The Tale Of Genji and Uji City

April 16, 2010

by Yuka Segawa; Chiharu Suzuki

Uji City

In the Heian era (794~1185), Heian aristocrats maintained country houses in Uji City. Uji was not a political or prosperous place, but it served them well as a quiet retreat. They used Uji to renew their spirits, and Uji was tinged with the religious, because it had temples and shrines. Most aristocrats of the Heian era built temples dedicated to the Buddha. They prayed to the Buddha and asked for salvation. There were many graves of the Imperial family and aristocrats of the Heian period in Uji, therefore it had an atmosphere in which this world mingled with the next.
The Tale Of Genji and Uji City

Uji-Jujo (Ten Chapters of Uji)

The Tale of Genji or Genji Monigatari was written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu about 1010 years ago. It consists of 54 chapters. Until chapter 44, elegant matters in the Heian Court are described. However, the final chapters from chapter 45, titled “Hashi-hime” until the last chapter “Yumeno-Ukihashi,” are often called the “Uji-Jujo (Ten Chapters of Uji),” because the main stage of this magnificent literary work are all set in Uji city. Uji-Jujo is the tale of disappointed love told in a quiet mood. Elegant and melancholy, Uji was a most appropriate location for Uji-Jujo which expressed the transitory everyday world and pre-destined life course. Also, the Uji bridge over the Uji river is a key image in the chapter, too. The Uji bridge expresses the religious. In short, Murasaki Shikibu cleverly set up the bridge as an image of this world to the east and of the Land of Happiness to the west on the other side.


On the east side are Ujigami Shrine and Hachinomiya’s house which both appear in the chapter.


On the west side there were many retreat houses that belonged to nobles. Byodoin was one of them.
In the tale, the characters Kaoru and Niounomiya often came here.
The west side is a gorgeous place and reflects the Land of Happiness.
In this way, contrary to the elegant tales told until chapter 44 in The Tale of Genji, in the Uji-Judo the Japanese concept of religion can be felt.

Diagram of Characters

Outline of the Plot of Chapter 44

1. Kaoru goes to Uji to live with Hchinomiya, because he respects his religious beliefs.
At that time Kaoru catches a glimpse of Hachinomiya’s daughters (Onokimi and Nakanokimi) and is carried away by them.

2. Hachinomiya dies.
Kaoru sympathizes with the daughters. Presently, Kaoru falls in loves with Onokimi.
But she refuses his love.
3. Onikimi is in trouble because Kaoru is so insistent. She recommends to Kaoru a marriage proposal with her sister Nakanokimi.
4. Kaoru thinks that if Nakanokimi marrys someone else, Onokimi will marry him. Kaoru introduces Nakanokimi to Niounomiya, and they fall in love with each other.
5. Niounomiya marries a woman of high rank. Onokimi and Nakanokimi are shocked. Onokimi has an illness and dies, because Onokimi is completely disheartened by the unexpected misfortune.
Nakanokimi is alone and moves to the capital where Kaoru and Niounomiya live in.
6. Kaoru lamented the death of Onokimi. He notices that Nakanokimi resembles Onokimi and falls in love with Nakanokimi.
But Nakanokimi keeps Kaoru at a distance. She discloses the existence of Ukihune. Ukihune is a half-sister to Nakanokimi.

7. In Uji, Kaoru catches a glimpse of Ukihune. Kaoru falls in love with her at first sight because she resembles Onokimi.

8. Ukihune moves to the house where Nakanokimi lives, because her father-in-law is too hard on her.
In this house, Niounomiya catches a glimpse of Ukihune and falls in love with her.Ukifune’s mother knows it. She senses that this is something dangerous for her daughter. Ukihune immediately leaves the house.
9. Kaoru visits Ukihune and they fall in love with each other. Kaoru hides Ukihune from other men in Uji.
10. Ukihune’s whereabouts is exposed to Niounomiya. He goes to Uji and visits Ukihune. Ukihune dislikes Niounomiya at first, but she is gradually charmed by his passion.
11. Ukihune commits suicide because she is distressed by the love triangle. Kaoru and Niounomiya lament.

12. But actually, Ukihune lives. She has been saved by a nun.
Kaoru hears stories about Ukifune existence and he immediately visits her.But Ukihune has become a nun. She doesn’t receive his love. She refuses to see him to the very end.

Tourist spots


Byodoin was built in 1052 by Yorimichi Fujiwara. He rebuilt his father’s vacation house as a temple. Byodoin has an atmosphere like paradise. Uji is often remembered in connection with Fujiwara. So, Uji has many shrines and temples built nearby Mr. Fujiwara’s temple. Michinaga Fujiwara was the model for Genji and the Yorimichi Fujiwara was modeled after Michinaga Fujiwara’s son.

☆Ujigami shrine.

Ujigami Shrine was built after Byodoin.
This shrine is the oldest extant architecture of its type. So it has a quite and ancient atmosphere.

☆Otona Waterfall (Otona means silent)

This Otona waterfall is very beautiful, like one thread, and there is only the sound of its falling water because it is situated deep in the silent mountains. A legend tells that the sound of its waters was once stopped by a spell. They did this because when they prayed to Buddha the sound coming from the waterfall seemed loud and angry. This place appears in the Genji Monogatari. Kaoru says: “I want to go there.” He might have wanted to choose this place, because he wants to forget his love for dead Onokimi and no one can blame him here because this place is silent and deserted.

☆Ukijima (Ukijima means floating island)

In the Genji Monogatari, when Niounomiya crossed the Uji River by boat with the character Ukihune, he wrote a tanaka (traditional Japanese poem) for her. They reached Tachibana Island, an island in the Uji river which no longer exists in its old form. After that, its name was changed to Ukijima. Ukijima now exists on the side of Uji Shrine and Byodoin. The whole of this island is now a park.

The Tale of Genji Museum

The Tale of Genji Museum is the one and only museum of its kind in the world.This museum offers opportunities with the wonderful and unforgettable world of The Tale of Genji and the culture of the Heian period through the use of replicas and motion pictures.We can enjoy exhibits in three of foreign languages here: English, Chinese and Korean.We can borrow the voice guide as well.

Opening hours
(Admission until 4:30pm)
Closed Monday (If the Monday falls on a national holiday, then the museum will be closed on Tuesday)
Year-end/New Year’s holidays (December 28th~January 3rd)

How to get the way

★Byodoin, Ujigami shrine, Ukijima, The Uji bridge and The Tale of Genji Museum

★Otona Waterfall

Please get on a bus for Ohara from JR Kyoto station and get off the last stop. It takes 1 hour.
Otona Waterfall is a 25-minutes by foot from the last bus stop.
Otona Waterfall is located near Sanzenin temple.

Leave A Comment...