A fascinating 1965 Robert Trumbull interview with Yukio Mishima (for some reason it’s odd to see him described as “a humorous and youthful man of 40”):
Mr. Mishima always writes in Japanese and never changes a translation. “The translator asks me thousands of questions,” he said, “but I don’t mind small mistakes.” He was amused, not angry, when the translator of an earlier novel rendered the word “yatsuhashi” as “eighth bridge,” which is a perfectly correct alternate reading of the characters that the author intended to mean a kind of cake sold in Kyoto. “The translator really had to struggle with that sentence to have it make sense with a bridge in it,” he said, chuckling.
“It is most important that the translator have a gift of expression in English and Japanese shouldn’t try it,” Mr. Mishima continued. “They read like an English-speaker writing in Japanese. Donald Keene [one of Mr. Mishima’s several translators] is the only American I know of who writes well in Japanese.” He also thinks that John Nathan, a young American and a student of Japanese literature at Tokyo University, did a superb job of writing English in his translation of “The Sailor.” …
“I use a Japanese dictionary to check the accuracy of my characters. They can be incredibly complex.” He dashed off the character for Mount Hiei, a favorite resort near Kyoto, which took 16 separate strokes of the pen. Some have as many as 33 strokes, all conveying nuances of the whole “picture” of the word. “No dictionary contains all the Kanji there are. The first and second proofs often come back with a mark called a geta, because it looks like the imprint of a geta, the Japanese wooden clog, in place of a character that the printer has had to order specially made. He always has it for the third proof,” he said.