Shimane prefecture, in the south-west of Japan facing the Japan Sea, has many shrines dedicated to the traditional Shinto gods, including the Izumo Taisha, Japan's oldest shrine where all the 8 million Shinto gods gather once a year in October. Hearn, a writer who feasted on legends and all manner of supernatural beliefs, was bewitched by Matsue, and his description of a day in the life of the small city in Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan is one of his masterpieces.

Hearn was an extraordinary character - half-Irish, half-Greek, he came to Japan in 1890 at the age of 40 with a commission from Harper's magazine in the US. He quickly fell in love with the country, settled down, married a Japanese woman, and took a Japanese name, Yakumo Koizumi. For 14 years until his death in 1904 he produced a series of books on Japan as it went through the first stage of its modernisation campaign to 'catch up with' the West. Today he is venerated by the Japanese as someone who shared their nostalgia for the 'old Japan', and even schoolchildren know his name. Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan was written after seven months spent in Matsue in 1891.

Today Matsue is a sleepy provincial city far from Tokyo, suffering from depopulation of its youth and kept alive largely by the patronage of Noboru Takeshita, the former prime minister with a penchant for money politics. But a century ago Matsue still maintained many of the old traditions of Japan, and was only slowly waking up to the modernisation of the country that had begun in the cities with the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Shimane prefecture, in the south-west of Japan facing the Japan Sea, has many shrines dedicated to the traditional Shinto gods, including the Izumo Taisha, Japan's oldest shrine where all the 8 million Shinto gods gather once a year in October. Hearn, a writer who feasted on legends and all manner of supernatural beliefs, was bewitched by Matsue, and his description of a day in the life of the small city in Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan is one of his masterpieces.

Hearn was an extraordinary character - half-Irish, half-Greek, he came to Japan in 1890 at the age of 40 with a commission from Harper's magazine in the US. He quickly fell in love with the country, settled down, married a Japanese woman, and took a Japanese name, Yakumo Koizumi. For 14 years until his death in 1904 he produced a series of books on Japan as it went through the first stage of its modernisation campaign to 'catch up with' the West. Today he is venerated by the Japanese as someone who shared their nostalgia for the 'old Japan', and even schoolchildren know his name. Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan was written after seven months spent in Matsue in 1891.

Today Matsue is a sleepy provincial city far from Tokyo, suffering from depopulation of its youth and kept alive largely by the patronage of Noboru Takeshita, the former prime minister with a penchant for money politics. But a century ago Matsue still maintained many of the old traditions of Japan, and was only slowly waking up to the modernisation of the country that had begun in the cities with the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

In Meiji era Japan, Taku, an idealistic activist politician and visionary entrepreneur, takes Emi, a 14-year-old gifted koto player, as his child bride. Their marriage is troubled by Taku's imprisonment, the onset of Emi's epilepsy, and the deaths of their babies. Emi, after finally having a healthy son, Jun, discovers that Taku is living a double life. He spends half his time living with Hana, the devastatingly beautiful, villainous ex-geisha and their four children. Emi's dream of a happy life and marriage is destroyed and her health declines with her spirit.

As Japan marches onward in its ill-conceived and ill-dated quest for supremacy in Asia, Emi Imura must embark on a poignant journey of self-definition that will change her life and that of a generation to follow.

Eight Million Gods and Demons , named after the number of deities in the Japanese pantheon, is the saga of the Imura family from the 1890s to the end of World War II. Exploring the complexities of marriage and family, the relationships between siblings, and the effect of war on life, it is a tale of love and loss as well as a history of modern Japan with its ambitions, demons, and downfall.

Kannazuki - Wikipedia


Eight Million Gods - amazon.com

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