CULTURE

The Tale of Genji, Japanese Classic Literature

2013.06.11 [CULTURE,WHAT'S NEW]

The Tale of Genji 

The Tale of Genji (Genji no Monogatari) is a classic work of Japanese literature written in the
11th Century by the Heian period noblewoman, the Lady-in-Waiting, Murasaki Shikibu.
It is considered the world’s first novel, providing a unique description of Heian period customs
and the court life of the aristocracy. The story recounts the life of Hikaru Genji, a son of the
emperor relegated to commoner status due to political reasons, his romances, setbacks and
successes.

 

 

Situated on Horikawa Street between the Nishi-Honganji and Higashi-Honganji Temples in the old
capital city of Kyoto is a Costume Museum devoted to the display of scenes from Japan’s most beloved
literary masterpiece, Genji Monogatari, The Tale of Genji.  The Costume Museum, delicately and with
painstaking precision, provides visitors with enchanting visual stimulation using finely crafted dolls to
represent characters and episodes in Murasaki’s story showcasing the life, colour, richness, decadence and ceremony of the nobility within the court of the Emperor of Japan.  Just as the Costume Museum strives
to bring alive this great work,so too does this series of articles aim to highlight the beauty and traditional
customs of old Japan, most of which still exist today.

 

 

While The Tale of Genji is a massive tome, it is hoped everyone with an interest in art, culture and
Japan can one day read this amazing journey of the happiness and woes of people from the past as
well as how the various chapters apply to people in the present and the future.  The characters may
be highborn with sometimes seemingly unusual ways of passing the time, but they experience the
things in this life such as nature and love as most humans do. 

 

 

Their poetic musings based on creative impulses enhance our understanding of emotions and events.  
The next time you put off reading this special fiction by an observant and sensitive court lady, remind
yourself of what a treasure full of insight into the probable real-life ordeals of Japan’s old nobility you are
missing out on  – those same characters might remind you of aspects of yourself, members of your family,
friends, acquaintances and colleagues.  The Japanese may not then seem so different after all.  Whether
they are actual nobility or not, Japanese ritual and etiquette lean towards the aim of nobility of spirit. 

 

 

(Japan World Writer /  Pauline Chakmakjian, MA)

 

 

 


Related Article of this Post

2013.06.15 HISTORY Hikaru Genji, Hero of The Tale of Genji
2013.06.12 CULTURE Tale Of Genji, The World’s oldest

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