The Tale of Genji (源氏物語)

"The Tale of Genji" is a Japanese novel written in the mid-Heian period.

The tale first appeared in a written work in the year 1001, and until then most of the work seems to have been completed.

It is a masterpiece not only among the court literature but also of the entire history of Japanese literature in terms of quantity, quality and literary achievement, and its influence on posterity is immeasurable.


It is not clear what the title of the tale was when the work was first written, although it is now generally called "The Tale of Genji." Many old manuscripts don't have titles, and even if they do, they are different. Each volume of the old manuscript of "The Tale of Genji" usually has a chapter name on its cover rather than a title of the overall work such as 'The Tale of Genji' or something similar.
The titles written on the old manuscripts or commentaries are roughly divided into the following groups:

A group of 'Genji's Tale,' 'The Tale of Hikaru Genji,' 'Brightly Genji's Tale,' 'Genji HIKARU,' 'Genji,' 'Genji no Kimi,' and so on.

A group of 'The Tale of Murasaki,' 'Tales Related to Murasaki,' and so on.

In terms of titles, both groups took the name of a main character such as Genji (Hikaru Genji) or Murasaki no Ue, and it is hard to say they're the inherent titles of the work. If the author applied a certain title, such differences would not arise, so it is thought that these titles would not have been applied by the author.

Major contemporary works such as "Murasaki Shikibu Diary," "Sarashina Nikki (As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams)," and "Mizukagami (The Water Mirror)" mention the title of 'The Tale of Genji'; therefore, it is thought that the tale had that title from the beginning. However, if the author's name 'Murasaki Shikibu' was taken from "The Tale of Genji" (="The Tale of Murasaki"), the title of 'The Tale of Murasaki' or 'Tales Related to Murasaki' would have existed from an early time; therefore, some people consider that the titles named after Murasaki are older than those named after Genji. Additionally, it is assumed that the work called 'The Tale of Murasaki' doesn't refer to the present whole 54 volumes of The Tale of Genji but only to the volumes in which Murasaki no Ue appears, such as 'Wakamurasaki" (the so-called 'Tale of Murasaki no Ue').

Moreover, old works of folklore such as "Kakai-sho Commentary" say there were several tales called 'The Tale of Genji' but the most excellent of them was 'The Tale of Hikaru Genji,' although it is impossible now to confirm the existence of any other work called 'The Tale of Genji.'
Therefore, Kikan IKEDA considers the folklore to be an untruth, as 'a bizarre rumor that doesn't deserve to be taken seriously'; however, Tetsuro WATSUJI states, 'The Tale of Genji has mysterious parts that readers can't understand until they have noticed the existence of some other tales on Hikaru Genji, which the present readers don't know about but once existed,' adding, 'This is not a supposition that should be immediately rejected.'

It was also referred to with Chinese titles such as 'Gengo (abbreviation of The Tale of Genji),' 'Shibun (Text of Murasaki),' 'Shishi (History of Murasaki),' etc., but these titles seem to have been under the influence of Chinese classics and therefore not so old, while Kikan IKEDA claimed that such usage didn't start until the Edo period.

Common view

It is widely thought that Murasaki Shikibu, who served Akiko (Shoshi) FUJIWARA (a daughter of FUJIWARA no Michinaga), an empress of Emperor Ichijo, authored the work while in residence as a court lady.

The tale provides no clue as to who the author was, but we ascertain that the author was Murasaki Shikibu based on the following books.

In "Murasaki Shikibu Diary" (the titles on the manuscripts are all "Murasaki Diary"), one can see three descriptions that suggest Murasaki Shikibu wrote "The Tale of Genji."
An appellation made by FUJIWARA no Kinto, Waka Murasaki in "The Tale of Genji"
Sauemontoku asked Murasaki Shikibu whether Waka Murasaki was around here. Shikibu thought that no one else looked like Hikaru Genji. Beyond that, why is it that Murasaki no Ue came here. Then she let it pass.'
Because of a remark made by Emperor Ichijo, it was revealed that the author of "The Tale of Genji" eagerly read Nihongi (Six National Histories) and was called Nihongi no Otsubone (court lady of Nihongi).

Emperor Ichijo, who had listened to recitations of The Tale of Genji, praised the author to the court, saying that the author must be greatly talented to be conversant with Nihongi. The Minister of the Left, who heard this, started a rumor that the author wanted to be named Otsubone, Court Lady of Nihongi. "Unbelievable," said Shikibu on hearing about this. "I never displayed my knowledge in the Palace, nor did I in front of the maid."'
FUJIWARA no Michinaga made an amative poem for the author of the diary in front of "The Tale of Genji."

FUJIWARA no Michinaga read The Tale of Genji in front of me. When he joked as always, he wrote the Tanka poetry down the paper mat under a plum. What he wrote was: As a plum is known as an acidic thing (Sukimono), people who see the tree cannot help snapping its twig. Shikibu is known as a lecher (Sukimono) as well, and people who see her cannot help seeing and getting her. Certainly not. As the tree has not snapped yet, who could blow a whistle that its plum is acid? I have not yet proposed it, so who spreads such a rumor?'
An original text, the "Murasaki Diary" kurokawabon (a type of manuscript), is in the collection of the Imperial Household Agency.
A note in the Japanese Various Family Trees ("New Compilation of Japanese Various Family Trees Analogy")
A court lady of Jotomonin, a poet called Murasaki Shikibu, and the author of The Tale of Genji, or Masatada's granddaughter, Tametoki's daughter, mistress of Michinaga, the chief adviser to the Emperor.'
Later commentary on "The Tale of Genji"

The supposition that Murasaki Shikibu wrote the tale by herself also suggests certain views, as follows:

The view that she completed the writing within a short period of time
The view that she had written the tale over an extended period of time
According to this view, the changes in Murasaki Shikibu's environment (marriage, childbirth, loss of husband, service, etc.) were reflected in her work.

The supposition that some parts of the work were written by different authors

Although most of "The Tale of Genji" was written by Murasaki Shikibu, it has long been asserted that a portion of the tale was written by another person.

