Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mr Hearn and Japanese Spooky Stories

His name is Patrick Lafcadio Hearn; however, he also has a Japanese name, Yakumo Koizumi. He loved Japan, lived in Japan, and married a Japanese woman. Old Japanese folklore attracted him, and he wrote this folklore in English. He was dedicated to preserving the Japanese folklore, which would have been lost otherwise. After being educated in England, France, and the United States, he had come to Japan in 1890 where he worked as an English teacher in Shimane prefecture, which is located on the western side of Honshu Island. He also wrote many colorful, lively stories.

One of his stories is about the "Snow Woman." Mosaku and Minokichi are lumberjacks. One day, they were stranded by heavy snow and stayed overnight in a mountain cottage. During the middle of the night, a white woman's entire body appeared from nowhere and breathed on Mosaku and killed him. She approached Minokichi and told him that she would not kill him.

She asked him not to talk about her to anybody, and disappeared. Years passed. Minokichi married a beautiful, white woman whom he met on his way to his mountain. Their lives were happy and peaceful. They had a baby. One snowy day, Minokichi, watching his wife sewing beside the fireplace, remembered Snow Woman. His wife looked like her that night. Minokichi started to talk with his wife about how he had met a woman who killed his coworker, Mosaku. His wife turned pale. She told him that she was the woman who had met Minokichi and killed Mosaku in the cottage. She reminded him that she had said she would kill him if he talked about the incident to anybody. She continued to say she wanted to continue her life with him, as long as he did not tell the story. She could kill him, but she said she would not because of their baby. Minokichi apologized and asked her to stay. She told him it was too late, and disappeared. Minokichi looked for her the rest of his life, but could not find her anywhere.

Yakumo's stories are not just spooky. They bring melancholy to readers' minds. This story of Snow Woman is not at all a monster story. Snow Woman was almost given a personality and readers can feel her sorrow.

Yakumo could understand and speak Japanese, but could not write it. His wife, Setsuko, translated his stores into Japanese. Modern Japanese people can enjoy old Japanese folklore thanks to Yakumo, who was originally a foreigner in Japan. I cannot forget to mention that Yakumo's stories significantly contributed to introducing Japanese folklore to the world, since all of them were written in English

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