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Lafcadio Hearn and Samurai Residence

From Matsue Castle we walked a short distance to Lafcadio Hearn’s old residence. Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) was a well-known writer of things Japanese from the late 1800s to the very early 1900s. He is probably best known by his Japanese name of Koizumi Yakumo (Koizumi is his family name), which he adopted when he took up Japanese citizenship. Among his better known works are perhaps Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, and several books on Japanese legends and ghost stories, including In Ghostly Japan, and Kwaidan. He spent his first year and a half in Japan living in Matsue, and he is perhaps most identified with the city.

His old residence has been preserved by its owners over the years, and is a fine example of Meiji era residential and
tategu style in a fairly average house of an average size.

Sign at the entrance. Matsue is very proud of its connection with Koizumi, and this, and the Hearn museum in the building next door are important tourist attractions.

The front of the house. While it’s a very ordinary house, it is a good example of housing styles at the turn of the century.

The garden view from the room where Koizumi wrote his very early works in Japan. The relationship between the interior living space and the external garden is crucial in Japanese architecture; this is also the case in average homes, such as Koizumi’s, and not just the magnificent and large homes of the wealthy that always seem to feature in glossy books on Japanese style and design. The low perspective gained when viewing the garden from the tatami floor through the two sets of sliding doors accentuates the natural flow from interior to exterior. The view of the garden and the sounds of the frogs and insects from the small pond further to the right would have been both calming and inspiring.

A small alcove in the study. The shoji and tategu work throughout the house was quite simple without great flair, but this simplicity suited the style of the house, and enhanced its natural feel. A good example of where less is more.

From here it was a short walk to the
Buke Yashiki — an ancient samurai residence. It was built in 1730, and was home to a middle-ranking samurai family and one of the chief retainers of the Matsudaira daimyo.

The entrance to the samurai residence.

An example of the simple shoin-zukuri style of construction in that era. Behind the senior samurai is a phone, and, no, they didn’t have mobile phones back in those days. The residence was undergoing some extensive reconstruction work, and we unfortunately had to dodge around the shokunin to get some photos.

A combination of earthquakes, natural ground movement and wear obviously necessitated some repair work on the shoji over the years. This was one approach used to keep the shoji running securely in its grooves. It had worked, but only just. It was now only just hanging on; one more bit of ground movement and the door would easily slide out of its grooves. This was one area where slightly more extensive repair work was required.

One of the back rooms of the residence used for storing various utensils. The tsuitate (screen) in the middle of the photo would have been used to block off the view from the surrounding rooms. It has seen better days, but considering its age, it is in remarkable condition, and a tribute to the tategu shokunin who made it. The shoji in the background are examples of koshitsuke shoji.

From here it was a longish walk back through the castle grounds and to the hotel. The following day was a trip to Izumo, the land of mythology.
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