Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Kwaidan

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) was a man between cultures -- quite a few of them, in fact. His father was Irish, but his mother was a Greek noblewoman. The one thing they had in common, apparently, was a fanatical devotion to Roman Catholicism; the one thing their son felt most strongly was an aversion to it. After an acrimonious separation, Lafcadio was packed off to Ireland to live with a series of relatives, each of whom abandoned his care to another; eventually he was sent off to a Catholic boarding school and later to a seminary, both of which only hardened his feelings. Hearn, as soon as he could, left for America, where he supported himself as a journalist, first in Cincinnati, then in New Orleans. From there, he went as a foreign correspondent, initially in the French West Indies and then in Japan. He was 40 years old when he arrived, and would only live to be 54, and yet it was in Japan that he made an international name for himself; he obtained a teaching job, married the daughter of a local samurai, and learned Japanese, which he came to speak fluently. His collections of Japanese stories, among which Kwaidan is the best known, have remained in print ever since; in 1965, three stories from this book were adapted by Masaki Kobayashi in his film Kwaidan. His life was also the basis for a play, "The Dream of a Summer Day," which toured Ireland in 2005.

Western audiences have always enjoyed tales of ghosts and, as Hearn calls them, "strange things." The Japanese settings of Hearn's tales have led some to accuse him of exoticizing Japanese culture, but these same stories have gained and retained popularity in Hearn's adopted homeland. The best of them have elements which appeal across cultures, and among them, the tales in Kwaidan rank among the finest tales of terror this side of Edgar Alan Poe.

22 comments:

  1. In “The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoiche”, a blind man by the name of Hoichi is led to a lord by a man with a deep and authoritative voice. This so called lord was temporarily residing in Akamagaeki and had heard of Hoichi’s amazing ability to recite the story of the battle of “Dan-no-ura”. Thhe lord sends his servant to retrieve Hoichi and as they return back to Akamagaeki, Hoichi belts his version of the battle. The lord shouted, “Never in our own province was playing heard like this!” Hoichi, sang belter than he ever had, so the woman servant told him that the lord requested a recitation every night for the next six nights and that this would remain completely confidential. Hoichi agreed to the request. Before Hoichi left to recite to the lord the next night, his priest caught him and inquired about his travels as Hoichi made up an alibi. The priest commanded his servants to follow Hoichi and as they followed they realized Hoichi became be-witched. The priest then commanded his servants to capture Hoichi and scrubbed him down to sterilize him, and the priest told Hoichi to ignore the voice of anyone affiliated with the lord in order to become un-bewitched again. He sat on his balcony all night and was involved with an altercation with the lord himself and as a result his ear was ripped off. The next morning as the priest went to check on Hoichi, he found him hurt and bloody and immediately felt guilty for Hoicis injuries. He was healed shortly after of all possessions and injuries and was then always known as “Hoichi the earless”.
    -Matthew Dallaire

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  2. In “The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi”, Hoichi is a blind man who was left alone at the temple while the priest was called to perform a Buddhist service at a house where a parishioner had just passed away. While Hoichi was at the temple, a stranger approached him saying he was sent to him with a message. He stated that someone was staying in Akamageseki with many noble attendants who wanted to hear Hoichi recite the battle of Dan-no-ura, as he heard he had much skill in reciting it. Hoichi went, as he did not want to disobey the order of a samurai. Hoichi then recited the battle at Dan-no-ura and returned home before the priest even knew he was gone. The next day, the samurai came for Hoichi again. Upon returned back to the temple the second time, the priest lectured him as to why he was going out alone considering he is blind. The priest felt that Hoichi may have been bewitched or tricked by evil spirits and ordered for his servants to keep an eye on Hoichi.
    - Rebecca Flores

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  3. In "The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi", Hoichi is a blind man who was left in a temple one night when the priest was called away to perform a buddhist service at a house where a parishioner just passed away. There Hôïchi waited for the priest's return, but midnight passed and the priest still didn't come back. While Hoichi was at the temple, he heard a voice, but it wasn't the priest. It was a stranger that had approached him and told him that he was told to come relay Hoichi a message. He said someone who was staying in Akamageseki wanted to hear Hoichi recite the battle of Dan-no-ura because they heard Hoichi had much skill reciting it. Hoichi agreed to this request and recited the battle and returned back to the temple before the priest found out he left. The priest found Hoichi hurt and bloody the next day lectured him why it wasn't a good idea to go out alone being blind. The priest felt guilty for his injuries and was healed shortly after.
    -Haley Grenier

