AS Lafcadio Hearn remarked, or as any broad, sympathetic mind is pleased to believe, a man should be judged through his strength and conviction. This book, "Lafcadio Hearn in Japan," is our Japanese appreciation; we observed him under many different shades, but our appreciation of his art, and also of him as a man—unique in character doubtless, sincere even to a fault,—and as a professor in our Imperial University, is uniform, I think, through every chapter. Where you will find a frequent repetition in the book is the exact place we wish to emphasize; and if the book appears to lack a certain unity, I will say that it was not my intention to write a biography.
I have often heard that the reliability of Hearn's Japanese books was doubted in a certain quarter as he could not read or even speak well the Japanese language. I say here once for all that his books have not even one misspelling of a Japanese word which is luxury more than a mere delight to our mind nowadays, when so many unwished-for Japanese books overflow. He had Mr. Otani, and many other Japanese as his literary assistants for some time, and Mrs. Hearn all the time as an inspiration; and his ignorance of Japanese letters and language proved, on his part, to be a perfect [vi>] blessing, keeping him aloof from the trivialism of our modern Japanese life which is, I say, quite appalling. While we Japanese are bound often to be disenchanted and pessimistic, he alone could look upon Japan with an ever fresh mind; and Japan appeared to him the most magical land of the world. He wore the spectacles of romance by choice and temperament. It was good for him, of course, and also for Japan herself. It seems to me there are few writers who have turned their material to such good account as did Hearn when he used his materials, whatever he got, which in fact are not wonderful at all to a Japanese; in truth, he did achieve far more than one could expect. As he soared above the Japanese triavialism, so he could serenely work out his writing, not disillusioned in the least, and always with the most forcible intention. It was the heavenly gift of his ignorance of the Japanese language and letters.
It is a matter of opinion whether he were fortunate or unfortunate as a writer. It is a fact that he earned enough materially to support his own family by teaching in a Japanese school; and it was, to be sure, his rare luck that he could pursue his beloved art after his own impulse, not after public demand. And he had twice a great occasion to bring himself close to the public, however indirectly. The first opportunity came to him in the form of the China-Japan war. And the Russo-Japan war was the other, ten times greater than [vii>] the first. I believe that such opportunities do not often fall to the lot of a writer of the type of Lafcadio Hearn.
I have been often asked about our real Japanese opinion on Mr. Hearn; and this book is the reply to a person who might ask it. And no word of apology is necessary, I think, for its existence.
And I feel justified in reprinting my letter, "A Japanese Defence of Lafcadio Hearn," which was printed in the Sun, New York, and the Japan Times, Tokyo, when Dr. Gould's book appeared a few years ago, because Hearn might have, as I believe, another Dr. Gould in the future, and the letter tells for once and all, the general attitude we Japanese are glad to hold. I thank the editors of the Atlantic Monthly for "A Japanese Appreciation of Lafcadio Hearn," for their permission to use it again in this book.
I thank Mrs. Hearn for her collaboration, and also Messrs. Otani, Osanai and Uchigasaki for their kind assistance.
June 19, 1910.