Genji Monogatari


Genji Monogatari 源氏物語

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


The Tale of Genji, Genji Monogatari  源氏物語  is full of seasonal aspects.
The famous scroll (emaki) about this story was one of my first introductions to Japanese art when studying at Heidelberg University in 1967.

Gabi Greve


Yugiri Memorial Day, Yuugiri Ki 夕霧忌 (ゆうぎりき)
kigo for early spring

Yugiri was a famous courtesan who died on January 9, 1678 (延宝6) in the Shimabara pleasure quarters of Osaka. Her death day is also given as February 22 or 27.
Yugiri the First, Yugiri Dayu 夕霧太夫
She is burried in the Temple Jokoku-Ji 浄国寺 in Osaka. She and her lover Fujiya Izaemon became famous characters of the puppet theater and later the Osaka Kabuki.
She took her nickname from the Tale of Genji.

Oosaka no oboro yo sate mo Yuugiri Ki  

the misty moon
of Osaka and now
Yugiri Memorial Day

Yamagami Kimio 山上樹実雄 
Tr. Gabi Greve

. Yugiri Tayu at the temple Seiryo-Ji .

Yugiri the Second
was born in 1920. She is the famous actress Nakamura Yoshiko 中村 芳子. She took the name of YUGIRI in November 1980.

Yugiri (Evening Mist) is the son of Genji and Aoi.
He eventually becomes an important minister of state.

FAN with Yugiri Illustration
Fan with Yugiri Illustration


Read Isabelle Prondzynski on the subject:
March 2007

Today, for the third time in a little over three months, I was sitting in the dentist's waiting room -- and had just enough time to pen this into my notebook :

waiting room --
thinking about the seasons
in Genji

The "Tale of Genji" was written about a thousand years ago. I have been reading this book since Christmas, and am about a third of the way through. Beautiful translation. Beautiful story... I am still amazed by it...! A Japan that so resembles the Japan I know, and also a Japan that does not resemble it at all... all in all, though, the similarities win.

The seasons. The book is full of the seasons. Festivals take up a lot of time. Nature is described. Ladies who play an important part in the book, are called by the name of the seasonal flower with which Genji first associates them. We never find out their real names.

There are seasonal food, seasonal dress, seasonal activities, as well of course as seasonal nature, amply and beautifully set out.

What struck me deeply was the section where Genji was exiled from the capital and settled in a remote part of the coast, far from home. He took few people and few possessions with him and lived a life of simplicity and meditation. And yet, the young woman he loved, in the capital, was moved to send him seasonal clothes whenever the season changed -- and I certainly understood by this not just lighter or heavier clothes, but seasonal colours and patterns and materials.

In writing haiku, we are following an ancient and much respected tradition!

Last week, when I had a moment to enjoy in the Japanese bookshop, I found all the cherry blossom tableware reduced by 30 percent -- shifting the dishes to make room for those of the next season! And one of the books prominently displayed, was about the colours and tones of the seasons, showing the reader what colours to use when setting the table, depending on the season of the meal.

Which reminded me of what my friend in Osaka told me last year -- foreign companies needed to understand that, in Japan, consumers buy according to the season. The chocolate bar Kit Kat (Nestle, no less!) had been a total flop until the manufacturers realised that they needed to make it seasonal. So, when I was there, a "spring" variety (delicious!) was on sale, available only in Japan. And Kit Kat picked up again.
Quoted from : Translating Haiku Forum


Quote from the Wikipedia

Lady Asagao

The Tale of Genji (源氏物語, Genji Monogatari) is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early eleventh century, around the peak of the Heian Period. It is sometimes called the world's first novel, the first modern novel, or the first novel to still be considered a classic.

Lady Wakamurasaki

The tale concentrates on Genji's romantic life and describes the customs of the aristocratic society of the time. Much is made of Genji's good looks. His most important personality trait is the loyalty he shows to all the women in his life, as he never abandons any of his wives. When he finally becomes the most powerful man in the capital, he moves into a palace and provides for each of them.

This votiv tablet at Nonomiya Shrine in Kyoto illustrates a scene from the Genji.

© PHOTOS and text : Wikipedia
Read more details in the Wikipedia please.

Names of the seasons

Lady Aoi no Ue 葵の上 Lady Hollycock, Lady Heartvine
. Lady Asagao 朝顔 .
Lady Fujitsubo 藤壺 Lady Wisteria
Lady Hanachiru sato 花散里 Lady of the Village with Scattered Flowers
Lady Kiritsubo 桐壺 Consort Lady Paulownia
Lady Murasaki no Ue 紫の上 Lady Lavender
Lady Oborozukiyo 朧月夜 Lady Misty Spring Moon
Lady Suetsumu Hana 末摘花 Lady Safflower


. Lady Rokujo 源氏 六条 .
ikiryoo 生霊 . 生き霊 Ikiryo“living spirit”
ushi no koku mairi 丑の刻参り The double-hour of the bull
from one to 3 at night used for a curse.

Chapter 28 : Nowaki 野分 Typhoon
第二十八帖 野分
. Nowaki 野分 .


A complete copied manuscript of Genji from the Muromachi era has been found in Tokyo.

 © www.yomiuri.co.jp. July 12, 2008

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

CLICK for amazon.com


Kigo used in the Tale of Genji
Nishimura Kazuko, September 2007


. . . . . 紫式部

月岡芳年 "月百姿 石山月" Lady Murasaki at Ishiyama

Lady Purple or Lady Violett ?

Murasaki Shikibu
Discussing the translation of MURASAKI !
Daruma Forum

Temple Ishiyamadera and Murasaki Shikibu

Murasaki 紫 and Haiku ... Violett and Purple


Incense and the Genji Monogatari

CLICK for more pottery samples !

