WHY A JAPANESE GARDEN ?
In 1890 Hearn travelled to Japan on an assignment for Harper’s magazine. His mission was to write for an American audience about this mysterious oriental country that had been cut off from the world for hundreds of years, and had not permitted entry of foreigners until the second half of the 19th century. Hearn was quickly captivated by the country and his first published work on Japan began with the words:
“There is some charm unutterable in the morning air, cool with the coolness of Japanese spring and wind-waves from the snowy cone of Fuji.”
He decided to stay in Japan and became an English teacher in the city of Matsue, where he married Setsu Koizumi, the daughter of a Samurai family. They had three sons and a daughter. Hearn adopted Japanese citizenship and took the Japanese name Koizumi that means a little spring. Their marriage is marked in the garden by the rock feature constructed at the source of a natural spring, which feeds all three ponds in the gardens, and by Sean Dunne’s poem, A Shrine for Lafcadio Hearn, which includes the evocative phrase ‘Loneliness ended in Matsue’.
When you pass under the fujidana, or wisteria frame, you quickly reach a delightful tea garden. Opposite it stands an ochaya or ceremonial Japanese tea house, which is unique in Ireland. The planting in this section of the gardens is now more recogniseable as Japanese, you have arrived in Japan.