"Ujidainagon monogatari (The Tale of Uji Dainagon (chief councilor of state))," which was quoted in "Kachoyojo," the old notes written by Kaneyoshi ICHIJO, states that Murasaki Shikibu's father FUJIWARA no Tametoki wrote an outline of "The Tale of Genji" and had his daughter Murasaki Shikibu write down the details. Additionally, "Kakai-sho Commentary" says that FUJIWARA no Michinaga made an addition to the manuscript of "The Tale of Genji," by FUJIWARA no Yukinari/Koze. According to "Kachoyojo," written by Kaneyoshi ICHIJO, and "Seigen mondo (adage dialogue)" by Fuyuyoshi ICHIJO, "Uji-jujo (Ten Quires of Uji)" was not written by Murasaki Shikibu but instead by her daughter, Daini no Sami.

The proposition that 'part of The Tale of Genji was not written by Murasaki Shikibu' has been repeated in modern times.

Akiko YOSANO pointed out that whole volumes after 'Wakana' were written by Daini no Sami, given the differences in writing styles.
Tetsuro WATSUJI claims that it isn't a matter that 'the tale was mostly written by Murasaki Shikibu and added by somebody else,' but 'we should assume it was written by one group.'

After the war, Soshun TAKEDA and others proposed that a volume of 'Takekawa' was written by the other author based on incoherent statements about the characters' official ranks.

An opinion from the viewpoint of gender studies was raised against such conjectures about different authors:'The idea that "The Tale of Genji " was not written by Murasaki Shikibu alone but was augmented by someone else is based on sexism; it suggests that 'it can't be true that Murasaki Shikibu wrote such a masterpiece by herself.'
Also, an opinion was expressed that 'such conjectures must be sternly denounced from the gender studies' viewpoint.'

Akio ABE studied the additions to the tales that had existed in those days, like "The Tale of Ise," "The Tale of the Bamboo-Cutter," "Heichu monogatari (Tales of Heichu)," "Utsuho monogatari (The Tale of the Hollow Tree)," "Ochikubo monogatari (The Tale of Ochikubo)," "Sumiyoshi monogatari (The Tale of Sumiyoshi)," and he said, 'First of all, when the 'tales' in those days were handed down to the next generation, it was usual in some way to add some texts to the original manuscripts, and therefore it would be exceptional if these manuscripts were passed down without the addition of texts.'
He concluded, 'There is no basis on which to assert that The Tale of Genji is the only exception.'

Additionally, the style and manner of using words such as postpositional particles, auxiliary verbs, etc., are being studied and analyzed using statistical methods.

Time and period of writing
There is no historical material that immediately reveals 'when' and 'for how long' Murasaki Shikibu wrote "The Tale of Genji," nor is there any indication of when she started or finished writing. "Murasaki Shikibu (Diary)" has a description that in 1008 she made a book that seems to have been "The Tale of Genji," so it is thought that most of "The Tale of Genji" was completed around this time. Tameakira ANDO proposed in "Shika Seven Reviews" the view that 'most of The Tale of Genji was written for three or four years when she became a widow and began to serve at the Imperial Court,' which was consistent with various facts and became a dominant opinion. However, in later years, the different view that she had been writing for a long period of time was presented eagerly, which was based on the idea that to finish writing such a long story is supposed to take a long time and the fact that there is a clear difference of the writing style between the former and latter part of the story.

On the contrary, there is a view that it doesn't necessarily take a long time to write an extended story, and it should be considered that she wrote it over a short period of time without stopping, which made it possible to maintain the cohesiveness of such a long tale having more than 100 characters.

Motive for writing
There is no historical material that immediately reveals why Murasaki Shikibu wrote such a long novel, and it has been argued by various people over a considerable period of time.

The old notes have it that "Mumyozoshi (Story Without a Name)" states that Emperor Murakam's daughter, Imperial Princess Senshi, asked her to write a new tale, and "Kakai-sho Commentary" states that the grief over MINAMOTO no Takaakira's demotion led her to write the tale.

During modern times, various opinions have emerged as follows: to satisfy her literary talent and creative urge as an author; to distract herself from her loneliness as a widow and forget the tedium; to become a court lady and follow in the footsteps of her father, who had obtained his title through means of literary talent.


It is a typical dynastic story that includes approximately 800 waka poems, and consists of 54 chapters with roughly a million words, although such figures are slightly different between the versions of the manuscript and the text. It is considered to be the supreme masterpiece in the history of Japanese literature due to its excellence of fictional structure, psychological description and plot, as well as its beautiful writing and delicate sense of beauty. However, the evaluation of 'the oldest novel in the world,' for which it has generally been considered, is questioned by Shinichiro NAKAMURA, whose opinion is that 'it is the last (and best) novel in the ancient world, following 'The Golden Ass' by Apuleius and 'Satyricon' by Petronius,' but scholars continue to dispute the topic. In the twentieth century, English and French translations were introduced to Western countries, and it came to be evaluated highly in terms of its resemblance to twentieth-century literature such as "Remembrance of Things Past," by Proust.

The story takes place in the mid-Heian period, when matriarchy was dominant, and describes Hikaru Genji, who, demoted in rank and given the family name of Genji despite his birth as a son of the Emperor, has many love affairs and achieves great glory (Part 1), and ultimately experiences the impermanence of worldly things caused by the collapse of his love life (Part 2). Furthermore, the romance of ladies surrounding old Hikaru Genji is described (Part 2), and the love of his grandchildren after his death is depicted (Part 3), being flawless and coherent as an epic love story.

In the history of literature, the tales written during the Heian period are divided into two groups--'the former tale' and 'the latter tale'--depending on whether a work was written before or after "The Tale of Genji." "The Tale of Genji" exerted a great influence on most of the subsequent dynastic stories, and "The Tale of Sagoromo," which later came to be called one of the two major tales of 'Genji, Sagoromo,' has many similarities in terms of characters and plot. It should be noted that the work had an influence not only on literature but also on other genres of culture, like emaki (picture scroll) ("The Tale of Genji Emaki"), the incense ceremony and so on.

See also the summary of each chapter of "The Tale of Genji" for further details.


It is because "The Tale of Genji" is such an extended story that it is generally dealt with in several parts.

The theory of the two-part structure and that of the three-part structure

Some old literature like "Hakuzoshi," "Shimei-sho Commentary" and "Kachoyojo" number the "Ten Quires of Uji" like 'Uji 1,' 'Uji 2,' considering that these chapters are somewhat different from the others, which suggests that some people in those days already considered that this part should be separate from the others.

