Developments of Shinto

Developments of Shinto

Developments of Shinto

Developments of Shinto

The greater gods of the people, those figuring in popular imagination as creators, or as particularly directing certain elemental forces, represent a later development of ancestor worship.

Ancestral ghosts, considered more or less alike when primitive society had not yet developed class distinctions of any important characteristic.

Ancestral Ghost - Land Of The Rising Son

Subsequently these ancestral ghosts became differentiated, as a society itself differentiates into greater and lesser.

Eventually, the worship of a single ancestral spirit, or group of spirits, overshadowed that of all the rest, and a supreme deity, or group of supreme deities evolved. 

However, the differentiations of the ancestor community must be understood to have proceeded in a great variety of directions.

For example, particular ancestors of a family engaged in hereditary occupations developed into tutelar deities presiding over those occupations, patron gods of crafts and guilds.

氏神職人- Land Of The Rising Son

Indeed, out of other ancestral cults, through various processes of mental association, there evolved the worship of deities of strength, health, long life among others.

Besides the Ujigami, there are also a myriad of superior and inferior deities. 

There are the gods of creation, who gave shape to the land. 

They’re also the gods of earth and sky, and the gods of the sun and the moon. 

There are gods, beyond counting, supposed to preside over all things good and evil in human life, birth and marriage and death, riches and poverty, strengthen and disease. 

善と悪 - Land Of The Rising Sun

You can scarcely suppose that all this mythology was developed over the old ancestor cult in Japan itself: more probably in evolution began on the Asiatic continent.

However, the evolution of the national community that form of Shinto which became the State “religion” seems to have been Japanese in the strictest meaning of the word. 

This State community is the worship of the god from whom the emperor claim descent; the worship of the “Imperial Ancestors.”

It appears the early emperors of Japan, the “Heavenly Sovereign,” as they are called in the old records (Kojiki) were not emperors at all in the true meaning of the term, and did not even exercise universal authority. 

They were the chiefs of the most powerful clans, or the Uji and their special ancestor community had probably in that time no dominant influence.

最も強力な氏族 - Land Of The Rising Son

But eventually when the chiefs of the great clans really became supreme rulers of the land, and their clan community spread everywhere without overshadowing or abolishing the other Domestic community or Communal. 

Then arose the national mythology, or State community.

We therefore see the course of Japanese ancestor worship, like that of Aryan ancestor worship, exhibit the three successive stages of development as one have been exploring in the Land Of The Rising Son.

It was the community of the supreme ruler that first gave to the people a written account of traditional Japanese beliefs. 

The mythology of the reigning house furnished the scriptures of Shinto, and established the ideas linking together all existing forms of ancestor worship. 

先祖崇拝儀式 - Land Of The Rising Son

All Shinto traditions were blended into one mythological history, explained upon the basis of one legend. 

The entire mythology of Japan is contained in two books.

The oldest, Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), supposed to have been compiled in the year 712 CE. 

Kojiki - Land Of The Rising Son

The other, Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan), a much larger work dates from around 720CE. 

Nihongi - Land Of The Rising Son

A large portion of both books describe the mythology of Japan, and both begin with a story of creation.

Of the higher forms of Shinto worship, that of the imperial ancestor proper is the most important, being the third stage of Japanese spiritual evolution the State community.

天皇陛下と皇后様 - Land Of The Rising Son

The evolution of a mythology from superstitious to a practical moral code to live one’s life by is a long and painful process. 

Indeed, in this ancient Japanese mythology, the man of old Japan found himself truly in a world of spirits and demons. 

They spoke to him in the sounds of tides and waterfalls, in the moaning of wind in the whisper of leafage, in the crying of birds, and in the trilling of insects, in all the voices of nature. 

For him all visible motion, whether the waves or grasses, the shifting mist, or drifting clouds, was all ghostly.

Japanese Ghosts - Land Of The Rising Son

The mythology of the Japanese and the tenets embodied within, continue to hold influence over, and guide Japanese society today. 

