I recently made a trip to the newly opened Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens in Tramore, Co. Waterford.
Lafcadio shared the same passion for Japan as me. He was born in Greece and grew up in Ireland, but he found his soul in Japan as a writer and a professor of English literature at Tokyo Imperial University. He is internationally renowned for his books about Japan, especially his colections of Japanese legends.
Bernard Leach, one of Britian's most celebrated studio potters, first went to Japan having been inspired by Lafcadio Hearn's writings.
On a trip to Japan I was moved by an exhibit at the Lafcadio Hearn Museum in Matsue where there is a plate of Bernard Leach displayed. He is quoted as saying:
"Lafcadio Hearn was an inspiration for me. If I hadn't read Hearn's writings about Japan, I wouldn't be here today."
This resonated with me, as Lafcadio Hearn spent his childhood in Co. Waterford where I work. Both men are highly esteemed westerners in Japaneese culture. As Yanagi said:
"It is doubtful whether any other visitor from the West ever shared our spiritual life so completely. Lafcadio Hearn was certainly one of these rare souls, but what he knew was the old Japan whereas what Leach touched was the new Japan".
The gardens are a true inspiration and a fitting tribute to a fascinating life.