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  4. within "The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi", a teenager by the name of Hoichi is struck with blindness. while the priest had been called away to go perform a buddhist service at a house where a parishioner just passed away, Hoichi was left alone in the temple one night. Hoichi had waited and waited for the priest to return, as midnight passed the priest was still no where to be found. As time had passed and Hoichi waited, a lord was temporarily residing in Akamagaeki and had heard of Hoichi’s amazing ability to recite the story of the battle of “Dan-no-ura”. the lord had asked him to recite the story of Dan-no-ura, and Hoichi had agreed to these demands. The priest would return the next morning to find Hoichi hurt and bleeding from the ears, as the lord has taken away his ears.
    Tyler Thomas

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  5. In this story, Hoichi is a blind man that is especially skilled in the biwa and is known for his recital of the battle of Dan-no-ura. Hoichi lived in the temple and one night when the priest was called away he was outside when a man approached with a message for Hoichi. After being guided to the place where he was to recite his story he questioned whether they wanted the entire story which would take several nights or just pieces. After telling the story the woman and lord were very pleased with his singing and demanded that he come back for the next six nights at the same hour, and the same man would come for him. However, he was not allowed to tell anyone of his visits because the lord was traveling incognito. Hoichi went again the next night however this time his absence from the temple was noticed. The priests believed he has been bewitched and ordered the servants to follow him if he leaves late at night again. So the next night Hoichi left and the servants followed and found him at the memorial tomb of Antoku Tenno, and they claimed he was bewitched. The priest explains that he has not been visiting a lord, he’s been sitting at the tomb singing, and he has been under the control of the dead and must protect his body tonight by writing holy texts on it. That night the dead came looking for him and Hoichi did not move. When the priest came looking for him the next day he saw blood coming from his ears, the only place that they hadn’t write the holy text on his body.

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    Replies
    1. I found this story interesting from a religious standpoint. How the priest felt that writing holy text over the body of Hoichi would save him, and how when he forgot the ears that was the only part harmed. Also when originally reading the story i thought that the priest was being unreasonable and that Hoichi was simply going to play for some, i was shocked when he actually was going to the graves of the dead and reciting his songs.

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  6. In the book Kwaidan "The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hōïchi" there is a young man named Hoichi. He is blind and is very skilled in biwa. He lived in a temple with a priest and a few others. One night the priest was called away to preform a Buddhist service at the house of a dead parishioner. He left Hoichi alone in the temple. Hoichi waited for the priest return and relieved his solitude by playing the biwa. The priest still did not show up. Soon enough a deep voiced called for Hoichi. The stranger calling out to Hoichi is a samurai. In the old days the Japanese could not disobey the orders of the Samurai. His orders were for Hoichi to play the biwa to the present high lord of exceedingly high rank. The stranger which he was the samurai guided Hoichi to the gate way of where the lord stayed. Hoichi played the biwa and returned back to the Temple without the priest knowing it. He has been playing for the dead and now they have him under their control. Far along the priest ends up finding out where Hoichi has been going along with the dead. The priest paints holy letters on Hoichi and tells him to remain calm, to not say a word when the ghost arrives. The ghost comes calling for Hoichi and he only sees his ears and ends up pulling them off.
    -Lina Nop

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  7. In the story of “Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi”, Hoichi is a blind man. One night, the priest was called away when someone passed away, Hoichi was left by himself within the temple one long night, patiently waiting for the priest to show back up to the temple, like he was supposed to. As the night passed, a man approached Hoichi with a message, suggesting to recite the story of “Dan-no-ura”. The women and lord were very pleased with the story, wanting to come back for the next few days, but Hoichi must go behind the back of the priest. As Hoichi continues to go and share his story reciting to the lord, the priest notices his absence and sends his servants to go see what he has been up to. The priest assumed Hoichi had been bewitched. The priest felt he should “bewitch” Hoichi, where they get into an argument, resulting in Hoichi’s ear being ripped off. The next morning, Hoichi was found covered in blood and in much pain.