Regardless of the general consensus among the Japanese that they are not “religious” this can not mitigate the continuing influence of the Shinto gods upon the people of Japan.

Whether a minor god, like a recently departed beloved grandmother now dwelling in the Domestic family kamidana, an Ujigami of the Communal shrines, or the State community, which is lead by the Emperor of Japan, our beloved Sun Goddess Amaterasu will continue to shine upon the Japanese in The Land Of Gods. 

Based Upon

Japan,  An Attempt At Interpretation


Patrick Lafcadio Hearn


1876 map of japan - Land Of The Rising Son

Communal Cult

Communal Cult

Communal Cult

Communal Cult

“As by the “religion” of the household each individual was ruled in every action of domestic life, so, by the “religion” of the village or district, the family was ruled in all its relations to the outside world.”

Like the “religion” of the home, Domestic, the religion of the community, Communal is also based upon ancestor worship. 

What the household shrine (kamidana 神棚) represents to the immediately Japanese family, the Shinto parish-shrine represents to the greater community.

It is here in the Communal Shinto shrine where the tutelar god called Ujigami (氏神) is venerated.

Ujigami-jinja - Land Of The Rising Son

Ujigami can be looked upon as the tutelary deity of a particular village or geographic area. 

Originally the term referred only to the ancestral deity (kami) of a family or clan (uji), the blood kinship, which formed the basis of the spiritual relationship from the earliest time in the evolution of Japan. 

Here one can observe the Japanese evolving to adapt to ever-changing conditions, where the protection of the Ujigami was later enlarged to cover those who lived with the clan or near it, and extends over the entire community into which one is born.

Yakumo observed the following:

Lafcadio Hearn Bust - Land Of The Rising Son

“It is difficult to venture any general statement as to the earliest phase of the Communal cult in Japan; for the history of the Japanese nation is not that of a single people of one blood, but a history of many clan groups of different origins, who were gradually brought together to form one huge patriarchal society.”

Most every Japanese municipality has its own Ujigami, and that community’s inhabitants, otherwise known as Ujiko (children of the tutelar deity) venerate their respective guardians. 

The veneration and celebration of tutelar deities can still be observed during special festivals (matsuri) throughout Japan today. 

Sawara Gion Matsuri- Land Of The Rising Son

Indeed, our fair city has a spectacular historic festival in two parts, the first in summer, the other in autumn.

Here one can see ferocious and friendly rivalries displaying and honouring their respective tutelar deities as they parade these gods throughout our small slice of paradice.

Naturally, one can feel these venerated gods taking utter delight not only in the mirth and merriment of fleeting moments, but even more so, gratification in the genuine humanity on display as the Japanese worship and honour their gods.

- Land Of The Rising Son

Still now, the Shinto shrine plays an important role in Communal, where the Japanese will go to celebrate special events such as the shichi-go-san, the coming of age ceremony, and of course the most important event of the year, first New Year prayer (hatsumode 初詣). 

The Japanese come to these shrines to give gratitude, petition for good fortune, or to appeal for better days.

Interestingly enough, during the middle of the Meiji era, Yakamo’s understanding of the Shinto priests and their role in their community was described as follows:

“In spite of the fact the Shinto priests exercise no civil function, be it shown that the Shinto priests had, and still have, powers above the law.” 

“The relationship with the community was of an extremely important kind, and their authority was only “religious” but it was heavy and irresistible.”

Japanese Shinto Priest Figure - Land Of The Rising Son

The principles guiding the Japanese are based upon their ancient laws and customs, and the benign sages of the Shinto shrines and Japanese Way continue to hand out timeless wisdom based upon the all encompassing and inclusive Ban Bustu (万物) tenants of Shintoism.

The Japanese community is still strong, and this is thanks to the evolution of the Communal spirit, and the glue of our society; the Shinto shrine and the extraordinary gods who continue to keep watch over our honourable nation. 

