Forty-five years ago this week — at just after 10 a.m. on the bright, cold morning of Nov. 25, 1970 — a telephone rang at the Tokyo home of popular enka singer Hideo Murata. On the line was author Yukio Mishima, a man who in the short space of his 45 years had lived life more fully than perhaps seemed possible for one human being.

Unfortunately, Murata was not home to take the call but he would have surely been thrilled. Mishima was, after all, arguably the best-connected man in Japan, hobnobbing not just with all the literary elite, but also with politicians, generals, newspaper editors and foreign celebrities. He had written 80 plays and 25 novels, starred in movies, directed plays and produced his own film. He had even conducted an orchestra and flown an F-106 jet.

Yet when Mishima was told that the singer was more than 350 km away in Gifu Prefecture, he persisted and asked for Murata's telephone number there. Mishima dialed the number in Gifu, but still couldn't get through. The great author had only met Murata twice, once for about half an hour 4½ years before and then once more two years later. Why would Mishima be calling?