A scene from
Lady Aoi no Ue 葵の上 Lady Hollycock, Lady Heartvine

- quote -
Prince Genji, who was married to his wife Lady Aoi at a young age, has taken a mistress, Lady Rokujo.
- reference : wikipedia -


- - - - - External LINKS

Dolls in the Tale of Genji


草も木も 源氏の風や とぶ蛍
kusa mo ki mo genji no kaze ya tobu hotaru

in grass, in trees
the army of the Genji ...
fireflies flit

Issa (Tr. David Lanoue)

Related words

***** Yodo, Ooyodo 大淀 old name for Osaka

Ooyodo ya oo-akebono no nme no hana

Oyodo Town--
plum blossoms the colors
of dawn

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. David Lanoue

Dawn and Haiku

Yodo-dono (淀殿) or Yodogimi (淀君)
(1569 – 1615)
was a prominently-placed figure in late-Sengoku period.
Her mother, Oichi (O-Ichi) was the younger sister of Oda Nobunaga.
She was a concubine and second wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was then the most powerful man in Japan. She also became the mother of his son and successor, Hideyori. She was also known as Lady Chacha, Chacha dono (茶々). After the death of Hideyoshi, she took the tonsure, becoming a Buddhist nun and taking the name Daikōin (大広院).
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


Diary of a Thirteen-year-old Girl in Heian Japan
Sarashina Nikki 更級日記
One thousand years ago an ultimate bookworm, had a dream. The girl's desire was to obtain all the volumes of the famous Japanese novel, The Tale of Genji. Today, she might be considered goth or a geek. Her aunt was the author of the poetic Kagero Diary and delighted her niece by giving her a complete set of The Tale of Genji. In those days, books were copied by hand and passed around by chapters, as most early books were, so it was very special to be given a complete one. Sarashina (b 1008) became the poetic diarist of the Sarashina Diary.

Read more at Suite101:
source : www.suite101.co


***** Genji fire flies (genji botaru)
This is a reference to another tale of the Genji clan.

***** . genjimushi, genji mushi
源氏虫(げんじむし) "Genji insect"

another name for the kabutomushi 兜虫, rhinoceros beetle.

***** Memorial Days of Famous People / SAIJIKI


- quote -
A Fake Murasaki and a Rural Genji
(Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji) 偐紫田舎源氏

Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji (A Fake Murasaki and a Rural Genji)
is an ezōshi with a series of long stories adapted from the "Tale of Genji", the first issue of which was released in 1829. After that 38 books (each with 4 volumes) were issued in total.
The author, Ryūtei Tanehiko (1783-1842) came from the Hamato family, who were direct retainers to the Shogun, and studied Japanese classical literature. He completed the work as a kind of mystery with the taste of the worlds of kabuki and jōruri, referring to commentaries and other easy-to-understand descriptions of the "Tale of Genji."
The scenes introduced here are the covers and illustrations depicted on the two volumes in one:
Mitsu-uji, a lead character, is handing over a secret letter disguised as a love letter tied to the branch of Japanese wisteria on the cover of the second volume and
Fuji-no-kata (Fujitsubo-no-nyogo, a court lady) in a haori jacket is receiving the letter on the cover of the first volume.
In 1842, the book was forced to go out of print. One reason was that the life of Mitsu-uji was rumored to reflect those of the Shogun at that time, Tokugawa Ienari, and his official concubines.
The 39th and 40th volume remain as drafts.
- Tokyo Metropolitan Library -


- #genjimonogatari #taleofgenji -


Anonymous said...


What I read today, spoke to me of economy of expression. In Chapter 26 ("Wild Carnations"), Tô no Chûjô visits one of his daughters :

Quote :

The Omi daughter was small and pretty and had beautiful hair, and could by no means have been described as an unrelieved scandal --
though a narrow forehead and a too exuberant and indeed a torrential way of speaking cancelled out her good points.


Later in the conversation, her father says (quoting again) :

"... if you do wish to demonstrate your keen sense of duty, then see if you can't manage to let your words have a little more room. Space them a little more generously. Let them be drawn out a little more and I will feel that the years of my life are being drawn out with them." He smiled at his little joke.

"I've always had the fastest tongue. Mother scolded me for it, way back when I was a baby. The steward of Myôhôji Temple, she said, it was all his fault.

He was there when I was born way out in Omi, and he had the fastest tongue too, and that was where I got it. I'll see what I can do about it." She said it most solemnly, as if prepared to sacrifice anything in the cause of filial duty.


So, the foundations for haiku were being laid...

To me, the girl, whenever she opens her mouth, sounds like the chirpiest of Irish colleens! And so out of place in her environment...


Gabi Greve said...

All the stories online

This site aims to promote a wider understanding and appreciation of The Tale of Genji - the 11th Century Japanese classic written by a Heian court lady known as Murasaki Shikibu. It also serves as a kind of travel guide to the world of Genji.



Anonymous said...


© Japan Times, Aug. 12, 2007

Japan's Paradise Lived
— by the Heian Period's very privileged few


It's a strange world we're about to enter.

If I were the organizing type I would set up a "Heian Society." In flowing robes and court caps, we would compose pun-laden poems simultaneously lamenting and celebrating the transience of life and beauty. Wine would flow, inhibitions dissolve, talk grow heated. What would we talk about? Why — about the things that matter: the seasons, the moon. Which season is more conducive to poetry — spring or autumn? Which moon — the misty one of spring, or the clear one of autumn — does more justice to the music of flute and koto?

Heian Japan: a world that lasted nearly 400 years, from 794 to 1185, and yet "has disappeared from the face of the Earth far more completely than ancient Rome," as the cultural historian Ivan Morris remarked. Not even ruins remain, only a voluminous literature; and the thought and ethical standards it reveals are as extinct as child sacrifice, though certainly not as brutal.

We see what we see of Heian through a double veil — that of time, which has no mercy on flower gardens and wooden architecture, and that of dimness, for even to its denizens it was sunk in indescribable murk. "Women in particular," writes Morris, "lived in a state of almost perpetual twilight. As if the rooms were not already dark enough, they [the women] normally immured themselves behind thick silk hangings or screens."

When we read, therefore, of lovers coupling without knowing precisely who with, we need not be too surprised. It happens quite often.

* * * * *

Heian Japan may well be the narrowest advanced civilization in world history.

The population of Japan in the 10th century was roughly 5 million. That of Heiankyo (present-day Kyoto) was about 100,000, making it far larger than any European city of the time, however insignificant it would have looked set beside its contemporary model, China's capital Chang'an (population 2 million).

