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Just Listen: Japanese Ghost Stories

If you’ve never read or heard of the Japanese ghost stories of Lafcadio Hearn, you are in for a real ghost story lover’s treat. Best remembered for his collection and translation of these traditional Japanese ghost stories, he has presented stories that are so dearly loved by the Japanese that they have come to be regarded in Japan as classics in their own right. Today’s stories come from a new book edited by Paul Murray, who is one of the biographers of both Lafcadio Hearn and Bram Stoker of Dracula fame. He is a former Irish diplomat whose posting to Japan in the late 1970s ignited his interest in Lafcadio Hearn.

Our first story, “Jikininki” is about a type of man-eating goblin; be forewarned – Japanese ghosts are not the flimsy apparitions that only rustle curtains and go bump in the night—Japanese ghosts will tear one to pieces or pull one’s head off! Our second story, “Mujina” has a surprising and frightful end, and our final story, “The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi” is a tale about a blind poet and biwa player who performs for ghosts in the moonlight. A final reading about butterflies is an interesting treatise in the voice of Lafcadio Hearn himself in which the cultural spirituality of butterflies is discussed.

There are several books in our collection by Lafcadio Hearn, including Japanese Ghost Stories, Ghostly Japan (which deals with poetry, silkworms, and Buddhist proverbs), and Kwaidan, which is translated “strange tales.” We also have the DVD Kwaidan, a splendid Criterion Collection representation of the book, directed by Masaki Kobayashi. I hope you enjoy today’s readings and a quick dip into the pool of wonderful things Japanese! Stories by Lafcadio Hearn…we begin….