Based Upon

Japan,  An Attempt At Interpretation


Patrick Lafcadio Hearn


Japanese Family

Japanese Family

Japanese Family

Japanese Family

Three stages of ancestor worship are to be distinguished in the general course of religious and social evolution, and each of these can be found in the history of Japanese society. 


The first stage, Domestic came in to existence before the establishment of settled civilization, when there is yet no national ruler, and when the unity of society is the greater patriarchal family, with its elders or war-chiefs for lords.

Tokugawa Ieyasu - Land Of The Rising Son

This is where only the family ancestors are worship, with each family honouring its own dead, and recognizing no other form of worship. 

As the patriarchal family became grouped into tribal clans, there grew up a custom of tribal sacrifice to the spirits of the clan rulers. 

The tribal clans was superadded to the Domestic, marking the second stage of ancestor worship, Communal. 

Finally, with the union of all the clans or tribes under one supreme head, there developed the custom of propitiating the spirits of national rulers, State. 

This third form of the ancestor worship becomes the obligatory “religion” of Japan.

However, this did not replace the proceeding two ancestor worship protocols, and these three continue to exist together in harmony.

How did the Shinto Shrine evolve?

香取神宮 - Land Of The Rising Son

The dwellings of the ancient Japanese were a very simple wooden structure.

The deceased was left for a certain mourning period, in either in the abandon house where the death occurred, or in a shelter especially built for the purpose.

Here is where offerings of food and drink were set before the dead, along with poems (shinobigoto ) in praise of the dead.

Along with music of the flute, drums, and dancing, a fire was kept burning before the house, and after the mourning period the deceased was then interned. 

It is these abandoned dwellings that became an ancestral shrine, or ghost-house, from where the Shinto shrine evolved.

It is here at regular intervals after the burial where ceremonies were performed at the grave along with food and drink served to the spirits. 

If one has the opportunity to visit a traditional Japanese home, one may very well find a tiny model of a Shinto shrine fixed upon a wall (kami dana 神棚). 

神棚 - Land Of The Rising Son

It is here where there are thin tablets of white wood bearing the name of the deceased using the same name during their life in this mortal world.

A family venerating their ancestors according to Buddhist tradition and have a Buddhist alter, where the name of the dearly departed is inscribed with a posthumously prescribed name.

One of the most important matters when considering “religion” and its beliefs is its  relation to conduct and character. 

It should be recognized that no “religion” is more sincere, no faith more touching than this domestic worship, which regards the deceased as continuing to form a part of the household life, and still needing the affection and respect of their children and kin. 

They are not thought of as dead, but are believed to remain as gods among those who love them, where unseen, they guard the home, and watch over the welfare of its inhabitant.

Indeed, the Japanese do not carry with them the concept of gods as the almighty rulers of the heavenly and hellish domains, but could be thought of as “the Superiors” or “The Higher Ones”.

The vast majority of Japanese Buddhists are also followers of Shinto, where these two faith though seemly incongruous, have long been reconciled to the common mind.

仏教と神道 - Land Of The Rising Son

In all patriarchal society‘s with a settled civilization, there is involved, out of the worship of ancestors, a religion of filial piety. 

Filial piety still remains the supreme virtue among civilized people possessing an ancestor cult. 

Alas, filial piety does not translate into English, and fundamentally this alien concept can not be understood, or is dismissed outright in the framework of the Occidental mind.

This terminology needs to be understood in the classical sense of the early Romans, that is to say, as the “religious” sense of household duty. 

Reverence for the dead, as well as the sentiment of duty towards the living.

The affection of children to parents, and the affection of parents to children

Mutual duties of husband and wife, and the likewise duties of son-in-law and daughter-in-law to the family as a body.

Filial Piety - Land Of The Rising Son

What is unquestionably true is the whole system of far-eastern ethics is derived from the “religion” of the household. 

