Lafcadio  Hearn  Journal

Special Anniversary Edition - 2019



Hearn’s 150th Anniversary of His Arrival in the U.S.A.


Lafcadio Hearn Society/USA, 30th Anniversary of Founding


President’s Message

by Steve Kemme


The Year in Review

Coordinated by Gary Eith


Symposium, 2019 Abstracts

by Dr. Kinji Tanaka and Hidenobu Paul Tanaka, Steve Kemme,

Kevin Grace, Dr. Mary Gallagher, and Dr. Noriko Tsunoda Reider 

President’s Message

By Steve Kemme, President of the Lafcadio Hearn Society/USA


Thank you so very much for supporting and attending our various programs this year!  Because of you we had many successes and the future for many more is bright.  Next year is another special anniversary year involving Hearn and we will offer new programs, and we seek your suggestions and advice on anything you would like to have offered in the Greater Cincinnati region.


Enjoy reading this special edition of the Lafcadio Hearn Journal.  It is a record of our events and activities for the year in pictures and in words.  Feel free to share it with your family and friends, either electronically or by hard copy with your printer.  We offer a special thanks to all of our endorsers for the year: Cincinnati Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, Gifu/Cincinnati Sister City Committee and City Representative, Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati, The Mercantile Library of Cincinnati, and the Public Library Cincinnati and Hamilton County. 


Please also consider supporting our effort to create and install a permanent commemorative plaque of Hearn in Cincinnati.  It’s a warranted commemoration as Hearn’s literary career started right here, in Cincinnati, as a reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Commercial newspapers.


For more information on the plans for and the design of the plaque by renowned sculptor and Cincinnati resident, Tom Tsuchiya, or how you can pledge or donate for this worthy venture, please go to .



1989, Founding of Lafcadio Hearn Society/USA, in Cincinnati

Dr. Kinji Tanaka and the Japan Research Center of Greater Cincinnati coordinated the first meetings of the Society.  Professor John Hughes of the University of Cincinnati became the first president.


The Year in Review

In March, the Center and the Society offered the keynote address for the year by Professor Junko Umemoto of Nihon University.  The Mercantile Library hosted the event.  Dr. Umemoto shared with the audience that Lafcadio Hearn’s foundations for his literary career (topics and writing styles) began in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He coined the term “Tsunami” for English speakers after a major tsunami event in Japan.  He is most famous for his many books on Japanese and Creole folklore and culture and among them is Kwaidan.



In June, we offered a tour of special Hearn locations in Cincinnati conducted by the society’s president, Steve Kemme.  It included a luncheon at the Cincinnati Art Museum and a docent led tour by Helen Rindsberg and her colleagues, of the Cincinnati Wing, where the museum’s holdings include paintings by Frank Duveneck and Henry Farny, known by Hearn.    Hearn collaborated with Farny on a series of satires titled Ye Giglampz.  We received many complements!


Symposium, 2019 Abstracts:


In September, we offered a symposium of local and international speakers on various Hearn related topics and presented an award to the researcher who found the closest date of Hearn’s arrival in Cincinnati.  The symposium was hosted by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.


Lafcadio Hearn Arrived in the United States on 9/2/1869. How was this Discovered? by Kinji Tanaka and Hidenobu Paul Tanaka, of the Japan Research Center


Many researchers of Lafcadio Hearn attempted to find his arrival date in New York from Europe.  Since Hearn did not leave such records, none of them succeeded.


At the Cincinnati Public Library, we started by searching for a passenger named Patrick Hearn from the immigration ship lists, but it was very difficult to read these handwritten records. Instead, through we searched the New York passenger lists. There it was found that four passengers named Hearn who were born around 1850 (with the first name of Pat, Patrick or Patryk) arrived in New York between 1869-70.  However, none of them seemed to match up with Lafcadio Hearn.


Further research revealed that one incorrect word, “French,” printed in the column of Ethnicity/Race/Nationality by was caused by the misreading of “Greece” as “France” in one of the handwritten passenger lists in the column labeled, “the country to which they severally belong.”  Thus it was discovered that Patrick Hearn, who was reported as having Geek nationality, arrived in New York by the S.S.Cella.

This ship was found to be wrecked in 1888, coinciding with Hearn’s joke that every ship he boarded got into trouble.   Thus, we concluded that Lafcadio Hearn reached New York on 9/2/1869 by the S.S.Cella which arrived from London via Le Havre, and this is now generally recognized as his arrival date in the United States.


Note: With his British nationality, Lafcadio Hearn returned back to New York from his travels to the Windward Islands by the S.S. Barracouta in 1887 and 1889.


Lafcadio Hearn’s Relationship with and Writings about Cincinnati’s African-Americans, by Steve Kemme, president of the Society, and retired reporter of The Enquirer


To the dismay of many Cincinnati residents and to the puzzlement of some of his newspaper colleagues, Lafcadio Hearn wrote extensively about the African-Americans living in the city. At a time when Cincinnati was deeply divided on racial issues, Hearn wrote in the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati Commercial daily newspapers with insight and sensitivity about people of color. He admired their culture and their perseverance in the face of oppression. These stories are among the best Hearn wrote during his Cincinnati years. In vivid language, they offer a compelling portrait of African-Americans trying to survive in post-Civil War America. Hearn further antagonized many Cincinnatians by marrying a black woman in defiance of the state law banning interracial marriages. This cost him his job at the Enquirer. This marriage and his stories with social justice themes hastened his departure from the city where he launched his career.   


