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.

島根県の地図

島根県松江市

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

Right-Brain Left-Brain – Part 6

Right-Brain Left-Brain – Part 6

Right-Brain Left-Brain – Part 6

Right-Brain Left-Brain – Part 6

Americans are the most obvious example of a left-brain dominated people as exhibited by their behaviour, action, and words.

For it can be said, the Japanese regard Americans as the most unpredictable people on Earth, due to the absence of any precisely defined societal form, order, or process.

The Japanese have traditionally behaved according to strictly prescribed and uniform etiquette, which was equated with morality and being civilized, and this is the essence of the Japanese Way.

The Japanese Way Land Of The Rising Son

This is in stark contrast to the American rugged individualistic way of talking, behaving, and acting.

Naturally, this particular way of talking and behaviour is looked upon as boorish and crass by the Japanese, regardless of nationality or ethnicity.

Perhaps a measure of social harmony could be the fewer encounters with unpleasant and formless individuals every day, the higher the social harmony indicator rises for one’s own community, wherever that may be.

Harmony 和

It is important to understand Japanese etiquette evolved to ensure harmony between not only themselves and the many gods inhabiting Japan, but among the Japanese themselves.

This etiquette-harmony societal evolution came about based upon respect for parents, seniors, teachers, and those in positions of power.

Perhaps the evolution of the Japanese was influenced in a very specific and potent ways by the right brain characteristics of the Japanese people.

Indeed, the Japanese are truly nature-oriented and emotionally-compulsive about doing things in an orderly and ritualistic way.

As from early in Japanese social evolution, there was always a prescribed ways of doing things, and over time, this respect-etiquette system was no longer regarded as merely an arbitrary form of etiquette, but became an integral part of the Japanese identity.

Ceremony 儀式 Land Of The Rising Son

One can surely observe the characteristics of traditional Japanese etiquette today in the way our society functions in a (relatively) smooth, holistic, and harmonious way, regardless of an enormous population (126 million) on a series of small Pacific Islands.

Perhaps the evolution of the Japanese, along with their right brain orientation can be credited with a particular level of style and etiquette which has distinguish them since ancient times, and which continues to contribute enormously to the very essence of the Japanese people today.

The Ancient Cultures of Japan

From earliest times, the Japanese have been formulated by adherence to fundamental humanist tenets, the core principles common to all connected humans, to which is now referred to as Shinto (神道).

Like so many mysteries, some languages demand an explanation about everything, yet verbal language is not capable of explaining what is in the “air”, and this is where the spirit of the word has been recognized to reside.

For what has been labeled “religion” is not.

Emphatically, Shinto is not a religion.

Shintoism is the evolving codification of moral and etiquette protocols, which are unique to the archipelagos of Yamato.

Japanese Way
万物

The Japanese Way is appealing as the foundation to live one’s own moral and humanistic code in accordance with uniquely Japanese style inclusiveness:

gods in nature
gods in ancestor
gods in all

Goddess Of Japan Land Of The Rising Son

For certain, the Japanese do not view “god” as an omnipresence being shepherding the morals of a society, but as a natural reflection of the human condition to which all homo-sapiens are prisoners.

The aesthetic side of the Japanese character embodies a deep-seated sense of harmony in all things, particularly interpersonal relationships.

May this not be something for deeper consideration?

Particular for left-brain thinkers who are still wondering what that missing “something” is, if having ever stopped to wonder about anything at all.

To be sure, the emotional right-brain nature of the Japanese will continue to permeate all aspects of Japanese culture as long as the sun continues to rise.

There, one can find “intuition” in the “air” and in the wabi-sabi, ephemeral nature of one’s own life, on this short journey, under our shared Sun.

What's Missing From Your Life

Master Storyteller Dan Carlin

Master Storyteller Dan Carlin

Master Storyteller Dan Carlin

Master Storyteller Dan Carlin

Master storyteller Dan Carlin entrances and engulf one into spellbinding incredible rides probing the nooks and crannies of history.

Hardcore History has millions of downloads per episode, and is one of the most widely acclaimed podcast in, well, history.

Dan Carlin’s distinctive voice and style is one of the most instantly recognizable in podcasting and his shows are some of the most listened to podcasts of all time, making him the “Master Podcaster.”

Master Podcaster Dan Carlin Illustration

Over three years ago now, Master Carlin released the first in a series of podcasts concerning the Pacific war entitled “Supernova in the East” about the Japanese empire and their ventures in the second world war.

Having been an avid fan of this incredible storyteller for many years, and as a token of my appreciation for his magnificent work, one a sent Master Podcaster Dan Carlin some important books about Japan.

