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Launch of bilingual book of Japanese folklore

30 November 2018

A unique bilingual (Irish-English) book of Japanese folklore and ghost stories – Sayonara - will be launched by The North West Japanese Cultural Group in Derry on Saturday 8th December at a special event hosted by the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor John Boyle.

Sayonara consists of twenty-three Japanese folk stories and ghost stories collected by Irish-Greek writer Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, and includes a selection of essays written by the author and presented in a dual language, Irish-English format.

Hearn was born in Lafkada Island in Greece in 1850 and spent his childhood in Dublin, Ireland, his father's country, and moved to America when he was 19. After achieving success as a journalist, he made a trip to an "unknown country" – Japan - when he was 40. He was fascinated by Japan, its culture and its people. He eventually married a Japanese woman and became naturalised. He was fond of Japanese folk tales, particularly ghost stories and his transcriptions of these stories into English were published in the U.S. and Europe. Japanese writers were reacquainted with the richness and value of the folklore and had the stories re-translated and published in Japanese.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Junko Okura, secretary of the North West Japanese Cultural Group said "Hearn is very well-known and respected in Japan. There are memorial museums in the cities that he lived in. Children who don't even know the author’s name are familiar with the ghosts featured in the stories that he collected. If it weren't for Hearn, lots of these ghost stories would most probably have been completely forgotten about."

The original English text in the book has been translated into Irish by Derry-born Irish language speaker Pádraig Mac Cearáin. Clare McCay, who was born in Japan, brings this influence to bear on her series of beautiful illustrations which accompany the text in the book. 

Ciarán Ó Pronntaigh, editor of Sayonara said, "In recent years we have seen increased efforts to remember Hearn in Ireland. Japanese gardens named after the author were opened at Tramore, Co. Waterford three years ago and two years ago, a rehearsed reading of his works by a famous Japanese actor was performed in cities throughout Ireland. I hope the launch of this book will introduce local people to the beauty of Japanese folklore which are featured both in English and in Irish in this beautifully-illustrated book."

The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr. John Boyle will officially launch the book on Saturday 8th December at 4:30pm at Holywell Trust, 10-14 Bishop St, Derry/L' Derry. Attendees at the launch will be able to enjoy a performance of a reading from the book "Yuki-Onna (Fairy Woman of Snow/Bean Sí Sneachta)". The book will be available on the day of the launch and afterwards from [email protected] or [email protected].