Lafcadio Hearn in the Irish Public Eye, by Kevin Grace, Head of Rare Books, Library, University of Cincinnati


In the past generation, Lafcadio Hearn’s ties to Ireland, the nation of his paternal heritage and his childhood, have been researched and built upon to establish him as an “Irish” writer.   Authors and editors such as Sean G. Ronan (Irish Writing on Lafcadio Hearn and Japan, 1997) and Paul Murray (A Fantastic Journey: The Life and Literature of Lafcadio Hearn, 1993) have embraced Hearn’s Japanese writing

while extolling his Irish roots, often with great insight. 


Irish newspapers have furthered this exploration into national identification, again with skill and sensibility.  The Lafcadio Hearn Gardens was established in Tramore in 2012 in large measure to recognize and celebrate Hearn’s dual Irish-Japanese existence and in 2017, the Little Museum of Dublin mounted an excellent exhibition on his life and career.  University courses with Hearn content are taught.   But do everyday Irish recognize Hearn as one of them?  Has he joined a pantheon of Yeats, Heaney, Wilde and scores of others, even other expatriate writers like Joyce and Beckett?   What will actually make Lafcadio Hearn an “Irish” writer in the public mind?  This exploration into the recognizability of Hearn goes to the streets of Dublin and to any growing public perception of him.


Lafcadio Hearn's Cincinnati Period: Whose Stories Mattered? by Mary Gallagher, Professor, University College of Dublin, Ireland


Stories lie at the heart of all of Lafcadio Hearn's writings, including all the cultural commentary, the ethnographic sketches and the travel writing, which, along with stories (novellas or short story collections) were the main genres in which he wrote. In many, or even most cases, his work mediates stories that are not his own and that he does not present as being 'original'. Furthermore, his writings often highlight the circumstances of the stories' transmission. Whose stories mattered to Hearn and why? This question is related to, but distinct from, the question as to what kind of stories Hearn's work typically mediates. This paper considered both questions.  It concentrated on Hearn's Cincinnati period, although it is clear that several aspects of his storytelling style or aesthetic remained constant over his subsequent writings.  


Snow Woman: Yuki Onna, a Mysterious Woman in the Mountains, by Noriko Tsunoda Reider, Professor, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio


One of Lafcadio Hearn’s favorite things was kaidan (tales of the strange). In 1904, the year of Hearn’s death, he wrote Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, about which Andrei Codrescu comments in his just published book, Japanese Tales of Lafcadio Hearn.   Kwaidan is “his first truly Japanese book written in his best English” (17).


In her presentation, Noriko Tsunoda Reider spoke about kaidan and “Yuki onna” (snow woman), a story that appears in Kwaidan.   Dr. Reider shared some photos of Matsue City, Japan which was one of Hearn’s favorite places in the world.


Researcher Award: The 2019 Researcher Award was presented to Marye Grace Heil. She found that in May of 1870 Lafcadio Hearn was in Cincinnati, from a Hearn short memoir source, The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn (Houghton, Mifflin, 1906).  Subsequently, the Center has learned that Hearn arrived earlier, in 1869, as reported by Aharon Varady (in Bond Hill, 2005, p.43).  Watkins saved Hearn from starvation that year, incident described by Watkin’s niece, Hepsie Watkin Churchill (Reminiscences).  Hearn’s exact arrival date in Cincinnati is still unknown.  Look for another “Call to Researchers in 2020.”


Kwaidan: Call of Salvation from the Depths of Fear

In October, we supported the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum in Matsue and the Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati in offering this event to a nearly full house in the Cincinnati Art Museum.  Gary Eith emceed the event, Tsutomu Nakagawa, the Consul General of the Consulate of Japan in Detroit provided welcoming remarks, and the event was introduced by Bon Koizumi, Hearn’s great grandson and curator of the museum in Matsue.  Many of Hearn’s extended family attended.  Several grants, including one from the Matsue Hearn Society, allowed the event to be free.  Thanks to Bon and Shoko Koizumi of the museum; the Executive Director of the Japan America Society, Anne Golden; the president of the Matsue Hearn Society, Shotai Kobayashi, and to the performers: the famed actor, Shiro Sano and renowned guitarist, Kyoji Yamamoto.


Steve Kemme, Gary Eith, Consul General and Mrs. Tsutomu Nakagawa,

Kinji Tanaka and Shotai Kobayashi

 (From left to right)





This special anniversary edition of the Lafcadio Hearn Journal was edited by Gary Eith, President of the Japan Research Center of Greater Cincinnati.  Any inquiries or suggestions and possible contributions to subsequent journals should be sent to him.  His email address is:


For additional information on events and activities check the Center’s website: .


Back to Page 1