Museum & Musings: Lafcadio Hearn (Yakumo Koizumi)’s residence etc. / Matsue, Japan, 2018

In my first era in Japan, 1992-3 in Tottori, I vaguely heard about a “western” writer who had lived in nearby Shimane prefecture, had taken on Japanese name/identity and whatnot in a time that very few foreigners were coming into Japan and those who were diplomats, business people or missionaries and generally centred around Tokyo or other big cities.

I learned more about this character named left Lafcadio Hearn (Patrick Lafcadio Hearn / Πατρίκιος Λευκάδιος Χερν, later Koizumi Yakumo) and was completely intrigued. I couldn’t imagine how he chose this wonderful yet far-flung location, and the logistics of getting out there and getting settled.

Learning more about his life realized his fantastically interesting life with checkpoints in Greece, Ireland, the Caribbean, New Orleans, the American midwest west (with a then-shocking *mixed race* abandoned marriage), coming to Japan on assignment for a magazine, quitting the magazine and going rogue, later teaching at a university where his position was usurped by noted Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki.

So when I returned to Japan in 2018, top of my list (besides hanging out at Mac Kobayashi’s goat farm) was to go to his museum. As it goes, I arrived to treacherous weather, typhoons, rain storms, flooding, landslides follow by a heat wave – all of which made my illness a little bit rough but, along came a girl, the girl.

Ryoko met me in Matsue, (i’ll always remember her walking down the steps of the station with her floppy straw hat and me saying “how about a picnic?”) and indeed, we rolled by bus out to the two museums: one was his former house and the next-door was a museum which was not photo friendly.

But first, a picnic on the banks of the moat around the castle that he would have looked at every day, waving to the tourists going past in boats, taking snapshots of the statues, payphones, and post boxes before going into the house and museum (2 different places).

Lafcadio Hearn Former Residence:

Lafcadio’s own writing desk! This was a wonderful feeling

First off, the house was very pleasant to explore with his custom made writing desk which was surprisingly on tatami mats, and raised to accommodate his eyesight challenges. Around, the garden was well kept and in splendid bloom along with other pieces of his artwork, calligraphy and artefacts he collected and a friendly staff with a comment box.

Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum, Matsue, Shimane, Japan:

Next door at the museum, most significant to me was a number of his personal effects including a linen suit, hat, walkings-tick, suitcase, while upstairs with a special event area with various collections of his book.

Next, the museum didn’t allow photographs and was a little bit “less cozy” in the house but nevertheless a very pleasant visit. Of course, loaded up at the gift shop with postcards, stickers, notepads and so on.

photographed in right-profile

Not even a year later, when we were married, we ordered many cases of Hearn craft beer for our wedding party, made by his descendants.

Hearn Beer (at konbini) later served in great supply at our wedding party

I’m pretty sure elsewhere in my archive there are more items i’ve written about Lafcadio Hearn as I may actually be reincarnated version. I mean just look at his linen/hemp suit, his walking-stick, his suitcase, his hat, and his dodgy left eye (which is way he is usually photographed in profile).

at his memorial statue *and* bus stop

One more note is that his stories are often remixes of traditional Japanese horror folk tales and are quite scary and not really my flavour but also heated travel logs, translations, a cookbook of creole recipes, what an interesting cat. He’s buried somewhere near Tokyo so maybe if I’m ever up that way, will complete the circle.

lovely panorama scene of the garden at Mr. Hearn’s home in Matsue

Further reading

In compensation for my scant post, again, as usual, just here for my memory, recollection, inspiration and possibly your amusement) ++ there are various associations, research institutions and other groups/social accounts which share his story abundantly, digging:

Atlantic article archive:

Library of America:

Rice University wiki:

@Lafcadio_Hearn4: takis efstathiou’s Twitter “All about Lafcadio Hearn’s Open Mind 1850-1904”

PS there is a Tea Ceremony Museum and Samurai House right by Lafcadio Hearn’s Museum and Residence

Field Notes regarding exhibit/museum/gallery/garden dossiers:

These posts, such as they are, are for recollection, inspiration, reference and possible remixing. I say this to remind myself these round-ups are not meant to be textbooks, comprehensive guides, analysis – critical or otherwise, or a “master’s thesis”. So much goodness in these exhibits – whether grand and well-funded museums or (my favourite) grassroots operations, or even spontaneous art around the edges in unexpected circumstances – that i enjoy archiving.

Also noting often, museums have a “no photo” policy and of course, art and artifacts are best experienced in-person, or with fine reproductions at least, so consider my humble dossirs as a stand-in, in the meanwhile, with a special eye to shut-ins and other who have a hard time getting out and about.

Photography encouraged
from Douglas Coupland’s “Everything is Everywhere is Anywhere” exhibit

As such, these round-ups will be lightly annotated with usually (just) the name of the museum, possible circumstance and/or approximate date of the visit, possible link to museum website and or map for your reference and then a flow of photos.

I almost always buy museum exhibit books, as well as many other items from the gift shop, so if you have any specific questions about any of the pieces displayed, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to add some additional colour commentary – no guarantees.

Meta Note: actual trip Aug 2018, draft assembled June 2020, tidied and published Aug-Sept 2022

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