chapter  6
17 Pages

Yokohama

Here I am in the land of dreams,- surrounded by strange gods. I seem to have known and loved them before somewhere: I burn incense before them. I pass much of my time in the temples, trying to see into the heart of this mysterious people. In order to do so, I have to blend with them and become part of them: It is not easy. But I hope to learn the language; and if I do not, in spite of myself, settle here, you will see me again. If you do not, I shall be under the trees in some old Buddhist cemetery, with six laths above me, inscribed with prayers in an unknown tongue, and a queerly carved monument typifying those five elements into which we are supposed to melt away. Hearn from Yokohama, 25 November 1890.1

ON S T PAT RIC K' S DAY 1890, the odd-looking, 39-year old Greek-Irishman set off for Japan from Vancouver. On 4 April he stepped ashore from his ship, the Abyssinia, to the welcoming chaos of Yokohama 'in the white sunshine of a perfect spring day'. Here he found himself:

. . .suddenly in a world where everything is upon a smaller and daintier scale ... a world oflesser and seemingly kindlier beings, all smiling at you as if to wish you well,- a world where all movement is slow and soft, and voices are hushed,- a world where land, life, and sky are unlike all that one has known elsewhere,- this is surely the realization, for imaginations nourished with English folklore, of the old dream of a World of Elves.2