The common practice, since the old days, was to divide "The Tale of Genji" into two parts; 'The former part' or 'the main part' was "Hikarugenji's Tale," from the beginning to the chapter of 'Maboroshi' ('Kumogakure (Demise)'), in which Hikaru Genji is a main character, and 'the latter part' or 'sequel' was "Ujitaisho monogatari (The Tale of Uji General)" (or "Kaorutaisho monogatari (The Tale of General Kaoru)."

Akiko YOSANO divided "The Tale of Genji" into two parts as before, but she proposed that the former part should be from 'Kiritsubo' to 'Fuji no Uraba,' which has a positive atmosphere mainly describing the success and advancement of Hikaru Genji, while the latter part should be from 'Wakana' to 'Yume no Ukihashi,' which has a negative atmosphere focusing on the agony of Genji and his offspring.

Later some scholars accepted the dichotomy positively, and Takuya TAMAGAMI divided the first part into two groups: the former group is from 'Kiritsubo' to 'Fuji no Uraba,' and the latter group is from 'Wakana' to 'Maboroshi'; Kikan IKEDA took these two ideas into consideration and claimed a new theory of a three-part structure in which the first part is from 'Kiritsubo' to 'Fuji no Uraba,' the second part is from 'Wakana' to 'Maboroshi' and the third part is from 'Niou Hyobukyo' to 'Yume no Ukihashi.'
This theory of the three-part structure later came to be widely accepted.

Moreover, Nobuhiro SHIGEMATSU advocated a theory of a four-part structure, in which he asserted that the first part is from 'Kiritsubo' to 'Akashi,' the second part is from 'Miotsukushi' to 'Fuji no Uraba,' the third part is from 'Wakana' to 'Takekawa' and the fourth part is 'Ten Quires of Uji.'
Additionally, Kiyoshi SANEKATA claimed a theory of a four-part structure, and the first part is from 'Kiritsubo' to 'Akashi,' the second part is from 'Miotsukushi' to 'Fuji no Uraba,' the third part is from 'Wakana' to 'Maboroshi' and the fourth part is from 'Nioumiya' to 'Yume no Ukihashi.'

Among them, Soshun TAKEDA proposed that the first part should be divided into 'Murasaki no Ue Series' and 'Tamakazura Series,' linking to it his theory of composition (a theory that the Tamakazura series was inserted into the work later). This division is accepted and adopted not only by those who agree with TAKEDA's compositional theory but also by those who don't agree with the specific points of his theory. ('Murasaki no Ue Series' and 'Tamakazura Series' are respectively called 'Group a' and 'Group b,' 'main group' and 'side group,' or the 'Kiritsubo Series' and 'Hahakigi Series,' based on the name of the first chapter in each group.

Also, the third part is often divided into the so-called 'Three Quires of Nioumiya,' from 'Niou Hyobukyo' to 'Takekawa,' and the 'Ten Quires of Uji,' from 'Hashi Hime' to 'Yume no Ukihashi.'

Although it has already been mentioned above, the consecutive chapters are often gathered into one group and referred to as follows:
Hahakigi, Utsusemi, Yugao are referred to as the Three Quires of Hahakigi. Tamakazura, Hatsune, Kocho, Hotaru, Tokonatsu, Kagaribi, Nowaki, Miyuki, Fujibakama, and Makibashira are called the Ten Quires of Tamakazura. Niou Hyobukyo, Kobai, Takekawa are called the Three Quires of Nioumiya. Hashi Hime, Sigamoto, Agemaki, Sawarabi, Yadorigi, Azuma-ya, Ukifune, Kagero, Tenarai and Yume no Ukihashi are called the Ten Quires of Uji. These names are commonly used.

Sometimes the scenes in which a specific character takes a lively role are gathered up and referred to in the form of 'The Tale of **' such as 'The Tale of Murasaki no Ue,' 'The Tale of Akashi,' 'The Tale of Tamakazura,' 'The Tale of Ukifune,' etc., but they aren't necessarily groups of chapters.

The chapter names

There is an opinion that it was Murasaki Shikibu who named the titles of the existent 54 chapters, but some people believe the name of each chapter has come about through posterity. No evidence has been found to confirm or deny the supposition as to whether the author applied the names or not. There is an opinion that the surviving chapter names came about through posterity because the existent chapters have different names, and if the author had designated the chapter names the other names wouldn't occur. Some people think that at least a few of the titles, such as 'Yugiri,' were applied by the author because the word 'Yugiri' (more precisely, 'Yugiri, concubine of the Emperor') which appears in the text (Tenarai), is based on the chapter's name.

The chapter names of "The Tale of Genji" were used for the incense ceremony Genjiko Incense or points of a fan-throwing game, and the court lady and Yujo (prostitute) were willing to take the name (professional name).

Phonetic notation of the chapter names
Very old manuscripts or ancient commentaries have the following phonetic notations of the chapter names:

Written in Kana (Japanese syllabary characters)
Partly written in Kanji (Chinese) characters
はゝき木(Yomei paperback)' Hahakigi, 'すゑつむ花(Yomei paperback)' Suetsumuhana, 'もみちの賀(Genji-shaku Commentary)'Momichinoga, '花のゑん(Genji-shaku Commentary)' Hananoen, '絵あはせ(Genji-shaku Commentary)' Eawase, 'とこ夏(Okuiri Interpretation)' Tokonatsu, 'うき舟(Okuiri Interpretation)' Ukifune, 'あつま屋(Genji-shaku Commentary)'Atsumaya'
The one using Chinese characters as a phonetic equivalent
Suma 陬麻(Okuiri Interpretation),' 'Suma 陬磨(Genchusaihi-sho Commentary),' 'Otome 未通女(Okuiri Interpretation),' 'Otome 乙通女(Kakai-sho Commentary)'
The one seems to use a different notation.
Sakaki '賢木' and '榊,' Asagao '朝顔' and '槿,' Otome '乙女' and '少女,' Nioumiya '匂兵部卿' and '匂宮,' Yadorigi '寄生' and '宿木'
Moreover, some have very different names, such as 'Kiritsubo' in contrast to 'Tsubosenzai,' 'Sakaki' to 'Matsugaura Island,' 'Akashi' to 'Taking Passage by Boat Coastline,' and 'Otome' to 'Hikage.'

Origin of the chapter name
As described below, the origins of the chapter names used for The Tale of Genji can be divided into several groups.