Token of Appreciation to Master Podcaster Dan CarlinSecretly, the notion was for Master Carlin to get a spark of inspiration for a Hardcore History series about Japan.

Imagine one’s surprise and delight when he referenced one of the books in the inaugural installment of the incredible podcast series entitled; Super Nova in the East I ~ VI.

The book mentioned in Super Nova in the East I was, Japan and the Shackles of the Past, by R. Taggart Murphy.

Japan and the Shackles of the Past, by Emeritus Professor R. TAGGART MURPHY

If one needs a good place to start, Japan and the Shackles of the Past is top on the list to start one’s very own journey into Japan and our extraordinary society.

The Super Nova in the East podcast series progressed with a new release once every 6 to 8 months, and one felt compelled to send some more books.

One of the books was also referenced when Master Podcaster Dan Carlin discussed the kamikaze phenomena.

The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan, by Ivan Morris.

The Nobility of Failure Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan by Ivan MORRIS

Originally published in 1975, this book contains several stories of “failed heroes.”

The final chapter is the tale of the kamikaze fighters entitled, “If Only We Might Fall” which truly stands out while tugging deeply on the heartstrings.

This particular chapter describes the extremely heart-wrenching accounts of the young kamikaze fighters along with their letters to their families while waiting to sacrificing their lives for the Empire of Japan.

If Only We Might Fall

Master Carlin made a very discerning observation, when saying he was taught in school the kamikaze fighters were mindless robots blindly sacrificing their lives for Japan.

It is now known this was clearly not the case, as vividly described in The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan.

Having released the last episode, Super Nova in the East VI, the masterful five hour and forty-five minute epic conclusion to the incredible Super Nova in the East podcast series was not only breathtaking but spellbinding, and can be considered a masterpiece of creative genius.

The magic of Dan Carlin lies in his impartiality and narration-mastery, maintaining a virtuous interpretation of the historical accounts and of the true nature of the Japanese, and indeed all of humanity.

Master Carlin so brilliantly describes the Japanese;

”The Japanese are just like everybody else…but even more so.”

Bonus:
The global reach of Master Podcaster Dan Carlin became clear as one visited the local shrine one sunny spring day.

There was a special event in progress, and unusually so, there were quite a few foreigners participating in this event, all dressed in martial art outfits.

One of these men came up and paid me a compliment on my exceptional hat, and said he and all members of his group were also big fans of Master Podcaster Dan Carlin.

Master Podcaster Dan Carlin Hardcore History Hat - Making History Hardcare

Turns out they were from Croatia, a world very different and far far away from Japan.

One was so very happy to have had this random encounter all thanks to the Master Podcaster Dan Carlin, for the understanding that indeed the era we now live in will be simply be footnotes in a history book, the Hardcore History Book.

Hardcore History 62 – Supernova in the East I

Dan-Carlin-HH-62-Supernova-in-the-East-1

Supernova in the East I: The Asia-Pacific War of 1937-1945 has deep roots. It also involves a Japanese society that’s been called one of the most distinctive on Earth. If there were a Japanese version of Captain America, this would be his origin story: 4 hour 28 min; July 14, 2018.

Hardcore History 63 – Supernova in the East II

Dan-Carlin-HH-63-Supernova-in-the-East-2
Supernova in the East II: Deep themes run through this show, with allegations of Japanese war crimes and atrocities in China at the start leading to eerily familiar, almost modern questions over how the world should respond. And then Dec 7, 1941 arrives: 4 hour 2 min; January 12, 2019

Hardcore History 64 – Supernova in the East III

Dan-Carlin-HH-64-Supernova-in-the-East-3
Supernova in the East III: Japan’s rising sun goes supernova and engulfs a huge area of Asia and the Pacific. A war without mercy begins to develop infusing the whole conflict with a savage vibe: 4 hour 53 min; October 24, 2019

Hardcore History 65 – Supernova in the East IV

Dan-Carlin-HH-65-Supernova-in-the-East-4

Supernova in the East IV: Coral Sea, Midway and Guadalcanal are three of the most famous battles of the Second World War. Together they will shift the momentum in the Pacific theater and usher in the era of modern naval and amphibious warfare: 3 hour 58 min; June 3, 2020

Hardcore History 66 – Supernova in the East V

Dan-Carlin-HH-66-Supernova-in-the-East-5

Supernova in the East V: Can suicidal bravery and fanatical determination make up for material, industrial and numerical insufficiency? As the Asia-Pacific conflict turns against the Japanese these questions are put to the test. The results are nightmarish: 3 hour 32 min November 13, 2020

Hardcore History 67 – Supernova in the East VI

Dan-Carlin-HH-67-Supernova-in-the-East-6
Supernova in the East VI : When do spirit, tenacity, resilience and bravery cross into madness? When cities are incinerated? When suicide attacks become the norm? When atomic weapons are used? Japan’s leaders test the limits of national endurance in the war’s last year: 5 hours 45 min June 8, 2021

Mr. Big Tree

Mr. Big Tree

Mr. Big Tree

Mr. Big Tree

In the depths of despair, from out of the blue, came an angel in the form of an ordinary Japanese businessman.

