It was 45 years ago this summer that Donald Keene, a leading critic and translator of Japanese literature, visited Yukio Mishima at his summer writing retreat on the Izu Peninsula.

This was the last time the two close friends would leisurely enjoy each other's company. Unbeknown to Keene, Mishima — then aged 45 — had already planned his suicide to take place in November of that very year.

During the days he shared with Keene, Mishima related the progress he was making on his self-proclaimed "life's work": the monumental four-volume novel called "Hojo no Umi" ("The Sea of Fertility"), which he had been serializing over the last five years in the magazine Shincho (New Tide).