The one that is derived from a word appearing in the chapter

Kiritsubo,' 'Sekiya,' 'Nowaki,' 'Umegae,' 'Fuji no Uraba,' 'Nioumiya,' 'Kobai,' etc.

The one derived from the waka poem appearing in the chapter

Hahakigi,' 'Utsusemi,' 'Wakamurasaki,' 'Aoi,' 'Hanachirusato,' 'Miotsukushi,' 'Usugumo,' 'Tamakazura,' 'Tokonatsu,' 'Miyuki,' etc.

The one that satisfies both conditions at the same time

The one that is derived from a word appearing in the other chapter

The one that is changed from a phrase in the chapter

Hananoen Flower Party'
The one that is derived from an event described in the chapter

The one that uses the word of a probable chapter theme
Yume no Ukihashi,' 'Kumogakure'

Some theories on composition, generation and authorship

Today the view of a three-part structure (the first part: 33 chapters of 'Kiritsubo' to' Fuji no Uraba'; the second part: eight chapters of 'Wakanajo' to 'Maboroshi'; the third part: 13 chapters of 'Nioumiya' to 'Yume no Ukihashi') is generally accepted, but various theories about its composition, generation, authorship and original form have been presented since old times.
The following are the ones that seem to be particularly important:

The number of chapters

Today it is generally considered that "The Tale of Genji" consists of 54 chapters. However, of all the existent chapter titles, 'Kumogakure' is the only one whose entire text is missing and the title alone has been passed down. Thus, in regard to the concept of 54 chapters, there are two ways of counting.

Including 'Kumogakure', whose title alone has survived, and 'Wakana', which is not divided into two chapters, gives a total of 54 chapters. Tradition has it that this idea had been widely accepted since before the middle ages.

Excluding 'Kumogakure,' 'Wakana' is divided into two chapters and the work makes 54 chapters. It came to be most likely after the middle ages.

Additionally, "The Tale of Genji" had been divided between the 37 chapters including 'Kumogakure' and 18 chapters of 'Narabi (parallel)' before the Kamakura period, and there was a view that the tale consisted of 37 chapters (excluding the Narabi chapters); or, it was sometimes counted as 28 chapters in total, taking all 10 chapters of the Uji part as one chapter. It is thought that the idea of 37 chapters was based on 37 Buddha statues, and the number 28 came from 28 Hokekyo (the Lotus Sutra). These are different only in terms of the approach to counting, but the scope of the tale is no different from the present form of "The Tale of Genji."

However, some materials indicate different numbers of chapters by including other chapters that do not exist today.

Lost chapters

There is a view that once "The Tale of Genji" had some 'lost chapters' that are not found in the present "Tale of Genji." First of all, it is questioned whether "The Tale of Genji" consisted of 54 chapters from the beginning.

The present text doesn't contain the scenes of the first love affair between Hikaru Genji and Fujitsubo (a), of the beginning of love between Hikaru Genji and Lady Rokujo (b), and of Princess Asagao's first appearance (c). It is conjectured that these scenes should have been inserted between 'Kiritsubo' and 'Hahakigi' (in fact, subsequent scholars wrote supplementary chapters to fill in the gap). A commentary of 'Okuiri' written by FUJIWARA no Sadaie introduces the opinion that there once was a chapter of 'Kakayakuhi no Miya' in this part, and many people such as Kikan IKEDA and Saiichi MARUYA agree with that opinion. In short, there are three conjectures: (1) such a chapter didn't exist from the beginning, and the author intentionally omitted scenes such as (a), (b), and (c); (2) 'Kakayakuhi no Miya' existed but has been lost since a certain time; and (3) 'Kakayakuhi no Miya' was once written but at some time it was intentionally omitted by the author or deleted after a discussion between the author and another person (Saiichi MARUYA thinks that FUJIWARA no Michinaga suggested that she delete it).
There is also an opinion that 'Kakayakuhi no Miya' is another name for 'Kiritsubo.'

An ancient commentary known as "Hakuzoshi" makes reference to chapters called 'Sakuhito', 'Samushiro', and 'Sumori', and an old edition of The Tale of Genji that is said to have been copied by FUJIWARA no Tameuji mentions chapters called 'Norinoshi,' 'Sumori,' 'Sakurabito' and 'Hiwariko'. The fact that chapter names and characters that cannot be seen today are repeatedly mentioned in this ancient commentary and in early editions of the work suggests that the chapter Kakayahi no Miya might still be in existence. Moreover, "Sarashina Nikki" indicates the number of chapters of "The Tale of Genji" as 'more than 50,' but it is questionable as to whether the description means 54 chapters.

A theory of 60 chapters of "The Tale of Genji"

There exist some old references like "Mumyozoshi," "Imakagami (The Mirror of the Present)" and "Genji Ipponkyo," which state that there are 60 volumes in "The Tale of Genji." It is generally considered that the number 60 is derived from 60-volume Tendai, of Buddhist scriptures, but this conjecture is just an answer to the question 'where the number 60 came from' and doesn't verify whether there were in fact 60 chapters.
Moreover, the traditional belief that '"The Tale of Genji" consisted of 60 chapters in total' was passed down to some of the ancient commentaries in an expression that 'The Tale of Genji consists of 60 chapters in reality, and other than the 54 chapters circulating among the public, there are six chapters that only certain people are allowed to read.'
As is often the case with commentaries of "The Tale of Genji" in those days, 'Genchusaihi-sho Commentary,' in which esoterica was written, existed separately in contrast to 'Suigen-sho,' which had general annotations; thus there was the emergence of the idea that 'the text of "The Tale of Genji" would have had a similar experience,' and 60 chapters of the esoteric "The Tale of Genji" came to be widely accepted, having a great influence on posterity. For example, 'Six Quires of Kumogakure,' a typical supplement of "The Tale of Genji," has six chapters, so it has been considered that these six chapters bring the original 54 chapters to a total of 60.

The Tale of Genji with illustrations,' a representative printed book of "The Tale of Genji" in the Edo period, consists of 54 volumes of "The Tale of Genji," three volumes of 'Genji Meyasu,' one volume of 'Poem Quotation,' one volume of 'Genealogy' and one volume of 'Yamaji no Tsuyu,' making 60 volumes, while 'Kogetsu-sho Commentary of The Tale of Genji' has 55 volumes of "The Tale of Genji," including two books of 'Wakana' and a book of 'Kumogakure' and five books of 'Kubimaki,' consisting of 'Genealogy,' 'Chronology' and others, which together make a total of 60 volumes.