Of the 5 million Japanese, 4,995,000 were of no interest whatever to the 5,000-odd members of the ranked nobility. Those millions may as well not have existed, and when, very occasionally, their representatives do make cameo appearances in the literature, they are likened — not maliciously, but simply as a matter of course — to beasts. Among the many refined talents of Heian's aristocratic would-be poets, painters, musicians, garden designers, perfume-blenders and so on, was that of remaining blissfully unaware of what did not directly concern them — and that covered just about the entire world, minus the tiny sliver of it deemed worthy of notice in classical Chinese and Japanese poetry.

My "Heian Society" would be similarly exclusive.

Modern life is altogether too distracting. Too much goes on in too many places. Away with it, therefore.

* * * * *

Heian is a bower for lovers. Much of the poetry is love poetry, and the towering literary classic of the age, "The Tale of Genji," is above all a tale of love — loves, rather, for monogamy is not a Heian virtue. On the contrary — polygamy was the norm and monogamy generally looked down upon. Only one author makes a case for it, a very forceful one grounded in personal anguish. Her literary rebellion, set down in a memoir known in English either as "The Gossamer Years" or "The Gossamer Diary" (we'll call her Lady Gossamer, since her name is unknown), makes her unique among contemporaries who, whatever they suffer, do not dream of challenging existing mores. The world was the world; one took it or left it, and leaving it meant taking holy orders and abandoning oneself to one's prayers.

Love. It is inseparable from our perception of Heian, and 1,000 years' worth of commentary (some 10,000 volumes are said to exist on "Genji" alone) has weighed the moral, immoral or amoral significance of what to every succeeding age, Japanese and foreign, have seemed highly peculiar courtship rituals.

Any number of examples might be cited. This one comes from very early in "The Tale of Genji," and the extraordinary thing about it is not the attempted seduction (though to a modern reader it seems more like attempted rape), but its failure. The woman's determined resistance is not, as it normally would be, for form's sake only. She really means it; she will have nothing to do with the shining Genji — not because she is a married woman, the wife of Genji's host, or because she resents Genji's highhanded assumption that the powerful longings aroused in him by an accidental glimpse of her are to be satisfied as a matter of right, or because she finds him unattractive (she most certainly does not), but because of her painful awareness of her own inferior social status relative to his. A look at how the episode plays out will give us an idea of what Heian lovemaking was like.

Genji at 17 has been married for five years — unhappily, as was generally the case with first marriages arranged by parents with an eye toward political advancement. A directional taboo (the requirement to avoid a certain direction so as not to disturb gods whose movements were predictable and charted) offered a convenient excuse for avoiding his wife's vicinity, and Genji, accompanied by a modest retinue of attendants and outrunners, inveigles an invitation from a provincial governor to spend the night at his estate. It is the elderly governor's young wife who draws Genji's attention.

She is the subject of talk as the wine cups are passed around, and Genji, waiting till the other revelers have passed out, sets off in search of her. Outside her pavilion he overhears her talking with her 12-year-old brother; her attendant, he learns, is out for a bath; the brother (suborned earlier as Genji's spy) makes himself scarce, and she is alone. Genji slips inside. The lady gasps, but Genji hastens to soothe her:

"You are perfectly correct if you think me unable to control myself. But I wish you to know that I have been thinking of you for a very long time. And the fact that I have finally found my opportunity and am taking advantage of it should show that my feelings are by no means shallow."

The narrator comments: "The little figure, pathetically fragile and as if on the point of expiring from the shock, seemed to him very beautiful."

"I promise you," Genji assures her, "that I will do nothing unseemly."

"She was so small," resumes the narrator, "that he lifted her easily." The attendant, back from the bath, is struck dumb with astonishment — partly feigned, no doubt. "Come for her in the morning," says Genji, sliding the doors closed.

The lady would seem to be at his mercy, but "naturally soft and pliant, she was suddenly firm." When at last she masters her weeping and is able to speak, the bitterness she expresses is not at Genji's presumptions, but at the lowly status (provincial governors were a despised class) that makes her unworthy of such a suitor.

No wonder Heian's sexual mores have surpassed the understanding of later ages. Confucian and Victorian critics have lavished much outrage on them. To us, neither Confucian nor Victorian, a semi-tolerant bewilderment seems more in order.

Bewilderment is not always an unsatisfying emotion; my "Heian Society" would not seek to transcend it. We will disapprove when disapproval seems called for — not forgetting, however, how little we see of what there was, and how little we understand of what we see. We will keep in mind that, for all his promiscuity, the Heian nobleman was unfailingly observant of the minutely intricate unwritten code which constituted his highest (maybe his only) ethical standard — the code of good taste. This is true even of Genji — maybe (at the risk of deepening our bewilderment) especially of Genji.

* * * * *

So much for sex. It consumed much time and energy, but it was not, after all, everything, was it?

What of friendship, of non-sexual intimacy? Yes, there was that too, and Paul Gordon Schalow, who teaches Japanese literature at Rutgers University in New Jersey, rescues the question from an unmerited oblivion. His illuminating study, titled "A Poetics of Courtly Male Friendship in Heian Japan," was published earlier this year.

As friends, Heian courtiers seem closer to us than they do as lovers, and yet here too we must not expect an exact correspondence between their idea of friendship and ours.

Western literature is full of intimate male friendships — Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Hamlet and Horatio, Huckleberry Finn and the runaway slave Jim, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and so on. These friendships unfold through shared adventure and danger — the typical bonds between man and man, as love and sex are between man and woman. In Heian Japan, though, there are no adventures to share. How can there be, when physical activity of all sorts (erotic exertion excepted) is deemed vulgar, and inactivity to the point of immobility slows daily life to what now seems a stupefying crawl?

But their friendships and ours have this in common: They show that it is not enough to be loved. We want to be understood as well, and Schalow's theme — his definition of Heian friendship — is "the Heian nobleman's desire to be known and appreciated by a kindred spirit."

