Two Americans Who Admired Hearn
Bonner Fellers & Elizabeth Bisland
The 150th Anniversary of Lafcadio Hearn’s Arrival in the USA
Thursday June 27, 2019–Sunday June 7, 2020
Exhibition Room 3
Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum Director; Great-grandson of Lafcadio Hearn
Lafcadio Hearn (1850–1904) was a British national of Greek and Irish descent. After travelling over halfway around the globe, he arrived in Japan. In 1896, he married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a Matsue samurai, and became a Japanese citizen. During his fifty-four years of life, he produced thirty works, including Kwaidan, which he wrote in his later years.
In 1934, thirty years after Hearn’s death, the first Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum opened next to his former residence. This was made possible by contributions from many people and the donation of items belonging to Hearn. A renovated and expanded museum opened in the summer of 2016, the 120th anniversary of Hearn’s naturalisation as a Japanese national, and the 82nd anniversary of the museum’s founding.
Exhibition Room 1 introduces the life of Hearn, based on the concept of “What he saw, what he heard and what resonated in his heart”. Exhibition Room 2 exhibits Hearn’s achievements and his ideas from various perspectives.
The poet Yone Noguchi called Hearn a prophet. This was because Hearn was not bound by the prejudice of Western centrism. He had great insight into the essence of Meiji era Japan, and he made proposals for Japan’s future. “Symbiosis with nature”, “education of the imagination”, “accepting nature as it is”, “national character and natural disasters”, “the truths in tales of the supernatural”…these are all themes which are relevant today.
I hope that, through this museum, you are able to understand the many facets of Hearn, and trace the path that led to his open mind.
Lafcadio Hearn: Tracing the Journey of an Open Mind (The Catalog of Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum)Detail
April 1-September 30:
8:30-18:30 (Entry permitted until 18:10)
October 1-March 31:
8:30-17:00 (Entry permitted until 16:40)
Open all year around
- Adult: 16 and over
- Group: more than 20 persons
- International visitor discount available
322 Okudani-cho, Matsue, Shimane 690-0872, Japan
Phone: +81 852-21-2147
Facsimile: +81 852-21-2156
- From JR Matsue Station
- Lakeline Bus approx. 16 min. Get off at “Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum”.
- Matsue City Bus approx. 18 min. Get off at “Shiominawate”, 6 minute walk.
- Ichibata Bus approx. 20 min. Get off at “Shiominawate Iriguchi”, 1 minute walk.
- From Ichibata Electric Railways Matsue Shinjiko Onsen Station
- 20 minute walk.
- There is no designated car park, so please use any of the nearest car parks.
Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo)
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo) was born on 27th June, 1850, on Lefkada, an island in western Greece. His father Charles, an Irishman, was a military surgeon. His mother Rosa was from the Greek island of Kythira. As Ireland was not an independent nation at the time, Hearn had British nationality.
He was taken to Ireland at the age of two, and later received a Catholic education in Britain and France, however, he questioned the teaching he received. At the age of sixteen, he lost the sight in his left eye in a playground accident. At the age of nineteen, his great-aunt, Sarah Brenane, in whose care he had been placed, was declared bankrupt, and alone, he moved to the USA. After a period of living in extreme poverty, he found employment as a journalist in Cincinnati, and his literary talents were recognised. He later lived in New Orleans, Louisiana, and on Martinique, an island in the Caribbean. He was fascinated by the cultural diversity he found, and continued his reporting and writing activities with enthusiasm. While living in New Orleans, he encountered Japanese culture at an exposition held in the city. In New York, he read the English translation of the Kojiki, and resolved to visit Japan. He arrived in Japan in April, 1890.
In August of the same year, he found employment as an English teacher at Shimane Prefectural Common Middle School, in Matsue. He subsequently worked at the Fifth Higher Middle School in Kumamoto, and at the Kobe Chronicle, before taking up a position as lecturer of English literature at the College of Letters, Imperial University (Tokyo) in September, 1896. He was discharged from the university in 1903, and replaced by Natsume Soseki. He then went to teach at Waseda University.
During this time, in 1896, he married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a Matsue samurai, and became a naturalised Japanese citizen. He was blessed with three sons and a daughter. As a writer, he produced around thirty works, which were mainly translations, travelogues, and retellings of folk tales.
He died from a heart attack on 26th September, 1904 at the age of fifty-four.
