Yukio Mishima was the leader of a private army in Japan during the 1970s. He fought for the restoration of the once powerful Japanese emperor. His discontent with the state of Japan after World War II is reflected in his writing. In his story The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, he uses characterization, tone and extended metaphor to create the "Chief" as a symbol of cultural modernization in Japan.
The Chief is a precocious, wealthy 13-year-old often ignored by his parents. He plays a very powerful role in the story. His strong leadership proves to be a powerful tool for him, and helps him attract followers. The Chief often rants to the gang, spewing twisted ideas and disturbing viewpoints. He has very unique attributes such as being calm and collected, and he receives praise from his clan members for knowing how to control situations. The Chief bestows his ideology on the gang, enforcing the ideas of inhumanity and impassivity. He also preaches muted emotional awareness. Though he feigns dispassion, the Chief is still dealing with the surge of adolescent emotion that overwhelms him. This is similar to the status of Japan's own identity crisis. The power struggle apparent between The Chief, Ryuji and Fusako parallels the idea of old versus new Japan. The Chief represents traditional Japan, filled with hierarchy and strict order. Fusako represents Westernization and the globalization of Japanese culture, as it is noted that there is not a single Japanese room in [her] house" (Mishima 35). Ryuji is somewhere in between - he is drawn to Fusako, but seeks to glorify himself. Ryuji represents Mishima's view of the westernization of Japan, and his personal journey is one rooted deep in Japanese history. When the two marry, Noboru and the Chief regard it as an ultimate betrayal against everything they saw in him. They saw his lack of passion of something that had to be corrected at all costs, as was the fate of Ryuji by the end of the story.