* * * * *

Imagine a bureaucrat reprimanding a subordinate for insufficient zeal. Now imagine the scene unfolding in verse. This is the Heian way — almost everything unfolds in verse. Lady Gossamer gives us a front-row-center view. She is a very gloomy lady, and her diary is on the whole a profoundly gloomy book, but in her account of her philandering husband's brush with his friend and superior at the Ministry of War, we catch her in a rare smile.

A brief background sketch: Lady Gossamer (936?-995) is unhappily married to her kinsman, Fujiwara Kaneie (929-990), a leading statesman of the day. She wants a husband, she says, "thirty days and thirty nights a month." But Kaneie has eight other wives to please, and numerous lovers besides, and Lady Gossamer asks the impossible — as she well knows.

"I concluded," she writes, "that my unhappiness was part of my inescapable destiny, determined from former lives, and must be accepted as such."

In 962, Kaneie was promoted up the ranked Chinese-style noble hierarchy, "and then there came a somewhat happier period." The promotion had a catch — it included a posting to the war ministry as deputy minister. Committed to peace and contemptuous of war as perhaps no other early civilization was, the Heian war ministry was turned into a purely ceremonial office. Kaneie's chagrin, and his truancy, are understandable. "The post was so distasteful," writes Lady Gossamer, "that he quite ignored his official duties and spent his time on more interesting projects, and sometimes we had two and three days together in pleasant idleness.

"The Minister [of War], his superior," she continues, "sent over a poem asking why [Kaneie] never came to the office: 'Threads in the same skein. Why then do they not meet?' "

Dreadful official reprimand!

To which Kaneie replied: "How sad to be told that being of the same skein should mean so little."

The Minister: "It is proper to take in silk while the summer is high; and while we are tending to our two and three strands, the time somehow slips by."

Kaneie: "And is one's time to be taken up by a poor two or three strands? Count mine rather as the seven white skeins of the old song."

What on Earth is going on?

First of all, of course, the gentlemen are indulging in the ubiquitous Heian virtue — it seems like a vice to us — of never saying anything directly that can be obliquely alluded to.

The first poem, explains Schalow, "expresses [the minister's] hope of friendship with Kaneie, since fate has brought the two men together in the same office, but it also suggests the possibility of betrayal of that hope. . . . Kaneie responds with an avowal of his devotion to [the minister]. He first asserts how pained he is that [the minister] might doubt his attentiveness, and he then affirms his hope of sharing an ongoing bond with [the minister], based on their shared positions in the War Ministry."

This brings us to the figure of "taking in silk while the summer is high." Will it astonish anyone to learn that this refers to love affairs? Note Kaneie's pique at the minister's suggestion that only "two or three strands [lovers]" are involved; seven, he retorts, is more like it. The "old song" he mentions goes: "I have taken seven skeins of white thread and woven a cloak for you — leave that woman, come live with me."

Kaneie's neglect of his office duties, evidently not so very serious, serves as a pretext for a little friendly locker-room banter among men who understand each other and share an open secret: the War Ministry is a drag and love comes first.

In a subsequent poetic exchange between the two elegant rakes, the minister writes, "And who, among those who travel the mud-spattered way, does not get his sleeves wet in this disturbing downpour?"

Wet sleeves signify tears, and the "mud-spattered way," thanks to a pun (Heian poetry overflows with puns) on koiji — "muddy way" and "way of love" — suggests the vicissitudes of a life devoted to love.

Kaneie replies: "And those who regularly follow the muddy path have few nights to dry their sleeves."

Take Schalow's word for it: "Kaneie's reply seems to flatter [the minister] for the vast extent of his erotic adventures."

So this appears to be how friendship between men could play out in those far-distant times.

Somewhat mysterious, however, is Lady Gossamer's apparent amusement over an exchange that plainly mocks her own longing for a husband exclusively devoted to her.

Schalow ventures one hypothesis, ingenious if not altogether convincing: We must "imagine [Lady Gossamer] as an artist . . . writing a fictional narrative or tale, not a truthful account of her own feelings of jealousy as would be expected in a more naively factual autobiography or memoir. Attuned to the ways in which she can create an idealized image of her husband, she devised a depiction of male friendship to make him the hero of her narrative. Thus, in her act of writing, [Lady Gossamer] achieves a mastery of the man that eluded her in her married life."

* * * * *

'The Tale of Genji," in contrast to"The GossamerYears," is pure fiction, and to its author, court lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu (975?-1015?), must go the credit for almost single-handedly inventing the novel as we know it.

"[T]he awareness that an imagined predicament can be made more real than a real one required a great leap of the imagination," observes "Genji" (and "Gossamer") translator Edward Seidensticker, "and Murasaki Shikibu made it by herself."

Of love, though notoriously shy and withdrawn, she seems to have known all the emotional vagaries — whether or not through personal experience is beside the point. And what did she not know of friendship? There are many pairs of friends in "The Tale of Genji," none more intimate than Genji, the hero, and his brother-in-law To no Chujo.

We first encounter them together as teenagers deep in boyish talk about their love lives and the bewildering variety of women they have noticed there are in the world.

Their friendship, now spiced, now threatened, but never sundered by sexual and political rivalry, proves lifelong.

Their final scene together is one in which, aware now as never before that for all its beauty this is a world of sorrow, the two aging statesmen mourn (in verse) the death of the peerless lady who meant more to Genji than all the others.

To the extent that friendship implies equality, this one is somewhat lopsided. Genji's superiority is never in doubt — at least it is never supposed to be.

Murasaki Shikibu sometimes lays an almost unkind stress on it: "To no Chujo was a handsome youth who carried himself well, but beside Genji he was like a nondescript mountain shrub beside a blossoming cherry."

Interestingly enough, To no Chujo betrays not the faintest jealousy, ever. He is altogether a superb character, subject in later life to fits of irritable misjudgment when the weight of the world seems to sit too heavily on his shoulders, but of such an expansive nature that his generous impulses usually triumph. There are times indeed when the reader is tempted to question the author's prejudice in Genji's favor.

As young men "of an amorous nature" they share a number of women, a potentially explosive situation which somehow only seems to deepen their intimacy. Sometimes the sharing is open and aboveboard; other times it is not. When there is subterfuge, it is Genji's — most notoriously in the affair of "the Lady of the Evening Faces," who was first To no Chujo's lover and then, unbeknownst to To no Chujo, Genji's lover as well.

