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May 4, 2012

Lafcadio Hearn's Writings on Japan

Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (1850 – 1904), also known by the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo (小泉八雲), was an international writer, who is best known for his books about Japan, especially his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories.


Hearn was of Irish and Greek parentage and grew up in Dublin. At age 19, he was sent to the United States and settled in Cincinnati, where he became a journalist. In 1877, Hearn moved to New Orleans and also started writing for national magazines, among others about the creole population of the city. In 1887 he was sent by Harper's as a correspondent to the West Indies and lived for two years in Martinique. He also publsihed stories about these exotic islands.

In 1890 Hearn went to Japan, where he liked it so much that after the termination of his newspaper job he started on various teaching jobs. During his 15-month stay in Matsue, he marrried Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a local samurai. Later, he became a naturalized Japanese and after staying in Kumamoto and Kobe, in 1896 moved to Tokyo where he received a teaching position at Tokyo University. He died in 1904.

Hearn became known to the world by his writings concerning Japan, and is more famous in Japan than in the West, where critics accuse him of exoticizing his adopted country.

Now, enough time has past by to re-evaluate him for his "studies in exotics," as pieces of literature, rather than historical documentary.

His major writings about Japan are:

Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1)



Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (2)



Out of the East & Kokoro



Gleanings in Buddha Fields & The Romance of the Milky Way



Exotics and Retrospectives & In Ghostly Japan



Shadowings & A Japanese Miscellany



Kwaidan



Kotto



Japan: An Attempt at an Interpretation



Japanese Letters



Japanese Lyrics



Japanese Fairy Tales



Books and Habits



Remiscences of Lafcadio Hearn by Koizumi Setsu