Born in Greece to a Greek mother and an Irish father, a complex series of conflicts and events led to young Lafcadio Hearn being moved to Ireland, where he was abandoned first by his mother (leaving him in the care of her husband's aunt), then his father, and finally by his father's aunt, who had been appointed his official guardian. At the age of 19 he was put on a boat to the United States, where he found a job as newspaper reporter, first in Cincinnati, Ohio, and later in New Orleans. From there he was sent as a correspondent, first to the French West Indies, where he stayed for two years, and then to Japan, where he would remain for the rest of his life.
In Japan he married a Japanese woman with whom he had four children, and became a naturalized Japanese citizen. His writings about Japan offered the Western world a glimpse into a largely unknown but fascinating culture.