When the lady dies mysteriously in Genji's arms, the victim of a spiritual possession, the grief-stricken Genji muses, "I should tell my friend To no Chujo, I suppose, but why invite criticism?"

Similar thinking prevails when, years later, Genji discovers and adopts the lady's daughter by To no Chujo: "Why should we tell her father? . . . We can say that I have come upon a daughter in a most unexpected place. She will be our treasure."

His attempted seduction of the daughter while posing as her father shows Genji at his most distasteful.

Schalow, dissecting Genji's behavior, makes a startling discovery: "Genji desires women who have — or who once had — an erotic connection to To no Chujo . . . Genji does not desire To no Chujo, but he desires what To no Chujo desires . . . To no Chujo's presence as a rival is what stimulates Genji's desire . . . "

The implication is that Genji's feelings for To no Chujo border on, without quite being, erotic. This is treacherous territory, and Genji does not always rise above the moral swamp.

To no Chujo, a more straightforward character, less gifted, and less psychologically complex, seems on the whole the better friend. Ironically, he gets a belated revenge — one he never asked for and in fact one that he never learns of — when his son cuckolds the incomparable Genji.

* * * * *

Murasaki Shikibu knew the human heart as well as any author who has ever lived, and yet there is one emotion that has no place in her repertoire: anger. Only one voice in her vast "Tale" is raised in anger, and it belongs to a madwoman. Brooding melancholy is the dominant mood — it, not murderous wrath, is Genji's response to his wife's infidelity with To no Chujo's son. Even joy soon yields to it, for not even radiant happiness distracts a cultivated person for long from the knowledge of the evanescence of all good things.

It's a dark, gloomy, mysterious world, for all its color, and my "Heian Society," if it ever gets off the ground, will not stint on tears. In dim lighting, we will be as shadows to one another, and to ourselves; for do we really know who we are?

Genji and To no Chujo are among the few characters who need be in no doubt as to their parentage.

Not so lucky is Genji's son by his stepmother; the child later ascends the throne as the purported son of Genji's royal father. That's too long a story to tell here; suffice it to say that his plight is not unusual. A Heian identity crisis can make our own seem pretty tame.

Plagued by uncertainty about everything else, Heian courtiers of Genji's day seemed sure of one thing only — that their tiny society, its values unquestioned and alternatives unimagined, would endure for ever and ever.

They died never dreaming how wrong they were.



Has another society of such superlatives ever existed at all?


The fascination of the Heian Period (794-1185) lies in the fact that in all world history there is nothing quite like it. It would be hard to imagine a culture more exclusive, more fastidiously refined, more smugly incurious about the unknown, more unwarlike, more tearfully melancholic, more sensitive to beauty, more closed to the outside world, more morally ambiguous — the list of superlatives goes on and on. Perhaps none has ever existed, writes Michael Hoffman.

No one seems to know just why, in the year 784 under the Emperor Kammu, the decision was made to remove the capital from Nara, where it had been fixed since 710. One theory is that the leading Fujiwara family — de facto rulers despite their outward obeisance to the emperor — wanted to shake off the stifling influence of the Nara-based Buddhist clergy.

In any event, a new capital was built, at enormous expense (borne mainly by the peasants, mercilessly taxed in both crops and forced labor) in a place called Nagaoka, 50 km north of Nara.

Vengeful ghosts
We soon confront another mystery: Why, 10 years later, was Nagaoka abandoned and another new capital, in a little village 15 km further north, built almost from scratch? Explanations range from Fujiwara family feuds to the depredations of vengeful ghosts. Motivation in remote civilizations is never easy to pin down.

This second new capital, modeled on the Chinese capital of Chang'an, was called Heiankyo (the "City of Peace and Tranquility," present-day Kyoto).

The Nara Period (710-784) saw Japan's emergence from semi-barbarism into the full light of Chinese-style civilization. If any other style of civilization existed somewhere out there in the vast world, Japan neither knew of it nor, apparently, wanted to know. China's Tang Dynasty (618-907) was at its dazzling height. What other model did an infant civilization need?

Nara is characterized chiefly by the feverish importation — feverish because of a newly awakened sense of how terribly far Japan had to go — of Chinese books, Chinese religion, Chinese architecture, Chinese law, Chinese forms of government. Seeds of Confucianism and sinified Buddhism had penetrated Japan some two centuries earlier, along with Chinese writing; now they burgeoned.

Japanese priests and government officials crossed the ocean in rickety flat-bottomed boats; those who survived the crossing (roughly a third did not) spent years studying under Chinese masters, returning home at last to instruct their countrymen.

Then, abruptly, the lessons ceased. Tang China entered its decline, pirates infested the seas, and Japan withdrew to digest its massive cultural infusion. The last China-bound boat set out in 838; 500 years were to pass before official relations with the continent resumed.

Heian represents newly civilized Japan turning inward. Courtiers still wrote poems and official memoranda in Chinese (stilted and archaic Chinese, say the experts), and China remained the standard for what we today call the "higher" things in life — but it was a distant China, an imagined China, that people looked to, not the real thing — of which, as time passed, notions grew dimmer and dimmer.

It didn't matter. The real cultural life of the society was being written in pure Japanese — overwhelmingly by women, whose subordinate place in society did not demand of them the literary use of a language they knew only at secondhand. That's why women created most of the Heian literature we know of — they were writing in their own language; men were not. "The Tale of Genji" and "The Gossamer Years" are hiragana masterpieces.

A preliterate pre-civilization
Here's another Heian superlative: Has any civilization in world history ever flowered so quickly?

One fact makes the point: In the year 400, Japan was a preliterate pre-civiliz- ation — Japanese writing did not exist. A mere six centuries later came "The Tale of Genji." The span of that leap is an enduring marvel.

Flower it did — but subsequently it neither evolved nor progressed. In all its 400 years, Heian society essentially went nowhere, eventually dying of inertia.