It is here where the idea of duty to the living as well as to the dead evolved, along with the virtuous traits of reverence, sentiments of loyalty, the spirit of self-sacrifice, and the spirit of patriotism. 

It is in the ancient practice of ancestor worship where each member of the family can consider themselves to be under perpetual ghostly surveillance. 

Spirit eyes are watching every act, and the spirit ears listening to every word. 

Thoughts too, not less than deeds, are also visible to the gaze of the dead, and it is truly here where the heart must be pure with the mind under control within the presence of the spirit. 

日本の八百万の神々を分かりやすく紹介 - Land Of The Rising Son

Probably the influence of such beliefs, uninterruptedly exerted upon conduct during thousands of years of Japanese social evolution did much to form the charming side of the Japanese character. 

One can truly say, the “religion” of Japan, or more appropriately the Japanese Way, is a societal convention of gratitude and tenderness, where the dead are served by the household as if they were actually present in the body. 

Internalizing the concept of filial piety and the accompanying ancestor worship, provides a moral compass to help shepherd one’s own life, as all continue to navigate the turbulent waters of modern life in the 21st century.

Based Upon
Japan,  An Attempt At Interpretation
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn


Ancient Cult

Ancient Cult

Ancient Cult

Ancient Cult

Yakumo regarded the dawn of all civilizations as cults, and only after that, turning into “religion.”

Ask any Japanese what their “religion” is, and they will all say, “We don’t have one.”

For the Japanese do not have a “religion,” and never have.

The Japanese have an indigenous way of life, which has continued for millennia until this day, and has been labeled a “religion” by others.

The Japanese Do Not Label You - Land Of The Rising Son - Japan, An Attempt At Interpretation - Patrick Lafcadio HearnIn fact, Japanese society, just like every other civilized society, is founded upon the common theme of Ancestor Worship.

Shinto is not an ancient term used to describe the Japanese Way from time immemorial, but came about to distinguish between Way of the Gods (Shinto), from Buddhism (Way of Buddha).

In the Japanese Way, there are three distinctive rights of purely Japanese origin, and are the foundation of Japanese society.


The Domestic is first in the evolutionary order, with the other two iterations being later developments. 

In the earliest development of the Domestic, ceremonies were performed irregularly at the grave site only, and this represents the most ancient form of Japanese ceremony and ritual protocols, the dawn of the Japanese Way.

Ancient Japanese tea ceremony - Land Of The Rising Son

Japanese settlements of the Domestic included 100s, if not 1000s of households, then around the eighth century spirit-tablets were introduced, when the Domestic was properly established.

The earliest Ancestor Worship, the root of all religion, began with the cognitive capacity to conceptually believe in ghosts.

Furthermore, primitive Ancestor Worship could not have formed the notion of a supreme deity, and all evidence existing to these primitive forms of worship have recognized no difference whatsoever between the concept of ghosts, and the concept of gods. 

Yokai- Ghosts & Demons of Japan - Land Of The Rising Son

Consequently, there were no belief in future eternal reward or punishment, nor of a shadow underworld (hell) or a blissful celestial paradise (heaven), which evolved much later. 

In fact, Japanese mythology never evolved the idea of an Elysium (abode of the blessed after death) or Tartarus (section of Hades reserved to punish the wicked), nor has it even developed a notion of heaven or hell.

Indeed, no more so than the primitive Ancestor Worship of the Occidental, did the early Japanese think of their dead as ascending to some extra-mundane region of light and bliss, or as descending into some realm of torment. 

Buddhist heaven and hell - Land Of The Rising Son

The Japanese thought of their dead as still inhabiting this world, or at least maintaining constant communication with those left upon in the material world, and still do so, until this very day. 

The ghosts of the departed were thought of as constant presences, and all able in someway to share the pleasure and the pain of the living. 

They required food and drinking, and in return for these, they could confirm benefits.

神棚 - 石崎家具店- Land Of The Rising Son

The bodies of the dead melted into earth, with their spirit power still lingered in our upper world, where they moved in its winds and waters, and delighted in the fruits of the material world. 

