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Posts tagged lafcadio hearn

Zoshigaya Cemetery near Ikebukuro

ikebukuro cemetery famous people

Near Ikebukuro, pictured in the near distance in the upper right of the above photo, is a cemetery called Zoshigaya (雑司ヶ谷霊園) with many famous people. The above marker is for “John” Manjiro (中濱万次郎). Manjiro was one of the first Japanese to ever visit the United States. He did so during the Edo Period.

If you visit Zoshigaya, don’t expect the billboard-style maps to tell you where to find the notables. If the office is open, they may have maps with the locations of the famous listed so you can try there first. If not, be sure to bring along the grave site numbers for those you want to visit as the place is quite large. Manjiro can be found at plot 1-2-10-1.

i am a cat grave stone site

Plot 1-14-1-3 is Natsume Soseki’s. Soseki’s face is one of the most recognizable in Japan as he is on the 1,000 yen note.

cemetery zoshigaya ikebukuro tokyo

Lafcadio Hearn is buried in plot 1-1-8-35 under his Japanese name, Koizumi Yakumo (小泉八雲). His grave is well taken care of it seems. There is a little Japanese rock and flower garden in the plot. Ironically, a job that Hearn once held was taken over by the aforementioned Soseki. Now they are neighbors.

foreign grave in japan

One of the most interesting graves is the one above of William Wright. At some point in the past 100+ years his gravestone broke in two. Rather than replace it, the headstone top has just been leaned up against the bottom.

General Tojo Hideki (infamous for planning the Pearl Harbor attack) is in plot 1-1-12-6. He doesn’t show up on the celebrity map provided in the office. Perhaps they don’t want anyone to know he is here.

japanese graveyard

At night everyone clears out as did we.

Kamakura – Part 2


A long, straggling country village, between low wooded hills, with a canal passing through it. Old Japanese cottages, dingy, neutral-tinted, with roofs of thatch, very steeply sloping, above their wooden walls and paper shoji. Green patches on all the roof-slopes, some sort of grass; and on the very summits, on the ridges, luxurious growths of yane-shobu, the roof-plant, bearing pretty purple flowers. In the lukewarm air a mingling of Japanese odors, smells of sake, smells of seaweed soup, smells of daikon, the strong native radish; and dominating all, a sweet, thick, heavy scent of incense, — incense from the shrines of gods.

Akira has hired two jinrikisha for our pilgrimage; a speckless azure sky arches the world; and the land lies glorified in a joy of sunshine.”

(Lafcadio Hearn, 1894, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan)

kamakura jinrikisha

Even though it has been almost a year since I read Hearn’s observations on Japan, and I only read his book once, passages flooded back into my memory as I wandered around Kamakura. I was reminded of the “jinrikisha” Hearn mentioned in the above quote when I saw this one parked outside this more traditional Japanese home. While Hearn was pulled around Kamakura and over to Enoshima via a jinrikisha in an age before automobiles, the Hybrid Prius in the above photo provides quite a contrast in transportation.

Kamakura’s one big downside (I suppose there are two–the other being the number of tourists. Go on a weekday that isn’t a holiday, like I did, and you can avoid most of the tourists.) is that the government should have passed some housing regulations twenty years ago (better yet 50 years ago). All new or reconstructed buildings should be required to be built in a more historical style. On some streets you can’t tell whether you are in Kamakura, Monterey (California), or Park City (Utah). There are boutiques and other souvenir shops catering to the tourists that do nothing to add to the charm of the city. The new buildings aren’t even remotely Japanese in nature and frequently have more writing and signage in English than Japanese. It’s a shame really.

Should you ever visit Kamakura enter within the temple and shrine boundaries as quickly as possible to avoid all of the nonsense that has sprung up around them.

Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan

After the many quotes I’ve offered from Lafcadio Hearn’s classic I thought I’d wrap things up with a brief review of his two volume work, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan.

If you have never been to Japan, this book will probably be of little interest to you. The intended audience was foreigners who had never been to Japan (indeed very few had when it was written in the 19th Century). I don’t see how they could have grasped much of the contents though.

The parts I enjoyed the most were for places that I have visited or for places which brought back memories of other places I have lived in Japan. Oddly enough, most of the places Hearn describes are not places foreign tourists visit. Kyoto and Tokyo, for instance, are barely mentioned. Much of the book deals with areas east of Himeji (where I have never been, yet)–especially Matsue and areas near it. So, for that reason, it wasn’t as interesting as it could have been had he dwelt mostly on regions more familiar to me.

