Patrick Lafcadio Hearn sign (Photo: Shimane Prefecture)
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Former Residence of Lafcadio Hearn

Literary history in the heart of Shimane

When walking the streets of Matsue, you might notice the image of a Western looking person on signs, and some quotes engraved on stone plaques around town. These are just a few of the many ways in which the literary figure, Patrick Lafcadio Hearn is celebrated here in Matsue.

Hearn was a writer of European origin, with a Greek mother and Irish father; he was born on the Ionian island of Lefkada in 1850, and was raised in Ireland from the age of three by his great-aunt.

Hearn lived a colored life, traveling and writing, before finally settling in Japan in 1890 at the age of 40. He lived a mere 15 months in the provincial town of Matsue, working as an English teacher, before moving to Kumamoto.

However, the reason Hearn is so synonymous with Matsue lies in the fact that it was here that he formed his first impressions of Japan, a country that remained a mystery to the western world. Furthermore, he introduced not only Japanese culture, but also aspects of life in Matsue to the English speaking world. He was quite famous in his day for doing so, and his books such as ‘Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan’ have been published in many languages and are sold internationally.

It was also in Matsue that Hearn met the woman he would marry and raise four children with, Setsu. Setsu is also known for having retold local folklore and ghost stories originating in the Izumo region to Hearn, who then penned some of his most popular and long-selling works, e.g. Kwaidan.

Lafcadio Hearn's Former Residence

This is where Lafcadio and Setsu resided from May to November of 1891. The house was originally constructed in the mid-to-late stages of the Edo period. It was home to a samurai of the Matsue domain, with the main building enclosed in a Japanese garden designed to recreate the natural landscape of mountains and rivers. There are three separate gardens, each with different styles. You can feel the seasons changing in the gardens by viewing different plants at different times of year, such as the crape myrtle tree and lotus flowers. Hearn had a fondness for all things Japanese, and was known to enjoy strolling through and looking out over the three gardens.

There is a 50% discount for international tourists who can show their passport at the ticket office.

Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum

This museum commemorating Lafcadio Hearn Residence and his time spent here in Matsue is located on the western-point of ‘Shiomi-nawate’, the street most reminiscent of a true castle town. The building is directly beside Hearn’s Former Residence. It was built to commemorate Hearn, and inside you can find over one thousand items on display, including a handwritten manuscript of what was to become ‘Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan’, Setsu’s English memo-pad, and lots more. Hearn’s beloved pipe and writing desk give added life to these memorabilia.

There is a 50% discount for international tourists who can show their passport at the ticket office.

More info

Find out more about Lafcadio Hearn Residence.

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Anonymous 10 years ago
Really nice to see such ancient wooden buildings being kept in good repair. Easy to see from other photos of the Matsue area what it must have been like in Lafcadio Hearn's time. Didn't take him long to get himself a Japanese wife there, either...
Lafcadio Hearn 11 years ago
Great for knowledge,
Thank you

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