In death they have acquired mysterious force, they become “superior ones” Kami, gods.

It was not even necessary to have been a virtuous man, as the wicked man became a god as well as the good man, both became Kami.

香取神宮 - Land Of The Rising Son

The history of all religious sacrifices can be tracked back to the ancient custom of offerings made to ghosts.

Indeed, the entire Indo-Aryan race had at one time no other religion than the religion of the spirits. 

In fact, every advance human society has, at some period in its history, passed through the stage of Ancestor Worship.

Truly, it is to Japan we must look today to find Ancestor Worship protocol coexisting with an elaborate civilization. 

Here are the three core tenants which persist in Ancestor Worship regardless of where the “religion” was born.

Japanese Mythology- Izanami and Izanagi - Land Of The Rising Son

1: The dead remains in this world, haunting their tombs, and their former homes, sharing invisibly in the life of the living descendants. 

2: All dead become gods, in the sense of acquiring supernatural power, but they retain the characters which distinguish them during life. 

3: The happiness of the dead depends upon the respectful service rendered them by the living, and the happiness of the living depends upon the settlement of pious duty to the dead. 

Terrifying Japanese ghosts to haunt your dreams- Land Of The Rising Son

The following two tenants may be added to these early beliefs, as later developments.

These can be considered to have exercised immense influence on the evolution of the indigenous Ancestor Worship Protocol of the Japanese.

4: Every event in the world, good or evil, fair season or plentiful harvest, flood or famine, tempest and tidal-wave and earthquake, is the work of the dead. 

5: All human action good or bad, are controlled by the dead.

- Land Of The Rising Son

The first three beliefs have survived from the dawn of civilization, or before it, from the time the dead were the merely gods, without distinction of power. 

The later two would seem to be of the period in which a true mythology, an enormous polytheism, has been developed out of the primitive ghost worship protocol. 

Traveller's Guardian Deity  - Land Of The Rising Son

Japanese Ancestor Worship has undergone many modifications over the past 2000 years, however, the essential character in relation to conduct, and the whole framework of society rest upon it, and continues to be the moral foundation of which Japanese society is built upon.

Almost everything in Japanese society, derives directly or indirectly from this ancient worship protocol, and in all matters, the dead, rather than the living, are the rulers of Japan, and the shapers of her destiny.

Based Upon
Japan,  An Attempt At Interpretation
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn

天照大神様 - Land Of The Rising Son

Strangeness and Charm

Strangeness and Charm

Strangeness and Charm

Strangeness and Charm

One of Yakumo’s dearest friends said to him:

“When you find, in four or five years more, that you cannot understand the Japanese at all, then you will begin to know something about them.” 

These astute words from a Meiji Era Japanese citizen to his Occidental friend, are as true today as they were back then, and these sentiments continues to ring in one’s own ears to this very day.

Yakumo Koizumi lived in Japan for 14 years until his death on September 26, 1904. 

Here, he does a brilliant job with his, Attempt At Interpretation, allowing a glimpse into the society of Japan during the Meiji Restoration.

“At first perceived, the outward strangers of things in Japan produces a queer thrill impossible to describe, a feeling of weirdness which comes to us only with the perception of the totally unfamiliar.”

The Annotated Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio ... The Annotated Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn

Surely this feeling of weirdness also washes over and engulfs one after entering Japan for the first time, stepping into another dimension.

“You find yourself moving through queer small streets full of odd small people, wearing robes and sandals of extraordinary shapes, and you can scarcely distinguish the sexes at sight.”

Vintage- Japan in the late XIX Century - Meiji era

“Food-stuffs of unimaginable derivation; utensils of enigmatic forms; strange masks and toy that commemorate legends of gods or demons.”

日本仮面歴史館 福福和神面

Thanks to the digital revolution, one can see Japan from the comfort of a favorite chair from anywhere in the world. 

