July 5, 2014
The Tale of Genji Museum –Uji city
Akiho Kamijo & Shiho Iwasaki
About the Tale of Genji
The Tale of Genji was written by Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century (mid Heian era), and consists of 54 chapters (jou). More than 300 characters appear in it, in a story spanning 70 years. Within the work is contained about 800 shu of a 31-syllable form of classical Japanese poetry. This book is sometimes spoken of as the “classic of classics” and one of the greatest works in the history of Japanese literature.The tale itself is divided into three parts:
Part 1 : Hikaru Genji’s birth and his life of splendor and achievement.
Part 2 : Hikaru Genji’s life of anguish and ultimately his death.
Part 3 : The life of Kaoru,the child of Hikaru Genji, fillled with stories of love and tragedy.
The author – Murasaki Shikibu
The author, Murasaki Shikibu, was born around 973 (Ten-en 1) to a middle-class aristocrat Fujiwara no Tametoki. Although we don’t know her real name, she was called Murasaki Shikibu in direct relation to the character of Murasaki no Ue, from The Tale of Genji. In 998 (Chotoku 4), she married Fujiwara no Nobutaka and they had a daughter named Daini no Sanmi. Unfortunately, three years after Daini’s birth her husband died, and it was about this time she began to write The Tale of Genji. Around 1005 (Kanko 2), she became a lady-in-waiting to Fujiwara no Michinaga’s daughter, Shoshi, who was the wife of Emperor Ichijo. In Murasaki Shikibu’s diary, it was written that The Tale of Genji was actually a special gift to Shoshi upon the birth of her son, the Imperial Prince, Atsuhira.
The Tale of Genji Museum -Uji City
The tale of Genji Museum is divided into two main areas: The Exhibition Zone and the Information Zone. Here are some of the main features :
Image exhibition of the Tale of Genji and a dynastic picture scroll.
A high-definition video exhibit introduces a fascinating summary of the Tale of Genji and features a model of Rokujoin, the home of Hikaru Genji.
An ox-drawn carriage and period dress exhibit.
There is a restored ox-drawn carriage here, plus a Junihitoe (the ceremonial attire of a Japanese court lady of the period) which symbolizes the level of the circle the characters in the Tale of Genji moved in.
An exhibit showcasing the dynastic culture and many functions of the court.
Here we can view the dresses and articles of furniture of the shinden dukuri style in an architectural representation of a nobleman’s residence in the Heian period. There are also examples of the games and annual events held each season in the Heian period court.
Kakehashi or Connecting Bridge
In this exhibit we can experience the journey from the capital of Heian to Uji that is illustrated in the Tale of Genji.
“Uji jujo” story theater
Here, there is a replica of a famous scene from the work Uji jujo featuring a curtain and a life-size set.
The scenes and fragrance of the Tale of Genji
The fragrances that Heian nobility were particularly fond of are introduced in this exhibit. Many of which are featured in the tale of Genji.
We can enjoy another two movies here of the tragic love stories, “Ukifune” and “Hashihime”.
The Role of Uji in the Tale of Genji
Murasaki Shikibu and the ten Uji Chapters
The Ten Uji Chapters start with the chapter Hashi-Hime (Maiden of the Bridge) and conclude with Yume no Ukihashi (Floating Bridge of Dreams).This “bridge” in the story serves to move the setting from the capital to Uji, and also changes the focus of the story from Hikaru Genji to his son, Kaoru, as well as his grandson, Niou no Miya.
Heian aristocrats knew Uji well, and Murasaki Shikibu decided to use this setting to make them feel part of the story. Kyoto at this time was full of very important people, but Uji was a haven where the aristocrats could relax and be themselves. Murasaki Shikibu very skillfully told the stories of the emotional dramas played out between the men and women of Uji, a place that had a lively, yet also dark side
Uji in The Tale of Genji
In the Ten Uji Chapters of The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu writes about the villa of Hikaru genji’s son, Yugiri, as being on the west side of the Uji River. Actually, this was where Fujiwara no Michinaga, a very influential person of the time, also had a grand home. On the bank where Uji Shrine and Ujigami Shrine are located, she writes of the mountain villa of Hachi no Miya. Fujiwara no Michinaga’s villa on the west bank was later made into Byodo-in Hodo by his son Yorimichi, and still stands today as a prime example of buddhist architectural splendor. However, Ujigami Shrine, where Uji-no-waki-iratsuko, the son of Emperor Ojin is enshrined, is far more modest, and is much more representative of Hachi-no-Miya, who lived alone and lonely.
Address: 45-26 Uji-Higashiuchi, Uji City, Kyoto 611-0021
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Admission until 4:30 p.m.)
Closed: Mondays (or the following day if Monday is a national holiday) and Dec. 28 to Jan. 3