History of the muesum
In Matsue, after Lafcadio Hearn’s death, a movement was born to create a memorial museum for him. At the centre of this movement was The Hearn Society (first version), which was organised around Negishi Iwai (the owner of Hearn’s former residence), as well as Hearn’s former students and people connected to Hearn. The society went on to receive donations of Hearn’s belonging. There were difficulties initially in securing the funds for the building works, but thanks to the efforts of people like Matsue-born lawyer, Kishi Seiichi, and Ichikawa Sanki, who raised funds in Tokyo, construction was finally started on the project. The memorial museum was built on land adjacent to Hearn’s old residence, which was provided by Iwai Negishi. The Hearn Society gifted the museum to the city of Matsue and, in the year 1934, the museum was opened.
The old museum building was designed by leading modernism architect Yamaguchi Bunzo, who later produced many buildings including Japan Dental College Clinic and Kurobe River Second Power Plant. The building had an imposing design, including a line of columns at its facade, reminiscent of ancient Greek temples.
When the Shiomi Nawate area became designated as a traditional aesthetic zone of Matsue city, the building was rebuilt into the present museum building; a wooden, single-storey (with the storehouse-style of construction in part) structure with a Japanese-style front. In the 2016 renewal, the museum was extended and a second storey was partly added.
25th June: The Hearn Society (first version) was founded by some of Hearn’s former students and other people connected to Hearn.
June: Takahashi Yoshio (Mayor of Matsue) and Ochiai Teizaburo received some of Hearn’s belongings (desk and chair) from the Koizumi family in Tokyo. These were then unveiled in Matsue.
June: Kishi Seiichi, Takahashi Yoshio and Ochiai Teizaburo received more of Hearn’s belongings (handwritten manuscripts, trunk etc.) from the Koizumi family in Tokyo and gifted them to The Hearn Society.
September: 20 people, including Kuwahara Yojiro, jointly put out a “Notice of Collection of Donations for Building of a New Memorial Museum and Preserving the Former Residence”. However, despite this, there were difficulties raising money.
January: Kishi Seiichi promised to Kuwahara Yojiro to donate 5000 Yen out of the 10,000 Yen total building costs.
18th February: Koizumi Setsu (Hearn’s wife) passed away.
October: Ichikawa Sanki promised to Ishikura Shunkan (Mayor of Matsue) to cooperate with the building of the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and started up the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Association in Tokyo.
January: The Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Society began raising money to cover the construction costs of the memorial museum and, in the end, went beyond the goal and raised around 6,510 Yen.
As part of the costs, they purchased 350 copies of Hearn related books and gifted them to The Hearn Society (these are now held at the Matsue Municipal Central Library Hearn Materials Room).
14th March: Negishi Iwai passed away.
June: Construction began on the Yamaguchi Bunzo designed building (completed in November).
29th October: Kishi Seiichi passed away.
6th June: The Hearn Society gifted the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum to the city of Matsue. Completion ceremony and museum opening ceremony took place.
27th June: The Hearn Society (second version) was founded, mainly by Hearn researchers, school teachers and students. Their office was placed in the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum for a long period of time.
A lock of Hearn’s hair was found in the belongings of the deceased Koizumi Kiyoshi (Hearn’s third son). This hair was then built into a monument, as a memento, at the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum.
31st March: The new museum building, with a Japanese style appearance, was opened.
16th October: Koizumi Bon (Hearn’s great-grandson) took up post as curator (advisor since 1996).
A special exhibition was held at the Memorial Museum, Matsue Folk Museum and at Matsue Municipal Library to mark the 100th anniversary since Hearn’s arrival in Japan.
The meeting room was turned into an exhibition room. Starting with “Lafcadio Hearn and Greece”, 1-2 planned exhibitions were displayed every year.
4th January: Museum closure due to the renewal works.
1st April: Koizumi Bon took up post as Museum Director.
16th July: Museum renewal opening.
Words of Hearn
Assuredly in the future competition between West and East, the races most patient, most economical, most simple in their habits will win. The costly races may totally disappear as the result. Nature is a great economist. She makes no mistakes. The fittest to survive are those best able to live with her, and to be content with a little. Such is the law of the universe.
What made the aspirational in life? Ghosts. Some are called Gods, some Demons, some angels; — they changed the world for man; they gave him courage and purpose and the awe of Nature that slowly changed into love; — they filled all things with a sense and motion of invisible life — they made both terror and beauty.
That trees, at least Japanese trees, have souls, cannot seem an unnatural fancy to one who has seen the blossoming of the umenoki and the sakuranoki. This is a popular belief in Izumo and elsewhere. It is not in accord with Buddhist philosophy, and yet in a cosmic truth than the old Western orthodox notion of trees as “things created for the use of man.”