There one can enjoy the visual and audio aspects of Japanese cultural charm.

However, as charming and delightful as this may be, one can only truly understand the essence of Japan by coming here to bath in the Japanese “air” and feel Japan in one’s very own spirit and soul.

Japanese girls wearing kimono

“Everywhere on signs and hangings, on the backs of people passing by, you will observe wonderful Chinese characters, and the wizardry of all these texts makes the dominant tone of the spectacle.”

Japanese Street in the Meiji Era

Indeed, the complexity of Chinese ideograms permeating the country only adds to the otherworldliness charm one experiences here.

In fact, one of the most formidable life challenges was to address one’s own illiteracy in Japanese, and commit a lifetime to understand and absorb these complex and magnificent ideograms.

Daily Practice Example - Land Of The Rising Son

As Yakumo continued to contemplate the extraordinary surreal nature of Japan, he noted: 

“The delicate perfection of workmanship, the light strength and grace of objects, the power manifest to obtain the best results with the least material, the achieving of mechanical ends by the simplest possible means, the comprehension of irregularities as aesthetic value, the shapeliness and perfect taste of everything, the sense displayed of harmony in tints or colours.”

Japanese Basket Merchant Meiji

 “All this must convince you at once that our Occidental has much to learn from this remote civilization, not only in matters of art and taste, but it matters likewise of economy and utility.”

Japan in the late 19th Century Meiji

Indeed these sentiments still ring true today, as the Japanese have created a modern society to be looked upon a desirable model of civility and harmony, having evolved from this very culture.

Yakumo spoke English, Greek, and Japanese, and made the following observation about the difference between English and Japanese.

“Any one of their ordinary phrases, translated into Western speech, makes hopeless nonsense, and the literal rendering into Japanese of the simple English sentence would scarcely be comprehended by any Japanese who have never studied a European tongue.”

Miscommunication - A Case of Mistaken Identity

“Could you learn all the words in a Japanese dictionary, your acquisition would not help you in the least to make yourself understood in speaking, unless you had learned also to think like a Japanese.”

Find Your Ikigai

The secret to meaningful cultural understanding is in the language, when one can think and conceptualize in Japanese. 

Then, and only then, can one start to read the “air” where the unspoken social conventions and protocols reside.

Hark Back to Meiji-Era Japan

The Japanese have evolved under strict laws and societal protocols which mandate harmony.

Life was particular rigid when the Japanese were isolated from the rest of the world for centuries during Tokugawa Bakufu, which preceded the Meiji Restoration.

Here these ingrained societal courtesies still continue to characterize the way the Japanese interact and behave among each other today.  

“Everybody greets everybody with happy looks and pleasant words, faces are always smiling, the commonest incident of every day lives are transfigured by a courtesy at once so artless and so faultless that it appears to spring directly from the heart, without any teaching.”

Japanese Bowing To Each Other

Japan’s crime rate is the lowest in the industrial world (here), as when breaching the laws of our land, the accompanying punishment can be harsh. 

Remember, Japan still has capital punishment, with the vast majority of the Japanese citizens in full support of this ultimate punishment. 

Historically the Japanese view death very differently than Occidentals, and this form of punishment remains here to reminder wayward Japanese citizens, when one disrupts harmony and breaches social conventions, you will be punished.

“I have lived in districts were no case of theft occurred for hundreds of years.” 

“Where newly-built prisons of Meiji remain empty and useless.” 

“Where people left their doors unfastened by night as well by day.”

“In such a district, you might recognize that kindness shown to you, as a stranger, is the consequence of official command.”

“But how explain the goodness of these people to each other?” 

“When you discover no harshness, no rudeness, no dishonesty, no breaking of law, and learning that this social conditions have been the same for centuries, you’re tempted to believe that you have entered into the domain of a morally superior humanity.” 

“You cannot help being delighted by such conditions, or feel indignant and hearing them denounced as ‘heathens’.”