Narabi no Kan (Parallel chapters)

"The Tale of Genji" has a volume called Narabi no Kan. "The Tale of Genji" had been divided between 37 chapters including 'Kumogakure' and 18 chapters of 'Narabi' before the Kamakura period ("Utsuho monogatari" and "Hamamatsu Chunagon Monogatari (The Tale of Hamamatsu Chunagon (vice-councilor of state))" have Narabi, too). The 'Okuiri Interpretation' and the "Koan Genji Rongi Commentary," the latter of which was written in the Kamakura period, have descriptions asserting that the reason is doubtful. There is a conjecture that all the stories became coherent if only certain chapters were taken away because some characters looked different in some chapters and the connections between episodes were sometimes awkward. According to the conjecture, Murasaki Shikibu wrote 37 chapters and the rest of the tale was added later to enhance the Buddhist atmosphere in order to please the changing tastes of readers.

A theory of Narabi no Kan, presented by Naohiko TERAMOTO

This is according to 'The Tale of Genji Catalogue - Different Name and Narabi' ("Literature and Language," June 1978).

Other names for the chapters of "The Tale of Genji" are as follows:

a Kiritsubo - Tsubosenzai
b Sakaki - Matsugaura Island
c Akashi - Uratsutai
d Shojo - Hikage
e Wakana (1-Hakodori, 2-Morokazura, 1 & 2-Morokazura)
f Nioumiya - Kaoru Lieutenant General
g Hashihime - Ubasoku
h Yadorigi - Kaodori
I Atsumaya - Samushiro
j Yume no Ukihashi - Norinoshi

TERAMOTO focused on the descriptions in some books, which state that 'Kaodori' (h) is a name for Narabi no Kan, and he revealed that 'Kaodori' was the latter part or the ending of the present 'Yadorigi,' and made a supposition that 'Morokazura' was also part of 'Wakana' (e). Moreover, (a) and (j) suggest that 'Kiritsubo' had been divided into 'Kiritsubo' and 'Tsubosenzai,' respectively, and that 'Yume no Ukihashi' was divided into 'Yume no Ukihashi' and 'Norinoshi,' while the chapter of 'Utsusemi' in "Okuiri Interpretation" states it as such.

One theory proposes that Kagayaku Hinomiya didn't originally exist. Narabi One consists of Hahakigi with Utsusemi.

He tried to understand the meanings of these descriptions and concluded that 'Kakayakuhi no Miya' didn't exist independently but instead referred to The Tale of Fujitsubo, which is the present third paragraph of 'Kiritsubo.'
He separated 'Kakayakuhi no Miya' from 'Kiritsubo' and made the second chapter, thus considering it the main chapter while taking the chapters of 'Hahakigi' and 'Yugao' (including 'Utsusemi') as Narabi 1 and Narabi 2, respectively. In conclusion, TERAMOTO showed that Narabi and the main chapters could be a set, relating them to the formation or structure of separating or integrating the chapters.

Order of composition

The order in which the chapters of "The Tale of Genji" would have been written is generally considered the same as the present order, starting with 'Kiritsubo,' but in this regard there have been various opinions since the old times.

Ancient commentaries of "Rise of The Tale of Genji" and "Kakai-sho Commentary" state that "The Tale of Genji" was not started with the present opening chapter of 'Kiritsubo,' and tradition has it that the author started writing the 'Suma' chapter first at Ishiyama-dera Temple. However, these traditions have been told in relation to the tale that 'Murasaki Shikibu began writing to comfort her sorrow over the death of MINAMOTO no Takaakira,' which is not true to the historical fact, or in a mysterious medieval folktale that Murasaki Shikibu was an incarnation of Bodhisattva; thus there have been many statements that deny them since old times, and they haven't been taken as clues to consider the formation and structure of "The Tale of Genji" in the study of "The Tale of Genji" since modern times.

Akiko YOSANO advanced the theory that the writing of "The Tale of Genji" began with 'Hahakigi' and that 'Kiritsubo' would have been added later, effectively dividing "The Tale of Genji" into two parts; she also expressed the view that the latter part of the book, starting from 'Wakana', was written not by Murasaki Shikibu, but by her daughter Dazai no Sami.

Tetsuro WATSUJI concluded, 'Anyway, it is totally clear that 'The Tale of Genji' was not written in the order of the present text beginning with Kiritsubo,' depending on the analysis of the opening lines in the chapter of 'Hahakigi.'

Akio ABE announced the supposition that the chapters from 'Kiritsubo' to 'Hatsune' were composed as follows: first the chapters of 'Wakamurasaki,' 'Momijinoga,' 'Hananoen,' 'Aoi,' 'Sakaki,' 'Hanachirusato' and 'Suma' were written, and after 'Hahakigi,' 'Utsusemi,' 'Yugao,' 'Suetsumuhana' were written all the chapters subsequent to 'Suma' were written, and 'Kiritsubo' was written around the time that 'Otome' was completed. However, his supposition wasn't influential.

A theory of the two lines in the first part, presented by Soshun TAKEDA

Soshun TAKEDA applied the supposition made by Akio ABE to the overall first part of "The Tale of Genji," and classified it into two parts of the Murasaki no Ue series and Tamakazura series. If the Murasaki no Ue series is read consecutively, it also makes a consistent story and its ending is 'happily ever after,' like a fairy tale. Soshun TAKEDA calls it the "'Ur-text 'of The Tale of Genji."

The events that occur in the Murasaki no Ue series are reflected in the Tamakazura series, but the incidents in the Tamakazura series are not reflected in the Murasaki no Ue series.

The Tamakazura series often has descriptions that are parallel in time with those of the Murasaki no Ue series.

The characters that appear in the first part of "The Tale of Genji" are clearly divided between those who belong to the Murasaki no Ue series and those who belong to the Tamakazura series, while the characters in the Murasaki no Ue series appear in both the chapters of the Murasaki no Ue series and Tamakazura series; however, characters in the Tamakazura series appear only in the chapters of the Tamakazura series.

Names such as Hikaru Genji and Murasaki no Ue, which are used in both series, are different between the Murasaki no Ue series and the Tamakazura series.

There is a clear distinction that the characters who have relations with Hikaru Genji are 'upper-class' ladies such as Murasaki no Ue, Fujitsubo and Lady Rokujo in the Murasaki no Ue series, while those who have relations with him are 'middle-class' ladies such as Utsusemi, Yugao and Tamakazura in the Tamakazura series.