An underlying message of "The Tale of Genji" is that there was nowhere for Heian to go; it was a rarefied pellet of (narrowly defined) perfection, with everything it needed except defenses against the imperfect world outside its tiny span. When that outside world imposed itself, in the form of restive military clans that had been gathering strength unnoticed for generations, the Heian world crumbled like a buried treasure abruptly exposed to air. That was in the late 12th century. No sooner dead, it became a remote curiosity, incomprehensible even to its immediate successors of the Kamakura Period (1192-1333). All the more so, of course, to us.


Anonymous said...

In-between classes ... what an interesting read it has been! I am reminded of the New Age trends of today, escapes into another world, away from all mundane restraints, free to love and discuss nothing else but beauty ... today we do it with aromatic oils, incense, flute strains and dolphin sounds. The Lady of the Evening Faces -- how romantic can one get!

threads of silk ...
I count the hours
till moonrise

nothing to do
but plait my long hair
I wait for his hands

the fruits
have yet to be eaten ...
ripe evening

bright in the night sky
let us make it move

Ella Wagemakers

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much

Arigatou Gabi san

I enjoy your site very much.
I will check the book by Nishimura Kazuko at Book shop on Tokyo




Anonymous said...


Professor in the Imperial University, Tokio

And with Illustrations



Anonymous said...

Set of all chapters of 'Genji' comes to light

Yomiuri Shinbun, July 12, 2008

A full set of chapters "The Tale of Genji," the world's oldest surviving full-length novel, believed to have been transcribed in the Muromachi period (1333-1568) has been kept at the residence of a family in Tokyo, it has been confirmed.

It is rare for a complete set of manuscripts from the 11-century novel to be found in one place. The volumes are expected to be a major source for scholars of the novel, which marked its 1,000th anniversary this year.

According to Kazuomi Ikeda, professor of Japanese classical literature at Chuo University, who researched the documents, the volumes are all 19.6 centimeters long and 15.1 centimeters wide, and have a uniform cover sheet decorated with powder derived from seashells.

The volumes were kept in a lacquer-coated wooden box and are in good condition.

A label reading, "The following [section] was written by Sir Tamekazu," was stuck in a volume containing a chapter called "Akashi," leading the researcher to believe that Reizei Tamekazu (1486-1549), a renowned Muromachi period poet transcribed the novel from that section onward.

The variorum edition of "The Tale of Genji" by Kikan Ikeda (1896-1956), a scholar of Japanese literature, stipulates a volume titled "Utsusemi" exists.

The professor visited the Tokyo home and found that the manuscripts contain a complete set of the tale's 54 chapters.

Although the original manuscript by the author, Murasaki Shikibu, is not known to exist, there are three known types of "Genji" manuscripts: "Aobyoshi-bon" (blue cover text), revised by Fujiwara no Sadaie (1162-1241), also known as Fujiwara no Teika; "Kawachi-bon" (Kawachi text), revised by Minamoto no Mitsuyuki (1163-1244) and his son Chikayuki (date of birth and death unknown); and "Beppon" (other texts), which does not belong to either the Aobyoshi or Kawachi text.


Anonymous said...

Oosawabon 大沢本. "Maboroshi no Oosawabon Genji monogatari"

Three major newspapers report the find. The links are as follows:





Anonymous said...

quote Daily Yomiuri

Discovered 'Genji' sets offer avenues for interpretation
By Tomoko Nishida and Shinya Machida

OSAKA--Two recently discovered full 54-chapter sets of "The Tale of Genji" are expected to open the door to new interpretations of the world's oldest surviving full-length novel, which marks its 1,000th anniversary this year.

Many chapters in both of the manuscript sets are called Betsu-bon (other texts), indicating they were edited by someone other than Fujiwara no Sadaie (1162-1241)--better known as Fujiwara no Teika, who edited the standard Aobyoshi-bon (blue cover text) manuscript edition--or Minamoto no Mitsuyuki (1163-1241), who transcribed the Kawachi-bon (Kawachi text).

Many people mistakenly believe the commercially published version of the tale is the original manuscript written by Murasaki Shikibu, a female writer in the mid-Heian period (794-1192).

However, there is no existing original "Genji" manuscript, nor are there any existing transcriptions from the Heian period. The current standard text is based on Aobyoshi-bon, which was transcribed about 200 years after the original manuscript was written.

When Teika transcribed Ki no Tsurayuki's 10th century "Tosa Nikki" (Tosa Diary), the first diary in Japan written in kana, he made minor changes to the beginning.

It is therefore possible that he made changes to "The Tale of Genji," too.

Teika was an acclaimed poet and a compiler of "Shin Kokin Wakashu," an anthology of waka poems edited by imperial decree.

Although Teika's Aobyoshi-bon has grown in stature over the years, Prof. Kazuomi Ikeda of Chuo University, a specialist of Japanese classical literature, said that even his edition is far from Murasaki Shikibu's original.

Researchers have recently begun reevaluating Betsu-bon, which used to be dismissed as the unedited manuscripts of little-known transcribers.

Researchers analyze Betsu-bon for sentences that might have been included in Heian period "Genji" editions and to better understand the worldview of the compilers of the texts.

For example, a full set of the tale in manuscript, called Osawa-bon, was recently discovered and presented by Haruki Ii, director general of the National Institute of Japanese Literature, at a lecture in Osaka Prefecture on July 21. Its "Yugiri" chapter was classified as Betsu-bon.

In the chapter, Yugiri, a strait-laced son of Hikaru Genji, falls in love with a princess, but she flees when he asks for her hand in marriage.

The Osawa-bon version of the scene is translated as "Her highness ran toward a sliding door," which is slightly more intriguing than the Oshima-bon manuscript of the Aobyoshi-bon group that reads, "Her highness ran out of a sliding door," in that the woman may not actually leave in the former but has already left in the latter.

Another part of the Osawa-bon describes Yugiri as having more than 10 children, while he is given 12 in most editions.

However, Betsu-bon editions include not only copying errors but also words inserted by transcribers out of their own enthusiasm or enjoyment.

Therefore, it is uncertain whether the description of Yugiri was written before Teika's edition.

As Ii said, we had better enjoy the description as an example of the diversified world of "The Tale of Genji."

