Japan: An Interpretation – Lafcadio Hearn (1904) (1st ed)


Japan: An Interpretation – Lafcadio Hearn (1904) (1st ed)


Title: Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation

Author: Lafcadio Hearn

Publisher: Macmillan, New York, 1904. First edition.

Condition: Hardcover, cloth. Fair. Hinges cracked but binding sound. Some wear to cover, including rubbing and fraying to spine. A newspaper cutout stuck to a blank page at the back, along with an inscription, with slightly frayed edges. Text clean and unmarked. Colour frontispiece, no other illustrations. 541pp., app 8″x5″.

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A collection of personal essays about Japan, mainly about religion, spirituality and social organization.

About the author (from Wikipedia):

Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (27 June 1850 – 26 September 1904), known also by the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo (小泉 八雲?), was an international writer, known best for his books about Japan, especially his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories, such as Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. In the United States, Hearn is also known for his writings about the city of New Orleans based on his ten-year stay in that city.

Through the goodwill of Basil Hall Chamberlain, Hearn gained a teaching position during the summer of 1890 at the Shimane Prefectural Common Middle School and Normal School in Matsue, a town in western Japan on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and his old residence are still two of Matsue’s most popular tourist attractions. During his fifteen-month stay in Matsue, Hearn married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a local samurai family, with whom he had four children. He became a naturalized Japanese, assuming the name Koizumi Yakumo, in 1896 after accepting a teaching position in Tokyo. After having been Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and, later on, Spencerian, he became Buddhist.

During late 1891, Hearn obtained another teaching position in Kumamoto, Kyūshū, at the Fifth Higher Middle School, where he spent the next three years and completed his book Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894). In October 1894, he secured a journalism job with the English-language newspaper Kobe Chronicle, and in 1896, with some assistance from Chamberlain, he began teaching English literature at Tokyo Imperial University, a job he had until 1903. In 1904, he was a professor at Waseda University.

While in Japan he encountered at the art of ju-jutsu which made a deep impression upon him:
“     “Hearn, who encountered judo in Japan at the end of the nineteenth century, contemplated its concepts with the awed tones of an explorer staring about him in an extraordinary and undiscovered land. ‘What Western brain could have elaborated this strange teaching, never to oppose force by force, but only direct and utilize the power of attack; to overthrow the enemy solely through his own strength, to vanquish him solely by his own efforts? Surely none! The Western mind appears to work in straight lines; the Oriental, in wonderful curves and circles.’”     ”

On 26 September 1904, he died of heart failure at the age of 54 years. His grave is at the Zōshigaya Cemetery in Toshima, Tokyo.