Many discrepancies of description occur when the Murasaki no Ue series changes to the Tamakazura series or the Tamakazura series changes to the Murasaki no Ue series; such as the chapters between Kiritsubo and Hahakigi, the chapters between Yugao and Wakamurasaki, etc.

The writing style is simple in the Murasaki no Ue series, while the descriptions in the Tamakazura series have depth. This is because the Tamakazura series, which was written later, reflects the author's character as a more mature person.

For these reasons the Murasaki no Ue series in the first part of "The Tale of Genji" was written first, and then Tamakazura series was inserted all together.

After the theory presented by TAKEDA

Keijiro KAZAMAKI assumed the existence of the chapters of 'Kakayakuhi no Miya' and 'Sakurabito,' which do not exist in the present "The Tale of Genji"; he claimed that it solved the problem of the 'differences' between the 'Narabi' and 'Tamakazura' series in the TAKEDA theory, and that 'Narabi was the Tamakazura series and was inserted later.'

Saiichi MARUYA deepened this supposition in a conversation with Sususmu ONO, and argued the following two points:(1) Group b is centered on Utsusemi, Yugao, Suetsumuhana and Tamakazura, and it has a commonality in that these chapters depict the failure of Genji's love;(2) Its writing style is more sophisticated than that of group a, and it has more deepened descriptions, which means after the first part of the group a gained a reputation, group b was written this time to describe the human touch of Hikaru Genji, who was like a perfect hero in the fairy tale (Genji in group a was described as such). Also, group b provoked a feminist essay called 'Appraising in a Rainy Night' and an essay on narrative that made Genji say, 'Nihongi is only a part of our history,' and they are very interesting.

Additionally, after the TAKEDA theory, many opinions such as the TAKEDA theory stating that "The Tale of Genji" was not written in the present order were advocated from various perspectives.

The TAKEDA theory was very influential and acquired many proponents, although it was strongly rejected by many people.
The controversial points differed from one person to the next, but the following were held as the main points:

There was an error in recognizing the facts in the background that supported the TAKEDA theory: for example, the lines that characters in the Tamakazura series appear in the chapters of the Murasaki no Ue series, such as Suetsumuhana in the chapter on 'Aoi.'

The fact that the main characters in the Tamakazura series do not appear in the Murasaki no Ue series' can be attributed to necessity in terms of composition.

It is impossible to academically verify the subjective grounds such as that the descriptions are more sophisticated or less sophisticated, but TAKEDA didn't concretely examine these points in his thesis.

At present, there is no outside material that allows us to discern how "The Tale of Genji" was composed, but descriptions such as "Sarashina Nikki" suggest that "The Tale of Genji" was read in the form of 54 chapters. Therefore, the complete modern form of "The Tale of Genji" with 54 chapters should be accepted and appreciated despite the possibility that there might be some chapters that have yet to be found. The existence of the apparent missing part in "The Tale of Genji" is not because of the complicated compositional process as TAKEDA claims, but it is due to the construction of a rich world by intentionally having 'an undescribed part' instead of describing everything in detail.

There is no distinction between the composition theory and the construction theory, so he argues by lumping them together.

He argues that the composition theory is just 'a flight of fancy' without grounds, even if it is admitted that there are differences in quality between the Murasaki no Ue series and the Tamakazura series.

The third part and the Ten Quires of Uji

After the chapter of 'Nioumiya,' it deals with the life of the offspring of Hikaru Genji and Tono chujo (the first secretary to the captain). Particularly, the last 10 chapters are called the 'Ten Quires of Uji'; the story takes place in Kyo and Uji City, mainly dealing with the romance between two Otokogimi (Kaoru and Nioumiya), and the three sisters of Uji, containing Buddhist thought.

The authorship of the third part and 'Ten Quires of Uji' is very much in doubt.
The following are the general points:

The supposition presented by Eiko KOBAYASHI that, together with 'Ten Quires of Uji,' the chapters of 'Nioumiya,' 'Kobai' and 'Takekawa' were written by a different author and inserted into the work;

A conjecture that the Ten Quires of Uji was written by Daini no Sami (a daughter of Murasaki Shikibu, Kenshi);
It is based on "Kachoyojo," a book written by Kaneyoshi ICHIJO, and "Seigen mondo," a book written by Fuyuyoshi ICHIJO. Also, Akiko YOSANO claimed that all the chapters after 'Wakana' were written by Daini no Sami.

A conjecture of different authorship presented by Biten YASUMOTO, based on the study conducted by the Institution of Statistical Mathematics in the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (the present Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology), revealing that the frequency in the use of nouns and auxiliary verbs is different between the chapters before 'Kumogakure' and 'Ten Quires of Uji'.

It is generally accepted that the third part was written by Shikibu (the long interval after finishing the second part might make a difference in diction and atmosphere, but it is not necessarily possible to attribute it to a different author). Also, 'Kobai' and 'Takekawa' were said by scholars to be works of the other author, despite the common view.
(As for 'Takekawa,' it is also a conjecture advocated by Soshun TAKEDA and Akiko YOSANO.)

Other conjectures

A conjecture of short stories in Ur-text of "The Tale of Genji" - Ur-text of "The Tale of Genji" was a short story whose length was similar to that of 'Wakamurasaki' or 'Hotaru.'
It is advocated by Tetsuro WATSUJI.

A conjecture of later insertion - a conjecture that some chapters were inserted into the work at a later time
For example, a chapter of 'Kiritsubo' (according to "Hearsays Books of The Tale of Genji" and Akiko YOSANO), three chapters of 'Hahakigi,' 'Utsusemi' and 'Yugao' (advocated by Keijiro KAZAMAKI), etc.

Some suppositions about the main theme
The question of 'what the main theme in The Tale of Genji is' has been argued in various ways since the old times; the 'Mono no Aware' Japanese sentimental theory could be the most possible 'theme' to represent the overall work of "The Tale of Genji" in one word, but to date there is no decisive view that is widely accepted. In the days of ancient commentaries it was attempted to explain the theme from the Buddhist perspective, stating that 'it takes the 60-volume Tendai as a model,' or 'it represents the idea of Isshin-sankan (Tendai-shu sect's Contemplation), and there were also many Confucianist and Taoist explanations based on the various old, respected Chinese classics like "Shunju History Book," "Soshi" and "Shiki Chinese History Book," thus constituting the dominant view in those days. It is true that "The Tale of Genji" was influenced by the Confucian philosophy and Buddhism, but those interpretations were mainly made for the enlightenment of people at that time and it's hard to say they were generated from the story itself; thus they disappeared with the emergence of the 'Mono no Aware' theory (to be mentioned later).