The new findings are expected to inspire new interpretations of the story.

(Jul. 31, 2008)

Anonymous said...

quote from Daily Yomiuri

This sixth installment of "Touring Ancient Temples" looks at Ishiyamadera temple and how it has been said to be related to "The Tale of Genji" and its author, Murasaki Shikibu.

Takahiro Tsujimoto

OTSU--Ishiyamadera temple, on a hill near Lake Biwa, is a popular tourist and pilgrimage destination because of its beauty and enshrinement of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. But lately it has attracted more visitors than usual, as this year marks the 1,000th anniversary of "The Tale of Genji," which Murasaki Shikibu is said to have begun writing at the temple.

Founded around 747, the temple has been mentioned in numerous novels, essays and poems since the middle of the Heian period (794-1192), when Kannon pilgrimages became common among imperial family members and court nobles and ladies. During the period, Ishiyamadera became a temple of the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism.

In the mid-Heian period, the temple became popular with women in part because of its proximity to Kyoto and because they were allowed to stay there to pray to the Goddess of Mercy.

Many renowned female writers of the period, including Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon, each of whom had separately served wives of Emperor Ichijo, are said to have visited the temple.

Matsuo Basho, a haiku poet of the early Edo period (1603-1867), was among the many literary greats who visited Ishiyamadera, and he actually once lived on a site owned by the temple. But it is the temple's relationship with the 54-chapter Genji tale that has truly captured the imaginations of its visitors.

The temple remains popular among women today because of speculation that Murasaki Shikibu lodged at the temple for a week in 1004 to pray for the ability to write a unique novel for Empress Shoshi. The empress had requested the novel as a way of attracting Emperor Ichijo to her salon more frequently.

Although there are no historical documents stating exactly when Murasaki Shikibu began writing or completed the novel, her diary indicates she at least had completed the tale's fifth Wakamurasaki chapter by Nov. 1, 1008.

It is said that during her stay at the temple, Murasaki Shikibu saw a full moon over Lake Biwa, and the idea for the novel began to form in her mind. She then began writing the famous scenes that appear in the tale's Suma chapter, in which Hikaru Genji, the title character, remembers his glory days back in Kyoto while looking at a full moon from a beach in Suma, in current Hyogo Prefecture, to which he had been banished because of his scandalous romantic affairs.

Commenting on the phenomena of "Genji" tourists at Ishiyamadera, Henryu Washio, the temple's 52nd superintendent priest, says: "The more people who admire the tale and Murasaki Shikibu came to the temple, the more they came to believe the story of its germination there. The idea has grown in stature, and now everybody thinks the temple is associated with the novel.

"The temple had been regarded by people living in the ancient capital as a sacred site because of its proximity [to Lake Biwa, which was regarded as a sea of fresh water]."

The temple's main hall stands on a massive wollastonite rock, which is designated as a national natural monument.

The lakeside area with its unique topographical features formed by rare rocks had been regarded as hallowed ground since before the Heian period, Washio says.

In the main hall, which houses a seated statue of Nyoirin Kannon, there is a room called Genji no Ma, which is said to have been used by Murasaki Shikibu. A life-size doll of the author working on the novel is on display in the room. The hall itself is a national treasure.

Jakucho Setouchi, a Buddhist nun and novelist who translated "The Tale of Genji" into modern Japanese, doubts that Murasaki Shikibu began writing the novel in Genji no Ma, but she said many women in the period such as Fujiwara no Michitsuna no Haha, who wrote of her jealousy and anguish over her marriage in the "Kagero Nikki" diary, visited the temple.

"So I assume Murasaki Shikibu also frequented the temple and came up with the idea for the tale's Suma chapter while looking out on Lake Biwa under moonlight," she said.

Setouchi had cast doubts over the Ishiyamadera's "Genji" connections for years. But she changed her mind this winter when she was guided to one of the small rooms in the main hall that are now used as dressing rooms for monks.

"It was like a study, and the atmosphere was good," she said. "I wouldn't mind renting the room to write a novel of my own.

"Ordinary people like the idea [that "The Tale of Genji" was begun at the temple]. No one knows whether it's true or not. But it's better to go along with the idea, rather than denying it."

Washio said Murasaki Shikibu's frequent visits to the temple would have been taken for granted by people in the Heian period, so no one would have taken note.

Although there is no proof that Murasaki Shikibu visited the temple, the idea is widely accepted today based on mentions of the temple in several chapters of the book.

For example, in the Sekiya chapter, Hikaru Genji meets a married woman with whom he had once been in love on his way to Ishiyamadera temple. He writes a brief love letter to her, but his overtures fail.

In another chapter, female characters are described as preparing for a pilgrimage to the temple.

"Ishiyamadera is a romantic place where couples meet and part," Setouchi says.

The temple houses about 300 treasures related to Murasaki Shikibu and "The Tale of Genji," including an ink stone believed to have been used by the writer, and "Genji" manuscripts and folding screens depicting scenes from the novel, including a picture of Murasaki Shikibu by Tosa Mitsunobu of the Muromachi period (1333-1568), which is a designated important cultural property. Most of the treasures have been donated to the temple by admirers of the novel and its author who believe in the temple's important role in the work.

The temple, however, has more stories than just those related to "The Tale of Genji." There are also narratives concerning its foundation and the bodhisattva Kannon.

The origin of Ishiyamadera is thought to date back as early as 747 when Roben, the first head priest of Todaiji temple, built a cabin on a mammoth rock to house a Kannon statue he was entrusted with by Emperor Shomu.

Washio says according to the story, Roben prayed to the statue to help him find a gold mine for the emperor, who wanted to use gold to coat the Great Buddha under construction at the Todaiji temple in current Nara. A gold mine was then found in the Mutsu region, in current Miyagi Prefecture.

Completing his task, Roben tried to return the statue to the emperor. However, the statue was secured to the rock so firmly that it could not be moved.

Because of its background, Ishiyamadera had belonged to the Kegon sect of Buddhism, headed by Todaiji temple, until it was turned over to the Shingon sect in the Heian period.

