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YAKUMO KOIZUMI: THE INTERPRETER OF

JAPAN.

BY K. K. KAWAKAMI.

"Yakumo tatsu;
Izumo yaye-gaki;
Tsuma gome ni

Yaye-gaki tsukuru:
Sono yaye-gaki wo."
"Many clouds appear:

Eightfold clouds a barrier raise

Round the wedded pair,

Manifold the clouds stand guard; Oh, that eight fold barrier-ward."

IN

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N Izumo, the Land of the Issuing of Clouds, Susa-no-wo-no-mikoto, in the ages of the gods, built a bridal palace. Clouds rose up thence, and the god-bridegroom sang the august song of "Eightfold Clouds." Here it was that Japanese history first gleamed through the mist of mythology. Attracted by its enchantment, an imaginative soul started on a pilgrimage from the far West-from the shores of the Atlantic, unto this Land of the Issuing of Clouds, a land of awesome ghost-stories, of marvelous traditions, of grotesque yet charming folklore. Short in stature, the pilgrim had but one eye, carrying about him a weird and unearthly air. His poetic temperament was so captivated by the unspeakable charm of the land that he renounced his Christian name, adopting the Japanese name "Yakumo," the very first word of the sacred song, "Eightfold Clouds." Touched with the rare picturesqueness and graceful simplicity of Japanese life, he married a daughter of a samurai, whose family name, Koizumi, he then assumed.

Ere long, Yakumo Koizumi converted himself into a subject of the Mikado, determined to devote his maturer years to those intimate delineations and charming pictures of Oriental life that were destined to give the Western nations a new conception of the Eastern spirit, revealing noble qualities, and inspiring ideals either unde

veloped by Occidental civilization or overshadowed by its commercialism.

It was in the fifth month of the twenty-third year of Meiji (1890) that this strange pilgrim, whose original name was Lafcadio Hearn, first set his foot in Japan. His first day in Tokyo was one of those Japanese spring-days of divine beauty, converting the landscape into a bland expanse of soft lucidity under the wide canopy of a speckless azure sky. Thither he arrived as correspondent of some American newspaper syndicate, but it was not long before he severed his connections with the syndicate, deciding to remain indefinitely in this fascinating land.

Soon he wended his way to the Land of the Issuing of Clouds, and in the autumn of the same year we find Hearn teaching a high

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MATSUYE IN THE LAND OF THE ISSUING OF CLOUDS.

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school in Matsuye, the metropolitan city of this historic province. Here he made a little Japanese home with his Japanese bride, winning and dainty, yet with all the noble qualities fostered by a Spartan training of old. The view from this home was superb. Before his tiny paper windows glimmer the broad, placid waters of the grand Shinji Lake, framed in a dreamy dim gray of hills and peaks, while, skirting his garden, the grand Ohashi River glides slowly and majestically toward the lake, tremulously mirroring the trees and houses upon its further side. It was here that Hearn wrote the most of the chapters in Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan-his first book written in Japan.

In the Matsuye high-school Hearn was required to teach Eng

lish composition, conversation, and pronunciation. The work would have been a tiresome routine, were it not for the fact that, through the medium of compositions and conversations in the class-room he strove to unearth the hidden treasures of legends and traditions, to coax out the psychological peculiarities of his strange pupils, to enter into the emotional life of a race much read of, yet all unknown. Thus, he took a profound interest in the naive, often unintelligible, writings of his youthful students which he scanned with the eyes of a keen critic.

Hearn's stay in Matsuye did not last longer than a year. The harshness of the elements and the winter blast sweeping the northern coast, told upon his constitution so harshly that before a second winter had set in he was forced to leave this historic town, with all its endearing surroundings. Accompanied by his dutiful Japanese spouse, Hearn journeyed thence to the city of Kumamoto to accept a position in a higher middle school, a counterpart of the German gymnasium. The metropolis of an island stretching in a southerly direction from the outlet of the world-famous Inland Sea, Kumamoto enjoys the mild climate which was essential to the health of the litterateur long accustomed to semi-tropical climes. Here his work was of more advanced nature than in Matsuye, and included English rhetoric, conversation, history of English literature, and Latin.

These six years in Kumamoto were the most fruitful period of his literary career. His crowning works Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894), Out of the East (1895), Kokoro (1896), and Gleanings in Buddha Fields (1897), all appeared in this period.