In relation to this, Norinaga MOTOORI claimed in "The Tale of Genji Tama no Ogushi (A Small Jeweled Comb)" that "The Tale of Genji" shouldn't be interpreted depending on the 'foreign theories' of Confucianism and Buddhism, but that the work should be considered in and of itself, achieving the theory of 'Mono no Aware.'
This theory came to be widely accepted as a 'theme' representing the overall work of "The Tale of Genji."
After the Meiji period, Sakutaro FUJIOKA advocated a theory that 'the true aim of The Tale of Genji lies in making comments on ladies.'

Since the Meiji period, various efforts have been made along with the introduction of Western literary theory, which was represented by the work of "The Essence of Novels" by Shoyo TSUBOUCHI, and to an extent some of them produced excellent results. However, an essential question was asked as to whether "The Tale of Genji" has a so-called 'theme' in the context of Western literary theory.

People often doubted whether it was appropriate to apply the Western literary theory to "The Tale of Genji" and whether the 'theme' derived from the analytical method based on the Western theory does make sense, so everybody would discuss it according to his or her interest. Despite the continuous effort to seek a theme representing the whole world of "The Tale of Genji" in one word, it is hard to say they came to a conclusion that could be widely accepted, although some achievements which were agreed upon to some extent emerged, such as the anti-theory of a long continued descent presented by Kuniaki MITANI and a theory of fiction in "The Tale of Genji" as advocated by Hideo SUZUKI.
As the study becomes deeper and more specific regarding each part of "The Tale of Genji," it becomes harder to find a consistent theme in the work; therefore, circumstances arise in which 'each reader conceives his or her own theme.'
"The Tale of Genji Studies Corpus," published by Kazama Shobo, Co. Ltd. from 1998 to 1999, consists of 15 volumes in total, and the first two volumes deal with 'the theme of The Tale of Genji,' collecting 17 theses; however, they do not directly discuss the theme of the overall work but instead explore the theme of a specific chapter or a group of chapters that are often handled in the form of 'The Tale of ****.'

The Fujiwara and Genji (Minamoto) clans
There are questions as to why, as a main character, "The Tale of Genji" set the Genji clan, which was once made to have fallen from power by the Fujiwara clan in the Anna no Hen Conspiracy (after the reign of Emperor Suzaku there was no empress from the Genji clan but always from the Norther House of the Fujiwara clan, during the height of the Fujiwara clan (the author Murasaki Shikibu was also of the Fujiwara clan, and the commentary of "Japanese Various Families' Trees" says 'A court lady Murasaki Shikibu,... mistress of Michinaga,'), why Genji won the romance and why it described Genji's succession to the Imperial Throne (including the question of why, in all the dynasty tales, the Genji clan always wins (for example, Sagoromo Chujo in "The Tale of Sagoromo").

As to these questions, Sen FUJIMOTO, a mystery writer, made a supposition that it was not Murasaki Shikibu of the Fujiwara clan but Takaakira MINAMOTO of the Genji clan who wrote "The Tale of Genji," and Motohiko IZAWA argued in "The Paradoxical History of Japan" that it was to console the vengeful ghost of the Genji clan that had fallen, thereby holding a grudge.

However, regarding these views the conflict between Fujiwara and Genji (or other) clans had already ended with the 'total victory of the Fujiwara clan,' and most of the political disputes in those days were struggles for power among the Fujiwara clan, particularly between FUJIWARA no Michinaga and his nephew, FUJIWARA no Korechika. Also, it is hard to say that there was a clan conflict between the Fujiwara and the Genji because of the facts such as FUJIWARA no Michinaga's wife was MINAMOTO no Rinshi, and such conflicts were within the scope of individual hostility; consequently, most people consider that the premise of the questions is wrong.


According to the theory of Kikan IKEDA, the manuscripts are divided into three groups. However, it has continued to be studied whether this classification is appropriate or not.

Aobyoshibon (blue cover book) line

It was collated by FUJIWARA no Sadaie. The name came from the blue color of the manuscript's cover. It includes four chapters of "Teikabon (type of manuscript)" in Sadaie's own handwriting. It is generally said to be approximate to the manuscript written by Murasaki Shikibu.

Kawachibon line (Kawachi book line)

It was collated by Daikenmotsu (duty) MINAMOTO no Mitsuyuki and MINAMOTO no Chikayuki, father and son. The name was derived from the fact that they both had experience as Kawachinokami (governor of Kawachi). Most of them have the title "Hikaru Genji."

Beppon (different book)

It belongs to neither the 'Aobyoshibon' line nor the 'Kawachibon' line. It doesn't refer to a particular line. It is generally considered to be the mixed text of the 'Aobyoshibon' and 'Kawachibon' lines, but some are thought to retain the form they had prior to classification by FUJIWARA no Sadaie.

However, the ones remaining in circulation are mixed.

Most of the books printed before modern times were confined to Buddhist literature, and others were circulated in the form of manuscripts. Also, when it was copied certain additions and revisions were made; consequently, there were many mistakes in writing and pages out of order due to an error in binding, and there were 21 different versions of the manuscript during the Kamakura period. Therefore, FUJIWARA no Sadaie tried to recover the original form and made a classification, which brought forth manuscripts of the 'Aobyoshibon' line. However, only four chapters of the work in Sadaie's own handwriting have survived, and the number of variant texts continued to increase, reaching more than 100 during the Muromachi period.

Typography was introduced to Japan in the late sixteenth century, and old-type edition of "The Tale of Genji" (ten lines, large characters) was first published during the Keicho period (1596-1615). Today it is conserved in the Ryumon Bunko Library, Jissen Women's University Library and the National Diet Library.