In its early years, the temple, which was built with strong backing from the imperial court, was regarded as a temple of wisdom, and it still retains many Buddhist documents and sutras, including the Issaikyo sutra comprising more than 4,600 volumes, Washio says, adding that in addition to these important cultural assets, the temple has 10 national treasures, including Tahoto pagoda.

The two-story pagoda, which houses the seated statue of universe deity Mahavairocana, is typical in its design of Shingon sect buildings with a round base for the second story.

Built in 1194 with the patronage of Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate, the pagoda is the oldest of its kind in the nation.

"Temples in Nara [such as Todaiji temple] accepted teachings of esoteric Buddhism, and Ishiyamadera followed the trend," Washio says.

Ishiyamadera is one of the 33 temples of the Saigoku Sanjusansho pilgrimage for Kannon statues and is visited by pilgrims and Shingon sect members throughout the year.

The pilgrimage practice was restored in the mid-Heian period by Emperor Kazan (968-1008) after his abdication.

Although court ladies in the period also worshiped Kannon, their reasons for being attracted to the temple were somewhat different from those of worshippers today.

According to Setouchi, wives of court nobles in the period had to patiently wait for their husbands to visit their homes because it was customary for the men to have many wives.

"The wives were always frustrated, but they were allowed to visit temples and shrines," she says. "Ishiyamadera was the most popular destination because they could get there within a day from the capital. They stayed at the temple overnight and healed themselves while listening to sutras."

The temple's Kannon worship created another legend in connection with the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism.

The temple has a hall called Rennyodo, named after Rennyo (1415-1499), the eighth head priest of Honganji temple, who headed the Jodo Shinshu sect.

His mother, from whom he was separated at the age of 6, was said to be an incarnation of Ishiyamadera's Kannon statue. At the time of the separation, his mother is said to have taken his portrait with her.

The hall was originally built in 1602 as an outer shrine for the temple, but it became Rennyodo hall in Meiji era (1868-1912) to honor him. The hall houses a portrait of him painted when he was 6 years old.

The millennial anniversary of "The Tale of Genji" gives visitors an opportunity to enjoy the charms of the temple as represented by the romantic legends surrounding it and the novel.

Related events, such as an exhibition of costumes used in a film based on "Genji" and a special exhibition featuring the temple's treasures, including pictures depicting scenes from the novel, continue to be held by the temple and a committee comprising local business circles and others at the temple until mid-December.

In October and November, events will be held in which participants can try on juni-hitoe layered kimono worn by Japanese court ladies.

A Japanese garden at the temple that is usually closed has been specially opened as a cafe. From Sept. 13 to 15, the temple grounds will be illuminated by 3,000 candles as a part of the autumn festival for enjoying the view of the moon over the lake.

Keihan Electric Railway Co. operates a train covered with pictures of Murasaki Shikibu and court carriages until Dec. 14 on its Ishiyama-Sakamoto Line, which runs near the temple, to promote the events.

"Both Ishiyamadera temple and 'The Tale of Genji' have survived for more than 1,000 years and are well-known," Washio says. "I hope the temple and the tale will continue to live on for another 1,000 years, and I think these events will help."

Ishiyamadera temple is about a 10-minute walk from Keihan Ishiyamadera Station.

(Jul. 31, 2008)

Anonymous said...

the lover cat
dandied up like Genji
at the hedge

koi neko no genji mekasuru kakine kana

by Issa, 1809

The haiku spoofs a scene from The Tale of Genji (Chapter 5), wherein
Prince Genji peers through a brushwood hedge and catches sight of ten-year old Murasaki.

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

the lover cat
dandied up like Genji
at the hedge

koi neko no genji mekasuru kakine kana

by Issa, 1809

The haiku spoofs a scene from The Tale of Genji (Chapter 5), wherein
Prince Genji peers through a brushwood hedge and catches sight of
ten-year old Murasaki.

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

nme no hana 乃梅(んめ)の花
plum blossoms

Gabi Greve said...

Uji Genji Monogatari

take a look


Gabi Greve said...

The Pine Tree of Priest Rennyo at Morinomiya
(Morinomiya Rennyo-matsu)

蓮如 Rennyo
and his memorial day


Gabi Greve - Issa said...

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

In the first half of the first month (February) of 1820, a couple of weeks after the end of the year evoked in Year of My Life, Issa composed in his diary a series of five hokku on The Tale of Genji, probably Japan's most famous work of prose fiction, written by Lady Murasaki in the early 11th century. The Genji hokku begin with the fourth hokku in the series translated below, since the first three hokku help to establish the context. A few comments follow after the translations.


Gabi Greve said...

koobai ya Onna San no miya no tachisugata

red plum blossoms -
the standing figure of
Onna Sannomiya

. Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 .

Onna Sannomiya 女三宮, the legal wife of Hikaru Genji.

Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson

hina no hi ni inuki ga tamoto kakaru nari

Lamps of ‘hina’ dolls,
Inuki's sleeves

"Inuki" is a young girl, called Inukimi(犬君), who serves Murasaki, one of the female leading characters in The Tale of Genji (in the Heian Period) (794-1192). In the Tale the girl is so full of curiosity that she sets free a caged bird and makes Murasaki feel so sad.
- source : Shoji Kumano

about sleeves

Gabi Greve said...

December 29, 2014

Donald Keene and Jakucho Setouchi
ドナルド・キーン - 瀬戸内寂聴 Setouchi Jakucho

fueki ryuukoo 不易流行 Fueki Ryuko - tradition and modern changes and Matsuo Basho
A lively discussion at the kotatsu table.

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Miyabi, miyabi 雅 / みやび court elegance
Japanese aesthetic ideal

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Genjibusuma 源氏ふすま Genji Fusuma
a papered sliding door with a dormer

Anonymous said...

A comprehensive web site on
Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji:

The Intelligence & Database on GENJI-MONOGATARI Revised by Fujiwara Teika,
Japanese and Roman Letters, Eiichi Shibuya, Professor Emeritus Takachiho University; complete 54 chapters with Japanese text, Romanized Japanese text; Japanese option available:

Gabi Greve said...

『海外平安文学研究ジャーナル 第3号』(全190頁、ISSN番号 2188ー8035)