The parts I enjoyed the most were his impressions. For instance, the chapter entitled something like, “My First Day In Japan” is fun for those who haven’t been to Japan to read as well as for those who can reminisce. What wasn’t as interesting, for me, was his relating of Japanese tales, especially ghost stories, superstitions, etc. Some were entertaining, but most weren’t to me. Apparently he wrote numerous books on that subject after this book. I have no interest in reading them.

It takes an imagination to fully appreciate Hearn. I enjoyed imagining him in pre-car, pre-train Japan riding in a rickshaw and rowing around the country. He laments Japan’s rapid changes at the time. I wonder what he would think if he could see it now?


“That trees, at least Japanese trees, have souls cannot seem an unnatural fancy to one who has seen the blossoming of the umenoki and the sakuranoki. This is a popular belief in Izumo and elsewhere. It is not in accord with Buddhist philosophy, and yet in a certain sense it strikes one as being much closer to cosmic truth than the old Western orthodox notion of trees as ‘things created for the use of man.'” (Lafcadio Hearn, 1894, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, p. 358)

Himeji in Glimpses

“There is one place in Japan where it is thought unlucky to cultivate chrysanthemums, for reasons which shall presently appear; and that place is in the pretty little city of Himeji, in the province of Harima. Himeji contains the ruins of a great castle of thirty turrets; and a daimyō used to dwell therein whose revenue was one hundred and fifty-six thousand koku of rice. Now, in the house of one of that daimyō’s chief retainers there was a maid-servant, of good family, whose name was O-Kiku; and the name “Kiku” signifies a chrysanthemum flower. Many precious things were entrusted to her charge, and among others ten costly dishes of gold. One of these was suddenly missed, and could not be found; and the girl, being responsible therefor, and knowing not how otherwise to prove her innocence, drowned herself in a well. But ever thereafter her ghost, returning nightly, could be heard counting the dishes slowly, with sobs…

Her spirit passed into the body of a strange little insect, whose head faintly resembles that of a ghost with long disheveled hair; and it is called O-Kiku-mushi, or “the fly of O-Kiku;” and it is found, they say, nowhere save in Himeji…

…the people of Himeji say that part of their city now called Go-Ken-Yashiki is identical with the site of the ancient manor. What is certainly true is that to cultivate chrysanthemum flowers in the part of Himeji called Go-Ken-Yashiki is deemed unlucky, because the name of O-Kiku signifies “Chrysanthemum.” Therefore, nobody, I am told, ever cultivates chrysanthemums there.” (Lafcadio Hearn, 1894, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, p. 363)

Inari foxes

“At present, however, it is no longer possible to establish distinctions of genera in this ghostly zoology, where each species grows into every other. It is not even possible to disengage the ki or Soul of the Fox and the August-Spirit-of-Food from the confusion in which both have become hopelessly blended, under the name Inari by the vague conception of their peasant-worshippers. The old Shinto mythology is indeed quite explicit about the August-Spirit-of-Food, and quite silent upon the subject of foxes. But the peasantry in Izumo, like the peasantry of Catholic Europe, make mythology for themselves…

But these strange beliefs are swiftly passing away. Year by year more shrines of Inari crumble down, never to be rebuilt. Year by year the statuaries make fewer images of foxes. Year by year fewer victims of fox-possession are taken to the hospitals to be treated according to the best scientific methods by Japanese physicians who speak German. The cause is not to be found in the decadence of the old faiths: a superstition outlives a religion. Much less is it to be sought for in the efforts of proselytising missionaries from the West–most of whom profess an earnest belief in devils. It is purely educational. The omnipotent enemy of superstition is the public school, where the teaching of modern science is unclogged by sectarianism or prejudice; where the children of the poorest may learn the wisdom of the Occident; where there is not a boy or a girl of fourteen ignorant of the great names of Tyndall, of Darwin, of Huxley, of Herbert Spencer. The little hands that break the Fox-god’s nose in mischievous play can also write essays upon the evolution of plants and about the geology of Izumo. There is no place for ghostly foxes in the beautiful nature-world revealed by new studies to the new generation The omnipotent exorciser and reformer is the Kodomo [child].” (Lafcadio Hearn, 1894, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, pp. 321, 341)

Luckily, in the 110+ years since Hearn wrote the above, the foxes (kitsune) haven’t all been destroyed or forgotten at Inari shrines in Japan. I took the above photo just last year at Fushimi Inari Taisha. The fox statue isn’t easy to see unless you increase the image size by clicking on it. The fox is centered in the torii gate.