    Response done by Jennifer Gesualdi

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  8. Hoichi is a blind man in the story of “The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi.” He was left alone one night when a priest had to serve at the house of a parishioner who had just passed away. Much time had passed as Hoichi waited for the priest to return. After midnight a man arrived had suddenly with knowledge that Hoichi could recite the story of Dan-no-ura. The lord asked that Hoichi recite this story in front of many people. The woman and lord were very happy with the way in which he told this story and asked him to come back for six nights and the lord would come for him each night. However, they said not to tell anyone that he was doing this because the lord was traveling in secret. On his second trip, the people at the temple noticed he was gone. The priests ordered the servants of the temple to follow Hoichi, because they were convinced that he was bewitched. In order to protect him from the dead wo had bewitched Hoichi the priests wrote holy texts all over Hoichi’s body. When the lord came for Hoichi again the texts protected him from moving. However, the holy text was only able to protect Hoichi where it was written. Therefore, his ears were cut off because the text was not written there.

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  9. In “The Story of Mimi- Nashi-Hoichi”, a blind man by the name of Hoichi, was alone one night while a priest was called to perform a Buddhist service. It was for a parishioner who had just passed away. After time passed waiting for the priest to return Hoichi heard a voice, however it was not the priest. The stranger told Hoichi someone wanted him to recite the battle of Dan- no- ura. They had heard that he had much skill in reciting it. Hoichi agreed to the request from the people in Akamageseki, and recited the battle. He returned to the temple before the priest found out that he had left. On his second trip of leaving the temple people realized he had left. The priest ordered the servants to follow Hoichi because they were convinced that he was bewitched. He must protect his body by writing holy texts on it the priest explained. The dead came looking for him that night but Hoichi did not move. The next day the priest came and he saw blood coming from his ears. That was the only place the holy text was not written on his body to protect him.

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  10. I love a good ghost story, ones that send chills down my spine. These Japanese ghost stories are strange compared to the ghost stories we usually hear. The ghost stories here are usually just house or territory hauntings, with moving objects and the ghost trying to scare you. Rarely do ghosts cause anyone harm, unless it is a demon. In these Japanese stories the ghost seem very violent for example, the ghost that ripped Hoichi’s ears and the snow lady who freezes people to death. I did enjoy them, the stories where different from what I've read. Its nice to experience other cultures.

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  11. In the story of Mimi- Nashi-Hoichi, Hoichi is a blind man who lives at a temple. The story begins with the night the priest left to preform a device leaving Hoichi alone. A man then appeared and told Hoichi how he had heard of his skill reciting the great battle while playing the biwa. He followed the man and unknowingly played to the spirits of the fallen Heike. They loved his performance, and requested him back a second night where he was unknowingly followed by servants from the temple on order of the priest. There they saw that he was actually playing to ghosts. When the servants dragged Hoichi back to the temple and the story of what had happened was recanted to the priest he informed Hoichi of the danger he was in. That night he covered Hoichi's whole body in the holy text to protect him from the ghosts, however they forgot his ears. When the shoat came for Hoichi he could see nothing but his ears which he ripped off. He was able to recover and became a very wealthy man.
    Katie Cunningham

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  12. When I found out we were reading Kwaidan and looked up some background on it, I was excited. I have always loved Japanese culture and in the past have even taken a class to learn the language. This goes back to my deep love of anime from when I was a child that continued on into adulthood. Another aspect I found interestingly cool was how the author was not in fact Japanese, but Irish. And after learning more about him, being Irish myself, loving the culture, and horror itself; I don't know it kind of makes me feel proud for some strange reason to be Irish as well.
    Anyway in my opinion, Japan has some of the best horror movies and tales.
    The first story we read in Kwaidan is about a young blind man named Hoichi who lives in a temple and ends up in grave danger after unknowingly following a spirit to play the biwa for a dead emperor and his servants. When he finds out what is truly going on the priest of the temple tried to help him by putting holy text all over his body to shield him from the spirit. However, the priests had forgotten Hoichi's ears, so the spirit ended up ripping them off. The story ends with Hoichi becoming a very wealthy and popular biwa player; despite having no ears. It's just, there is something different about these types of stories that are so different than the average horror flicks America puts out today. These stories in Kwaidan are all unique.
    -Kelley Jean Horrigan

