In early January 1945, when World War II had just entered the most pitiless phase for Japan, Yukio Mishima wrote to a friend at an officer-candidate school that the war "wouldn't have occurred if America as a great nation had not been irreverent to Japanese culture."

I remembered this recently while looking into why Kyoto was spared from the atomic bomb.

What prompted Mishima to say something like that? It was Masamitsu Oshima's "The Autumn of the Shugakuin." In the essay, the U.S.-trained ichthyologist described how an American boy, picking up a maple leaf in the garden of the Imperial Villa, north of Kyoto, was "enlightened on the true import of Japan's sublime beauty."