After parting ways with one’s first employer in Japan, there was a very short stint in as the export manager of a construction machinery rental company.

This was the last real “job” one would ever have.

With limited Japanese language skills, and a confused and very nervous new young wife (the marriage lasted 23 years), one was left one with a deep sense of aloneness.

For it was at this time one thought, “Here you are truly on your own.”

Lonely boy all alone

This was reinforced by the new wife, who said in her own sadness, and to one’s deep consternation, “I am miserable.”

Fortunately, there was still one private lesson remaining from where good fortune arose.

Mentioning my dilemma to Mr. Big Tree, the father of the private student, he was so very kind to point me in the right direction.

He had a building near the station in a mid-sized rural city and this charming old building has an empty 2nd floor.

He said “I will make you a pamphlet to distribute through this city, and you can make this into your own English school.”

For this he charged just a small percentage of the gross sales, which was so very reasonable.

Great deal Mr. Big Tree

After the school got going in about 6 months, he switched the payment to a monthly rental fee that was significantly below the monthly sales volume, thus giving one another boost up.

Always looking for interesting things to do, there was a rental business boom going on Japan at that time.

The second floor of the building had a very unique charm to it, and there and then it was decided to imported limited edition Canadian art from my father’s frame shop and gallery.

There, an art gallery was created and these wonderful limited editions were also rented out to businesses including dentist and doctors offices, boutiques, and restaurants, among others.

 

Sunset Canadian Forest British Columbia

Eventually this old building was simply too old and was scheduled for demolition.

Perfect timing for certain, as life had become much busier with corporate classes, as well as a nascent import-export business, and it was time to move on from that chapter of life.

Here I say to you Mr. Big Tree
Wherever today you may be
Appreciated so very much
Your kindness and generosity

Helping a wandering stranger
Into a life-long journey
Cherishing Japanese people
In this exceptional society

感謝-大木様

The Lecture

The Lecture

The Lecture

The Lecture

One has been a guest lecturer for students studying to join the Japanese automotive industry.

Over the decades of lecturing, the landscape of the Japanese student and their attitudes has changed in a significant manner.

With the first wave of students from the early 1990’s into the 2000s, one really felt a deep affinity and a kind of camaraderie in the classroom with these young people.

Camaraderie with Japanese and Canadians

As time marched on things gradually changed.

Perhaps due to the collapse of economic bubble in the early 90s, which lead to a societal decline, and, as a by-product, produced a lost generation of Japanese.

The gradual fraying of the “lifetime employment” system.

The proliferation of “convenient” processed foods poisoning the body, mind, and soul of the Japanese.

コンビニジャンクフード

A break down in the family structure leading to a significant increase in the divorce rate, thus many more children from broken homes.

A sense of hopelessness and lack of purpose now prevalent throughout large swaths of society.

The Mickey Mousesification of Japan.

Then came the next wave of students.

These are the children of this lost generation.

Japanese poverty

Often in the Japanese culture, parents place the onus of discipline on the teachers.

However, when observing poor chopstick manners, one always regards this as a reflection of the household where they were raised.

Hold Chopsticks Correctly Please

Therefore, one can not totally blame these children for poor manners and disrespect towards people in authority, perceived or otherwise.

This being so, keep in mind, all adults are solely responsible for their own attitude and behaviour.

Two snotty little brats received a growing opportunity to help them along into adulthood just the other day.

Very rarely are people asked to remove themselves from the classroom, this was a rare day.

退室前に一礼

Wanting to send these troubled children on their way fully edified, the entire class of twenty-eight pupils served as the captive audience for the “lecture.”

First, they were asked if they were aware of the present problems concerning the South China Sea.

Silence.

Then, asked if they knew where petroleum products come from.

There was some kind of murmurings: “Doesn’t oil come from the Middle East???“

Oil development in the Middle East Institution of Civil ... Oil development in the Middle East

Progress!

Now, how does the oil, which is the lifeblood of civilization, especially the automotive industry, come to Japan.

That’s right!

Oil tankers.

Oil Tankers Fuel Japan

The next question was more of a statement.

Ever wonder about the shipping route from the Middle East to Japan?

Correct, through the South China Sea.

Middel East To Japan Via South China Sea

Has anyone here ever wondered what would happen if this oil stopped coming to Japan?

