Lafcadio Hearn, aka Koizumi Yakumo

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) was an open-minded writer and world-traveller who settled in Matsue as an English teacher in 1890. There, he met his wife, daughter to a samurai family, and lived in a simple but beautiful traditional Japanese house on Shiomi Nawate Street, north of Matsue Castle. His former residence is now open to the public, and located next to it is the Memorial Museum dedicated to his life and his works. Like in so many places in Matsue, there are great discounts for international visitors.

Hearn was one of the earliest and most prolific writers to reveal Japan to the western world, in books such as Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan and Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, a collection of translated legends. He was also one of the first westerners to adopt Japanese citizenship and was naturalized as Koizumi Yakumo (小泉八雲), the name by which he remains known in Japan.

Lafcadio Hearn's Former Residence - Matsue, Japan

  • The life of Lafcadio Hearn

Hearn was born in Greece in 1850 to a father from Ireland and a mother from Greece. In 1852 he was taken to Ireland to stay with his father’s family, where he was raised by his great-aunt.

He settled in New Orleans from 1877 to 1887 before emigrating to Japan in 1890 at age 37. Falling in love with Japan, he would spend the rest of his life here.

It is in Matsue, where he settled for 15 months (August 1890-November 1891), that he met his future spouse, Koizumi Setsu  (小泉せつ), a daughter of a samurai belonging to Matsue domain.

Ancienne Résidence de Lafcadio Hearn à Matsue, Shimane, Japon

  • Lafcadio Hearn’s Former Residence

Located on Shiomi Nawate Street and designated as National historical site (国指定史跡), Lafcadio Hearn’s Former Residence was home to a samurai of the Matsue domain. The main building is surrounded by a Japanese garden on three sides, each with different styles.

The delightful, small samurai house remains largely unchanged, and the gardens of the house are kept as they were during the period of Hearn’s residence.

The peaceful place lends itself to contemplation, as you sit on the floor and gaze at the beautiful gardens.

Lafcadio Hearn's Former Residence InsideOn display are objects belonging or related to Hearn. Of particular note is Hearn’s specially designed desk, built tall to bring his work nearer to his one good eye.

  • Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum

Located next to his former residence, this museum exhibits various personal belongings, such as the original desk mentioned earlier, bags, clothes, manuscripts, cigarettes pipes, insect cages, and of course books by and on Hearn, as well as photographs.  There is also a video corner where the visitor can learn about Hearn’s footprints around the world. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions.

“Hearn and Family” is the name of the special exhibition commemorating the 110th anniversary of Lafcadio Hearn’s death. It held from April 28th 2014 to March 29th 2015. More info on Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum’s official website.

Hearn and her wife had four children. Bon Koizumi, their great grandchild, is still leaving in Matsue and is taking care of his ancestors’ heritage. Matsue city as a whole still treasures the memory of Hearn, and the visitor can find many monuments and places related to him around town.

Also, thanks to him, Matsue has strong ties with Ireland and New Orleans, Louisiana, where Hearn worked as a journalist before coming to Japan.

Lafcadio Hearn, Statue in Matsue City, Japan

  • A fan of ghost stories

Author of Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (怪談, kwaidan), published in 1903, Hearn is a writer well known for collecting Japanese folk ghost stories such as Hoichi the Earless (「耳なし芳一」, Miminashi-Hoichi) and Snow Woman ( 「雪女」, Yuki-onna). Four of his stories were adapted into a movie by director Masaki Kobayashi. Entitled Kwaidan, it won the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination.

A statue of Hoichi the Earless can be found near Lake Shinji, in Matsue Shinjiko Onsen.

Mimi-ashi Hoichi, Earless Hoichi, Kwaidan, Hearn, Matsue

Photo credit: Made in Matsue

  • A lover of Japan and Matsue

In Things Japanese, Basil Chamberlain described the work of Lafcadio Hearn in those terms : « Lafcadio Hearn understands contemporary Japan better, and makes us understand it better, than any other writer, because he loves it better« .

Lafcadio Hearn said of Matsue that it was « the chief city of the province of the gods« , and took the Japanese name Yakumo (八雲), which refers to Izumo area. Yakumo means « Eight clouds » or « Infinity of Cloud » and is a set epithet used in poetry.

Useful info

Located on Shiomi Nawate Street, near Matsue Castle, about 2.5 kilometers northwest of JR Matsue Station. About 30 min on foot. See itinerary on Google Map.

Please get off at bus stop 10 if you use the Lakeline bus. Please find the bus map and more details on Visit-Matsue.com.

Open 7 days a week
April – September, 8:30am – 6:30pm
October – March, 8:30am – 5pm

Discounts for international visitors are as follow.

>Lafcadio Hearn’s Former Residence
Adult: ¥300¥ (50% OFF) →¥150
Child: ¥150¥ →¥80
>Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum
Adult: ¥300¥ (50% OFF) →¥150
Child: ¥150¥ →¥80

Useful links

>The Japanese official websites for Lafcadio Hearn’s Former Residence and his Memorial Museum.

>An article and a cute manga by San’in Story.

>An article by Green Shinto.

>Articles by the Japan Times and the nytimes.

>Lafcadio Hearn on Wikipedia.

>A reportage by the NHK, in Japanese.

>A Japanese video entitled « Kwaidan, the birth of Koizumi Yakumo ».

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Une réflexion sur “Lafcadio Hearn, aka Koizumi Yakumo

  1. Pingback: Gessho-ji, The Hydrangea Temple (June 2014) | Matsue Travel Guide – a bilingual site

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