When revelers head out the door on Fat Tuesday morning, chances are they’ll have three questions in mind:

Where can we park?

Which float is (friend or relative) riding on?

Who the heck is Lafcadio Hearn?

I can’t answer the first two queries, but I can address the third.

Hearn (1850-1904), the inspiration for this year’s Rex parade, was a writer and foodie extraordinaire whose life spanned three continents. He was born in Greece and lived in Europe before moving to the United States, where he spent slightly more than a decade in New Orleans. In 1890, after three years in the West Indies, Hearn moved to Japan, which became his home for the rest of his life.

In the 120 years since his death, Hearn has become an obscure literary figure. But at the end of the 19th century, he was just as celebrated as such writers as Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson, wrote Andrei Codrescu, the writer and longtime New Orleans-based NPR correspondent, in a Paris Review article in 2019.

“Lafcadio Hearn has been forgotten, with two remarkable exceptions: in Louisiana and in Japan,” Codrescu wrote.

The local obsession with Hearn will continue on Tuesday with the Rex parade’s theme, “The Two Worlds of Lafcadio Hearn,” which reflects Hearn’s fascination with New Orleans and Japan. Floats display Creole figures, including a cook and a trumpet-playing cockroach, and representations of Japanese myths with such fanciful figures as fairies, dragons and a never-empty bag of rice.

Beautiful imagery

Tuesday’s parade will mark the second time the Rex organization has paid homage to Hearn. The first was in 1989, when “Lafcadio Hearn’s Fantastics” was the parade’s theme.

Dr. Stephen Hales, the organization’s historian emeritus, said Hearn’s beautiful imagery is a natural for artistic representation on floats. And, he said, and the organization wanted to draw more attention to Hearn’s Japan-inspired work.

Hearn’s U.S. sojourn included time in Cincinnati and New Orleans. He worked as a reporter in both cities; a memorable passage from his work leaves no doubt about which he preferred.

Writing from New Orleans, Hearn acknowledged the city’s many shortcomings, but, he said, “It is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.”

Hearn arrived here in 1877 and stayed for slightly more than a decade. For five years, he lived in a Greek Revival double townhouse at 1565-67 Cleveland Ave. in the middle of what has become the city’s medical district. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Prolific writer and artist

He was nothing if not prolific. During his time in New Orleans, Hearn churned out dozens of newspaper articles, including Marie Laveau’s obituary, for The Daily City Item and The Times-Democrat, a forerunner of The Times-Picayune. In addition to his newspaper duties, Hearn wrote for Harper’s Weekly and Scribner’s Magazine.

As part of his fascination with the food he found in New Orleans, Hearn frequently embellished his culinary stories with recipes.

He also wrote three books: “Gombo z’hèbes: Little Dictionary of Creole Proverbs”; “La Cuisine Creole,” a compilation of local recipes that helped put New Orleans on the map as a food city; and “Chita: A Memory of Last Island,” a novella based on the devastating hurricane of 1856.

In addition to writing, Hearn carved about 200 woodcuts for newspapers showing daily life in the city.

Hearn’s artwork was no small feat: He had lost the sight in his left eye after a schoolyard accident as a teenager. Because that eye was discolored, he covered it when he was talking, and he showed only his right profile in photographs.

In 1887, Hearn moved to the West Indies as a correspondent for Harper’s Weekly. Three years later, he was sent to Japan as a correspondent, but that job didn’t last. He landed a post on the faculty of the Prefectural Common Middle School and Normal School in Matsue in western Japan and began a fascination with the island.

A life in Japan

Hearn was so besotted with Japan and its culture that he not only wrote about its folklore but changed his name to Koizumi Yakumo. He became a Japanese citizen and married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a Matsue samurai; they had four children.

A great-grandson, Bon Koizumi, director of the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum in Matsue, is in New Orleans for Mardi Gras with his wife, Shoko, at the invitation of the Rex organization.

This year’s parade is the latest of several Carnival salutes to Hearn. In addition to Rex’s tribute in its 1989 parade, the Knights of Momus celebrated his literature in 1906, and “A Reminiscence of Lafcadio Hearn” was the theme of the Twelfth Night Revelers’ ball in 1938.

In 2012, Hearn got his own krewe when the Krewe of Lafcadio held its first walking procession. The organization celebrates chefs and restaurateurs; its monarchs have included Susan Spicer, Frank Brigtsen, Alon Shaya and Leah Chase. The krewe marches in the French Quarter on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday.?

Rex rolls on Mardi Gras at 10:30 a.m.

Contact John Pope at pinckelopes@gmail.com.