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  13. I have not been exposed to much Japanese readings, however I found it quite interesting and twisted. The way that the Japanese tell their stories is much different than what we are used to here in the United States. I did enjoy the reading and at times I found myself getting lost in the story. Overall I wish we had more time to spend on things like this, I would be interested to read different genres of this type of literature

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  14. This was my first time having a Japanese reading, it was much different from other readings we had. It was interesting and different, it caught my eye simply because of that. Overall I've enjoyed reading this.
    -Anna Root

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  15. After reading the story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi and Yuki-Onna, I can say that Japanese ghost stories are far different than any traditional ghost story I have heard, or any horror movie that I have seen. The short stories in Kwaidan are eerie and creepy, whereas the horror movies that I am accustomed to are frightening or scary. These Japanese ghost stories gave me chills and made me shudder, unlike typical horror movies that startle me to the point where I scream. Because of the Kwaidan’s eeriness, I can definitely see similarities to Edgar Alan Poe’s poems. Like Poe’s poetry, the gloominess of Hearn’s writings made me wonder how a human being could construct such a creepy and chilling fictional tale. Hearn’s short stories in Kwaidan are uncanny, bizarre, and therefore, I find them to be impressive.
    Mary Beth Mennucci

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  16. I have never ready anything quite like this. While it was not my favorite style of reading it was certainly interesting. I do enjoy ghost stories but this was not as frightening as it was odd and gory, like when Hoichi's ears were ripped off. Thats usually something seen in a rated R film, which are always the most entertaining.

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  17. In watching this film in class, I thought it was very different from the type of horror than I am used to watching and reading. The film although not being shot in the greatest setting in terms of realism, conveys a unique story of a guy named Hoichi who is dealing with hearing voices of a ghost. The story is inttriging as Hoichi believes he should obey the orders of the ghost. When the Buddha finally convice Hoichi that he needs to stop listening to the voices he is hearing and turn them away he struggles to do this but finally agrees. The scene where the ghost goes to visit Hoichi and finds that he is no longer listening to him and then proceeds to rip Hoichi's ears off are very intense and gruesome!

    Written by Jorge Gil

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  18. The stories in Kwaidan were very interesting because they seemed almost relatable. Some of the stories in them had a sense of horror and mystery in them like I was in 5th grade again reading “scary stories to tell in the dark” or a brothers grimm fairytale. All of the tales were new stories to me, but felt familiar which made them easy and fun to read. Watching the stories in class was also another interesting way to visualize the material. The scenes were done differently from how I imagined them in my original reading but made sense when considering the origin of the stories.

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  19. Rebecca PotrzebaMarch 1, 2016 at 6:28 AM

    The stories in Kwaidan are very different than that average norm. I think that since they are so different, that they do attract readers. People like new things, and new approaches are interesting. It is a violent and gorey attitude towards a ghost story, and something that I am not used to reading. I did like being able to see a different approach on the genre, but would not be something I would choose to read.

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  20. i think these stories were very interesting. The most interesting to me is the difference between ghost stories from 1904 to present day. the stories back then are more detailed and what seems to need the necessity of a large imagination. Of course theres always the debate if the story is true or not. More importantly is the detail and storyline of the tales. Today we lead up to suspense and tell the stories more of like bragging rights to say that i experienced this and you did not only i can tell the real story where as back then these stories were for information, entertainment maybe. overall they were strange stories but interesting.

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  21. This book of many Japanese horror stories was a good read that I enjoyed. I found it weird how he actually listened to the ghosts that he was hearing. It also seems as though he is obsessed with death. There was little to no remorse shown here. I think many of the spirits in this story use human appearances to disguise themselves. I also found it odd yet interesting that Hoichi was painted in different symbols on his body for the protection from the ghosts. The ghosts would go to him with orders and when Hoichi chose not to follow them they would harm him. This just seemed absurd to me.

    -Jennifer Praticante

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