Lafcadio Hearn - an Irish-Greek author and Japanophile who is best known for his ghost stories - is a name you hear often in the city of Matsue, in Shimane-ken. Yet Hearn lived a mere 15 months of his life in Matsue. He left that city on the Sea of Japan to move to the balmier climes of Kumamoto, where he spent a further three years teaching and writing in a home that is oft-overlooked on the Kumamoto tourist circuit.
Hearn, who is also known by his Japanese name of Yakumo Koizumi, moved to Kumamoto in 1891. He had accepted a position as a lecturer at what is now known as Kumamoto University and hoped the warmer weather would have an improvement on his delicate health. In the three years that followed, Hearn would produce his best-known literary work, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, a piece that introduced the world to some of Japan's fascinating customs and spooky myths. He also began working on the noted compilations Out of the East and Kokoro.
The Lafcadio Hearn residence in Kumamoto reflects the author's love of traditional Japanese culture. The tatami floors and carefully tended house garden would scarcely indicate that a Western-born writer had lived here or made concessions to the comforts of his upbringing. Hearn even had a special Japanese-style family altar crafted and installed in the house, in front of which he said daily prayers. Also, don't miss the portrait of Hearn on the scroll in the main living area's tokonoma (alcove).
The Lafcadio Hearn house is located behind Tsuruya department store in downtown Kumamoto and is easy to reach from the Suidocho or Torichosuji tram stops. A visit to the residence won't take very long - allow for ten to fifteen minutes to both see the property and read the information panels. However, unlike some tourist sights well off the beaten track, nearly all of the written information in the Hearn residence is presented in both English and Japanese, making it much easier for non-Japanese speakers to learn more about the fascinating life of this famous author.