda his dream diary? What significance will it hold for Honda? Spring-Snow-Discussion-Questions.pdf
Kiyoaki blackmails Satoko into continuing their relationship. The Siamese princes return home. Satoko is revealed to be pregnant. Kiyoaki’s family and Satoko’s family find out about their affair and plot to have Satoko undergo a secret abortion in which Satoko must travel away from Tokyo under the rouse of seeing her relativ, the abbot. She successfully undergoes the abortion and to keep up appearances travels to the temple. Once there, Satoko is not herself, she remains mute to her mother and is at a loss. She pleads for her relative to accept her into the church where she will be a devout member – agreeing never to see Kiyoaki again. She is accepted and subsequently her proposed marriage is cancelled under the premise that she is ‘mentally insane’, a rouse concocted by her family and Kiyoaki’s father. Kiyoaki travels to visit her; however, his attempts to gain an audience with her prove in vain. Kiyoaki contracts an illness but still insists on trying to see her. Honda arrives and strikes a deal with Kiyoaki; Honda will try to arrange an audience between Kiyoaki and Satoko but, regardless of the result, Kiyoaki must agree to accompany Honda back to Tokyo the next day. Honda’s attempt ultimately proves unsuccessful and not long after they both return to Tokyo where Kiyoaki dies.
Spring Snow is the first part of Mishima’s Sea of Fertility tetralogy, his last work before his death in 1970.
Spring Snow was a popular read of David Bowie.