Of course not.

The clear answer is you will no longer have a job, or indeed a bright future whatsoever, especially with a poor attitude and obnoxious behaviour.

Gas station runs out of gas during oil embargo - The ... Gas station runs out of gas during oil embargo

The “lecture” was concluded by letting them know (with a heart full of love and empathy) that someone of my amicable disposition is most likely to be the easiest interaction they will ever have in their sheltered lives.

Best wishes to all who have a desire to make a meaningful life with purpose, whether as a Mercedes Benz mechanic, or a diligent proprietor of a successful automobile dealership.

Bonus:

Someone missed the memo!

Being ignored after addressing someone is unacceptable.

One has to be reminded sometime the voice must be raised in order to capture their attention.

That reminder came today for an insolent boy.

The protocol is to open your book, and then do whatever you want after that.

It’s called tatemai, or better yet shakojirei.

One also had the class repeat the following at the beginning of the second period, for their own personal growth and edification.

千里の道も一歩から ~ senri no michi mo ippo kara
thousand-mile journey starts with first step

実るほど頭を垂れる稲穂かな ~ minoru hodo kobe wo tareru inaho kana
the more noble the more humble

自業自得 ~ jigyo jitoku
suffer consequences of own action

身から出た錆 ~ mi kara deta sabi
reap what you sow

自ずと明確になります ~ onozuto meikaku ni narimasu
clarity over time

Divine Diva Marian Anderson

Divine Diva Marian Anderson

Divine Diva Marian Anderson

Divine Diva Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson sang for the Empress of Japan in 1953.

This prodigious forgotten heroine of human rights must be lauded and recognized for her incredible impact on the American society as one of the first person of colour to reach worldwide fame and acclaim based upon her sensation voice and dignity as an agent of change in the racially segregated United States.

Marian Anderson Divine Beauty

On January 7, 1955, Ms. Anderson became the first African-American to sing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, which was after performing for Empress Nagako (Kojun) in Japan.

Even in 1953, Ms. Anderson had experienced difficulties finding accommodations in segregated America, however, in Japan, she stayed in a suite at the Imperial Hotel, and was treated as royalty.

Indeed, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), the sponsor of her trip, made sure to take care of her as an honoured and dignified guest of the Japanese people.

NHK Logo

Marian-Andersons-Japanese Concert Schedule

All who have experienced Japanese hospitality can attest to the meticulous care taken by the host to make sure their guests are left with a favourable impression of Japan and her people.

Incidentally, one’s own father experienced this incredible hospitality in 1968 at the invitation of Nissan (My Father’s Hat Came Back To Japan).

Ms. Anderson noted, “When we left Tokyo we found ourselves traveling as a party of eight.”

“A young woman was provided as an interpreter, and there were four men to serve us in other capacities. One young man was sent along to be banker and cashier; he carried the money and paid bills at hotels, restaurants, and shops.”

Ms. Anderson also observed how the Japanese staff around her were “energetic planners,” and “carried out a schedule as rigid as a railroad timetable.”

JR時刻表 株式会社交通新聞社

Ultimately it was her humility (also a noble Japanese trait), and desire to keep the soul of a song as the primary focus that brought her universal acclaim and the attention of Empress Nagako, who invited Ms. Anderson to perform at the Imperial Palace on May 23, 1953.

The Divine Diva Marian Anderson made the following observation about the Japanese audience.

“The way the Japanese listened was extraordinary. The concentration was intense and the quietness almost uncanny. No one seemed to stir, and at first I was conscious of the deep silence and immobility. They were not upsetting in any way, but they made me feel that a similar intensity was expected of me.”

Marian Anderson, the Philadelphia singer and civil rights

True Heroes Do Not Arise Incidentally

Marian Anderson Statue

They are anointed visionaries driven by an inner guiding light, where their predetermined destiny is to shed the light of truth onto the demoralized and troubled corners of the human soul.

Along with classic staples, the achingly powerful “Deep River,” was at the top of the Japanese sponsors wish list.

This spiritual, written by an unknown African American in the 19th century is one of Ms. Anderson’s greatest interpretations, and undoubtedly tugged the heartstrings of the still-recovering nation of Japan.

Her voice captures the pain and longing embedded in the song’s history and surely resonated so very deeply within the Japanese soul.

Ms. Anderson stated:

“It is so true that no matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people. And as long as you keep a person down some part of you has to be down there to hold them down. So that means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.”

This is ever more so true these days.

These extraordinary words of profound wisdom shall ring eternally true into the hearts and minds of all racists, bigots, and jingoist, whichever narrow stripe or cross they choose to bear.

 Super suprise bonus: Ms. Anderson getting some nice, and well deserved publicity here.

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