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This is a whale of a book — both unusually massive and extremely informative and stimulating. The title means “mask” in Latin and is probably an allusion to Yukio Mishima’s first full-length novel, “Confessions of a Mask,” published in Japan in 1949 and translated into English by Meredith Weatherby in the 1950s. It may also serve as a metaphor for the way Mishima lived his life, donning a variety of masks: novelist, playwright, essayist-critic, martial artist (karate, kendo and iaido), actor, singer, political commentator and sometimes activist, devoted family man, and skilled describer of same-sex fantasies, relationships and subcultures.

Naoki Inose has written many books on 20th-century Japanese history and politics, and has also written biographies of Japanese writers such as Kan Kikuchi and Osamu Dazai, prior to the present volume. His other “mask” is as a critic of and actor in the politics of present-day Japan: He has held a number of public offices, serving as vice governor of Tokyo under Shintaro Ishihara, and is now the governor of Tokyo, having been elected by a landslide after Gov. Ishihara’s resignation last year.

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