Maikos in the Meiji era, Japan 1868-1912

Why was Yakumo able to experience Japan in such a profound way, where he was able to feel the multilayered society of Japan and recognizing the concept of life as being ephemeral? 

Moreover, he deeply felt the presence of the ghosts as ancestors turn into deities, and regarded all thing as instilled with life. 

Life in all things ~ ban butsu (万物).

Kwaidan Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan ... Kwaidan Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan

“Really you are happy because you have entered bodily into Fairyland, into a world that is not, and never could be your own.” 

“You have been transported out of your own century, over spaces enormous of perished times, into an era forgotten, into a vanished age.”

“This much more archaic civilization of Old Japan attained an average of aesthetic and moral culture well worthy of our wonder and praise.” 

“Only a shallow mind, a very shallow mind will pronounce the best of that culture inferior.”

“But Japanese civilization is peculiar to a degree for which there is perhaps no Western parallel, since it offers as a spectacle of many successive layers of alien culture superimposed above the simple indigenous basis, and forming a very bewilderment of complexity.”

Layer upon layer upon an ancient civilization from an ancient time, continuing to add layer upon layer still now in these modern times.

Based Upon
Japan,  An Attempt At Interpretation
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn

Patrick Lafcadio Hearn

Patrick Lafcadio Hearn

Patrick Lafcadio Hearn

Patrick Lafcadio Hearn

Unless digging deeply into the annals of Japan, the name Lafcadio Hearn is probably unfamiliar.

However, Lafcadio Hearn can be considered a paramount historic figure of Meiji-era Japan, where he lived until the end of his days.

Lafcadio HearnPortrait 1889

He is considered an early pioneer who introduced Japanese culture to the West with his intriguing observations and stories embedded throughout his body of work about Japan.

After arriving in 1890, he became a teacher in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture thanks to Basil Hall Chamberlain, another important figure of the Meiji period.



It was here where Yakumo submerged himself into the Japanese culture.

Remember, Japan had just been forced to open after 250 years of isolation under the strict rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate ending in 1868.

Here, Yakumo exposed to the West another word in a different dimension having evolved for over two centuries absent of influence from foreigns. 

This is also where in 1896 Lafcadio Hearn married Koizumi Setsuko, the daughter of local samurai family, took the name Koizumi Yakumo (小泉 八雲), and became a citizen of Japan.

Lafcadio Hearn with Setsu

Traveling the world in the 1800s was difficult, so it was rare to find someone so deeply engrossed in Japanese culture as Yakumo, who also wrote with depth and clarity about this new and intriguing world now surrounding him.

Indeed, Yakumo works on Japan allows one to gain a deeper understanding of the extraordinary society of Japan, as described over 100 years ago.

In 1894 Yakumo published “Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan” his first book about Japan.

Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan Volumes I and II Lafcadio ... Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan Volumes I and II Lafcadio Hearn

Among his other books written about topics pertaining Japanese culture were “Kokoro: Hints and Echoes of Japanese Inner Life”, published in 1896, “Japanese Fairy Tales” released 1899, and the fascinating and entertaining “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things”, which was published in 1903, and subsequently turned into a film.

Kwaidan- Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio

One of the most important works of Yakumo is his deeply insightful book Japan: An Attempt At Interpretation.

Published in 1904, it is truly amazing to reach deep into the past to see the Japan of old through the eyes of this incredible storyteller.

In this book, one gets an vivid sense of the Japanese society during the Meiji Restoration, and gains a deeper awareness and sensitivity to the Way of the Japanese.

Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation is free to read here.

Japan, an attempt at interpretation

Make sure to visit the Koizumi Yakumo Commemorative Park while visiting Shinjuku, it has a wonderful garden garden with a bust of Lafcadio Hearn and an plaque describing his talents and achievements.

Koizumi Yakumo (Lafcadio Hearn) died on September 26, 1904, and is interned at the Zoshiyaga Cemetery, located in Toshima, Tokyo.

Lafcadio Hearn Bust

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