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13 February 2008




What an excellent idea to post about Lefkadios Hearn, largely unknown in Greece, but highly honored by the Japanese. See the Greece-Japan Web site here:

His life reads like a romantic novel, although, I'm sure that if he were around to read what we write about him today, he'd have one or two things to say re the true conditions that surrounded him. His works are unfortunately not widely distributed in Greece. A documentary about his life was broadcast just last year by the state TV station ET1:

Lefkadios Heran: yet another distinguished member of the Greek Diaspora (note how I ignore completely the Irish component - how Greek, eh?)



Thanks for posting these helpful & interesting sites in your comments, for those who would like more information. Hearn was a complex person and he was not comfortable as a European. He did not fit the mold. From what I have read, I sense that he was very proud of his Greek mother and his Greek roots.

Hearn had a half brother (they shared the same mother) whom he never met, although he corresponded with him. The letters, located here:

are insightful.

What inspired me to write about him was our mutual interest in Japan but also his ability to truly appreciate a non-Western culture without bringing all the accompanying baggage inherent in the way we are educated.

Even if only his great grandmother was Greek we would still be referring to him as a Greek. It's in the genes.


Fascinating post. It amused me to see how you redeemed your virtue. The voyeur in me always enjoys reading letters from the past, and so I also enjoyed reading Hearn's letters on the site you linked to. "Complex" sounds about right.

I'd love to go to Japan - and have had few encounters with Japanese people. I worked with one in Brussels, but he was unable to bring himself to make eye contact with any of us. I invited a Japanese fellow student to spend Christmas with us one year - she was transfixed by the open fire in our sitting room as she had never seen a fire in a house before. I, in my turn, was taken aback that she came from a family that had had no religious beliefs for three generations. The girls loved the origami papers she brought with her, and she played the piano like an angel. It was a strange Christmas as we were joined by another family from Tanzania, the youngest of whom had quite severe bowel problems. Goodness knows what the Japanese girl made of us all. It was a Christmas that none of us here will forget in a hurry.


Not half as fascinating as your two latest posts. As for virtue, I am not sure it is so easily redeemable.

The Japanese are as befuddled by us as we are by them. They are not afraid to adapt a Western import like baseball, yet they are able to somehow make it their own. BTW, Japanese history is as interesting as Greek history, with just as many highs and lows.

I would encourage you to visit Japan. It is an expensive proposition, though extremely worthwhile. I think you will be just as wonderstruck as your visitor. The Japanese are not very religious although they are spiritual. Maybe that is because they once believed their Emperor was God on earth and after the trauma of defeat, occupation and seeing pictures like this:

they began to have their doubts.

I am curious, what did you think of the two music videos? This musical form provides great background music when you are crying into your beer. Then again, it grates on some people's nerves.

I thought you would enjoy the letters.


I've looked at the YouTube clips now - perhaps you'd better educate us all in the "enka" style of singing? Not dissimilar to Portuguese fado (? and Greek rembetika) in the sad subjects covered?

Unsurprisingly, I think, I prefer the first (Yoko Nagayama) to the second, probably because the second is more traditional/conservative/Japanese in style. The first almost sounded Greek ... Both are very beautiful women.


I have to confess some ignorance on the subject. I can tell you it is very popular in Japan, a blending of the modern and traditional. Erika singers seem to prefer wearing traditional kimono which cost thousands of dollars. "Sad subjects" are something we all share irregardless of our ethnic background.

If you like Yoko you will love this clip which I wasn't able to embed:

I too was struck with some of the similarities to Greek music.


Stavros, I was nervous about mentioning the similarity that I heard between the Japanese "enka" music and some Greek music: I was just waiting to be shot down. But I found the answer! Both - unlike conventional Western European music -use a pentatonic scale (five notes in an octave), hence their similarity. The scale is shared with gypsy music and with my husband's bagpipes ...



I don't play a musical instrument, I can't sing, I took one course in music eons ago, but I have an ear for music and appreciate the differences and similarities. I think it was Thomas who pointed out in a previous discussion how musical traditions influence each other. Now I don't think that Japanese music and Greek music have had much opportunity to interact, (yet) however, we share a common humanity and emotions. Perhaps those elements come together occasionally to create similar music.


I've long been fascinated by the psychology of music ... why does particular music make us feel sad? Is it because we have been taught that it is sad (no, from experience watching my children) or that it just is sad. If so, why is it "just" sad? Because it apes tones of voice that we use when we are sad? Nobody knows (I've bought and cast aside several books on the subject), but that seems a likely explanation to me. If so, why should peoples the world over use similar tones to represent similar emotions? I keep on asking the questions, but nobody seems to have the answers ...

So, perhaps the pentatonic scale mimics the sad human voice, and perhaps the Japanese, the Greeks, and the Celts had more than most to be sad about?


As much a I like taking an occasional shot at answering your questions I will defer on this one. Too hard.

Suffering usually makes for better music and people, not that I am signing up for any, mind you.

I like a lot of music that does not seem to do much for others with similar backgrounds. in fact it sends them running for cover.

Here's some stuff I really like (sorry about the rap introduction on the Arab clip):

Hope you like at least one.


More homework? :)


You've already earned high marks. This is for extra credit. :)

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  • Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. C. P. Cavafy


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