Reading "Kokoro" by Lafcadio Hearn

I watched a NHK TV program the other day about Yakumo Koizumi’s (Lafcadio Hearn) observation about Japanese people and I was quite moved.  After a few days, a friend of mine praised a book called Kokoro by Hearn and I decided to purchase and started to read.  I haven’t finished reading the book yet but I have already shocked and moved quite a lot.


Now, almost all Japan people own automobiles, electric appliances (washing machines, refrigerators, TV, telephone, personal computers and others), wear nice clothes or kimonos made of chemical textile, and other convenient materials developed after the industrial revolutions.  We are able eat as much food as possible from major western cuisine to exotic Middle East, Asian and African food.  Women are treated equally “by law” and western cultures have already taken root.  The way we live now is quite high at cultural level compared with, for example, the one in Vietnam, in terms of materials. 


However, as I am reading through the book by Hearn, I came across so many things struck my soul and heart.  Hearn arrived in Japan in 1890, twenty three years after the Meiji Restoration.  Kokoro was written in English and published in 1896 in New York.  It is a collection of short essays.  To my surprise, the translated book was filled with difficult kanji characters because it was translated a long time ago!  After reading 40~50 pages, I gave up reading in Japanese and switched to English version to start over again. 


The first essay was about a thief caught in Fukuoka sent to Kumamoto via train.  A police man who took the thief to Kumamoto let the criminal to face a victim’s 4-year-old son at the station in public.  The policeman only suggested a boy to stare at the criminal.  While the crowd quietly watching them, the criminal fell in knees and begged forgiveness.  I wonder if this could possibly happen outside Japan.  Hearn or the persona also stunned to watch the scene.@Stir the soul and transform one’s mind.  Even the counterpart is a criminal.  I can easily imagine that Japanese people back then naturally did such thing.  What about us now?     


Hearn describes, in the following essay, about the land and buildings of Japan and the ones of metropolitan area with the hustle and bustle in the States.  As we all know, Japan has been suffering many great earthquakes and natural disasters.  Therefore, nothing can last forever.  Japanese used to live in a small and shabby hut under this fragile land condition that didn’t allow them to live in a gorgeous house by investing lots of money.  Poor nutrition from food did not justify the strong physical body because Japanese worked hard and walked mountainous area in a long distance.  Therefore, their spirit was quite strong.  And so on…        


We, Japanese people now, don’t have to abandon this current luxury of materials but, I strongly feel, that if many of us grab back the honorable poverty and rejoin with nature again, then this country could develop further again. 

“In spareness, you find enough.”

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