The pervading subtlety and exquisite delicacy of his style and workmanship are perhaps yet further enhanced in his later writings, but by far the most serious of his thoughts, his exposition of the Japanese spirit, his critical study of Japanese estheticism,-his philosophical examination of Buddhist philosophy and Shinto cult,-his attempt, in short, to interpret Oriental life and ideals in the light of modern theory of evolution as expounded by Spencer, Huxley, and others, are all clearly set forth in these four books. The first, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, though essentially descriptive, is yet replete with those thought-provoking observations, which bespeak a man of rare imaginative reach and extraordinary insight. In those early years, devoted to the production of this book, Hearn was no doubt bewildered with the maze of this strange world which must have appeared to him a marvelous fairy-land full of baffling enigBut after a sojourn of four years our pilgrim sees Japan

mas.

without its glamor. Thus, in the three books, following Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, we find the most admirable expositions of the inner springs of Japanese life, which have so far issued from the pen of foreign writers. In Kokoro, in Out of the East, in Gleanings in Buddha Fields, he has infused a unique spirit into English literature in his delicately chiseled style reflecting what his critic, Mr. Paul E. More, aptly terms "the meeting of three ways,”—a fusion into one compound of Hindu philosophy, the esthetic sense of Japan and the Western theory of evolution. In soft reverberating eloquence, the true significance of Karma and Nirvana is unfolded. in the light of empiric philosophy, and in terms of evolutional psychology we are apprised that the tiny mortuary tablet in the household sanctuary and the miniature lamplet nightly kindled before it are the emblem, indeed the fountain of the strong national spirit inherent in the Japanese. Even his later Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation, regarded by many as his monumental work, possesses perhaps no greater merit than these early works, save that it systematizes what was there set forth, linking them together into one thread of historical discourses.

But to come back to Kumamoto. Here Hearn continued his Japanese life, declining the offer of an official residence built after the Western fashion. His paper-screened home, his dainty futon, his picturesque kimono, his tiny smoking-pipes, his artistic landscape garden-these and many other things touched with the simple serene taste of his Japanese wife, were adapted to realize a genuine Japanese home. As Hearn deeply loved everything Japanese, so intensely did he dislike those ugly foreign things so common in new Japan. His antipathy towards the Christian missionaries and churches was truly invulnerable. In fact, he had vowed never to permit a church to appear in his sight, and avoided all intercourse with his missionary colleague in the Kumamoto school. His conviction was that in the practice of virtue, in purity of life and outward devotion, the Japanese quite outdo the Christians and have nothing whatever to gain by conversion to Christianity, morally or otherwise. "Old Japan came nearer," says Hearn, "to the achievement of the highest moral ideal than our far more evolved societies can hope to do for many a hundred years." To him, those simple, happy beliefs of the natives were far preferable to the Western fancies of "an unforgiving God and an everlasting hell." Even the commonest superstitions of the simple-minded people were, to him, of rarest value as fragments of the unwritten literature of their primitive efforts to find solutions for the riddle of the Unseen

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some of which are even comparable for beauty of fancy to those Greek myths which still furnish an inexhaustible source of inspira tion for the noblest of our Western poets. He was not blind to the darker side of Japanese life, but believed it compared very favorably with the reversed side of Western civilization. To be brief, his attitude towards Japanese life is summed up in this single sentence, "It has its foibles, its follies, its vices, its cruelties; yet the more one sees of it, the more one marvels at its extraordinary goodness, its miraculous patience, its never-failing courtesy, its simplicity of heart, its intuitive charity."

Six summers had passed before Hearn resigned his position in the Kumamoto higher middle school to assume the chair of English literature at the Imperial University of Tokyo. In the University,

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he was an inspiring teacher, sparing no effort to encourage his students. He had come to understand that to be a teacher in the full Oriental sense it was not enough to lecture skilfully,-not enough, indeed, to impart his knowledge or his art as a trader sells his merchandise for a certain price. No, he must do something In days of old the Japanese more, something nobler than that. teacher was expected to take a parental interest in his students, to look after their welfare with fond sympathy even at the sacrifice of his own happiness and comfort. To his pupils, he was an instructor, a guardian, a confidant, a wise and affectionate adviser. A precious bequest of a vanishing world, this beautiful relation between the teacher and his students has not yet wholly disappeared before the

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