If Matsue Castle is the main attraction in Matsue City, the former residence of Lafcadio Hearn and the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum can be considered the second and third main attractions of the city. Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (1850 – 1904), known also by his Japanese name, Koizumi Yakumo, was an international author who wrote several books about Japan, namely Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. Of Irish decent, Hearn was born in and named for the island of Lefkada, one of the Greek Ionian islands. His mother was a Greek woman named Rosa Antoniou Kassimatis and his father was a military surgeon stationed in Lefkada during the British occupation of the islands.
In 1890, Hearn traveled to Japan with a commission as a newspaper correspondent, which was quickly terminated. Fortunately, he gained a teaching position during the summer of 1890 at the Shimane Prefectural Common Middle School in Matsue. He remained in Matsue for a mere fifteen months, during which time he married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a local samurai family, with whom he had four children. In 1896, he became a naturalized Japanese citizen, assuming the name of Koizumi Yakumo and accepted a teaching position in Tokyo.
Hearn obtained another teaching position in Kumamoto in late 1891, where he spent the next three years of his life and completed his book Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894). 1896 found Hearn teaching English literature at the Tokyo Imperial University, a job he had until 1903. He was fortunate enough to became a professor at Waseda University in 1904 but he passed away due to heart failure soon after. His grave is located at the Zoshigaya Cemetery in Toshima, Tokyo.
In the late 19th century, Japan was still largely unknown and exotic to Westerners. Through his works, Hearn offered the West some of its first descriptions of pre-industrial and Meiji era Japan. Consequently, his books are considered to have historical value.
Although he only remained in Matsue for fifteen months, he managed to become the city’s favorite son. Because of Hearn’s Irish heritage, there are many cultural connections between Matsue and Ireland and an Irish festival and parade are held annually to commemorate this relationship.
Hearn’s old residence, a charming samurai house and garden attracts many visitors. It was in this house that he began writing two of his most famous books, Kwaidan and Glimpses of Unfamilar Japan in which he describes many of his experiences in Matsue. Virtually next door, is the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum, which displays a selection of Hearn’s original manuscripts, his desk, quills & inkpot and a number of his beloved Japanese tobacco pipes. The Museum was established in 1933 and attracts approximately 150,000 visitors a year.
Hearn’s former residence is located in the samurai district, north of Matsue Castle. There is an admission charge of ¥300 yen each for the museum and residence (Foreign tourists receive 50% off admission).