Beginning of handing down the text

No original manuscript of "The Tale of Genji" written by Murasaki Shikibu can be found to exist. Also, according to "Murasaki Shikibu Diary," there should have been fair copies of Murasaki Shikibu's original text made by calligraphers in those days, but they don't exist either. According to "Murasaki Shikibu Diary," when the author was writing the original text there existed certain lines of manuscript such as Sokobon (draft) and Seishobon (clean copy), and each of these was brought into circulation, which includes an unexpected case of Michinaga's taking the Sokobon (which the author had) without permission; therefore, the text of "The Tale of Genji" was passed down through a complicated process from the beginning. No manuscript that is certain to have been written during the Heian period has been found, and the number of manuscripts copied from the manuscript during this time is very small. People therefore question whether, if some existent manuscripts are studied closely, a single text will be found out nor not. Thus it is now considered nearly impossible to restore the original text that Murasaki Shikibu had written.

"The Tale of Genji Emaki," which seems to have been made in the late Heian period, has some texts similar to "The Tale of Genji" as Kotobagaki (notes) along with the pictures, and they include some texts that are the same as the present "The Tale of Genji" in rough outline but are not seen in any existent manuscript. This text is the oldest among the existent texts of "The Tale of Genji," but it could be a summary of the work considering the fact that it was 'Kotobagaki of Emaki'; therefore, it is doubtful that the text is true to the original "The Tale of Genji," and it is considered unsuitable for the material of the text study.

It seems that "The Tale of Genji" circulated widely and was copied into many manuscripts soon after its completion. "The Tale of Genji" after the Kamakura period was treated as an important intellectual source of classic knowledge, and in those days it was a general practice that manuscripts would be copied carefully from a reliable manuscript that could be the shohon (premised book) and completed after collation; however, in the Heian period stories like "The Tale of Genji" were diffused widely and many manuscripts were made, and among them was a manuscript made by upper-class people such as MINAMOTO no Reishi. However, tales were ranked as 'fantasy' and 'amusements for women and children,' and such assessments were quite low compared with private collections of poetry much less an official collection of poetry such as a collection of poems by Imperial command. Because of this, it seems to have been common that additions and revisions were freely made when the text was copied in those days. Some scholars state that the author Murasaki Shikibu was a daughter and wife of Zuryo rank, which was not a high rank in the hierarchy of those days, and this meant people would copy her work less faithfully.

In "Sarashina Nikki," the author (daughter of SUGAWARA no Takasue) wrote that she got a chance to read a part of "The Tale of Genji," and wanted to read the entire work from the first chapter, which suggests that extended writings such as "The Tale of Genji" didn't necessarily circulate as complete sets. In the time when the manuscripts were made by people, it was not unusual that people copied only a part of the whole book which they wanted to keep, or have somebody read. As a result, many different manuscripts of "The Tale of Genji" had existed since the late Heian period to the early Kamakura period, but each of them was different and it was not certain which one maintained the original form.

Composition of the 'Aobyoshibon' and 'Kawachibon' lines

Two significant movements as to the text of "The Tale of Genji" arose from the late Heian period to the early Kamakura period, when the work was being changed from just 'amusements for women and children' into a classic as an important source of culture (composing poems) along with "Kokinwaka shu (Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry)." One was caused by FUJIWARA no Sadaie, who completed a text of the 'Aobyoshibon' line; and the other was due to Kawachi School, which completed a text of the 'Kawachibon' line. After that, in the many years that passed until the 'Beppon' line began to be reevaluated the end of the twentieth century, arguments concerning the text of "The Tale of Genji" were fought over these two lines.

Both efforts were made to set the disturbed text in the "The Tale of Genji" in the right order, but the results turned out to be slightly different. Compared with 'Kawachibon,' the present 'Aobyoshibon' has many incompatible parts, and 'Kawachibon' helps make them coherent. This is because 'Kawachibon' was revised positively to make the obscure lines clear, while 'Aobyoshibon' was revised due to a policy of staying as close as possible to the original text.
It has been considered that this corresponded to the exact opposite conclusions drawn by FUJIWARA no Sadaie and MINAMOTO no Mitsuyuki in the context of nearly the same material and with the recognition that 'the existence of different texts make it difficult to find out which one is correct': Sadaie said, 'It was impossible for me to solve the question,' and Mitsuyuki said, 'I was able to solve the question completely after various investigations were conducted.'
However, questions have been raised concerning whether FUJIWARA no Sadaie's 'Aobyoshibon' line had in fact been altered because a close examination in recent years of his attitude toward making manuscripts for other classics like "The Tosa Diary" revealed that he sometimes revised the text of his own accord.

The Muromachi and Edo periods

Of these two lines of text, 'Kawachibon' was overwhelmingly dominant during the Kamakura period, and Ryoshun IMAGAWA said, 'Aobyoshibon disappeared.'
The most plausible reason for it was that 'Kawachibon' was easier to use than 'Aobyoshibon' because it was hard to understand the plot and characters' feelings in 'Aobyoshibon,' which contains obscure parts and discrepancies rather than 'Kawachibon,' which didn't contain (or seem to contain) conflicts. All the same, 'Aobyoshibon' became dominant and 'Kawachibon' receded because, since the middle of the Muromachi period, 'Aobyoshibon' came to be considered truer to the texts of old times by the Sanjonishi family, which was in the line of FUJIWARA no Sadaie.
However, 'Aobyoshibon' of the Sanjonishi family line was a text that was mixed with 'Kawachibon' as compared with the authentic 'Aobyoshibon.'

Since the Edo period, "The Tale of Genji" began to be published in printed book form and became widely diffused among affluent common people.
Printed books such as 'The Tale of Genji with illustrations,' 'Shusho (headnote) The Tale of Genji,' and 'Kogetsu-sho Commentary of The Tale of Genji' were the mixed text of the 'Aobyoshibon' line of the Sanjonishi family in a broad sense, which was the most dominant in those days, along with 'Kawachibon' and 'Beppon.'
It was already known that text would differ between a manuscript and the printed book, but while Norinaga MOTOORI pointed out the differences he didn't make a further study of the texts. In this time, most of the manuscripts in good condition were treasured by Daimyo (feudal lord), Kuge (court noble), shrines and temples, and it was not mostly revealed who had what kind of manuscript, so it was virtually impossible to take several manuscripts at one time and make a concrete comparison between them.

After the Meiji period

Since the Meiji period, manuscripts began to be set in type for printing and publication. At first, books were only printed in plain type in the Edo period, but gradually versions older and closer to the original handwritten texts came to be requested. In 1914, following a dispute over whether the 'Shusho Tale of Genji' or the 'Kogetsu-sho Commentary of The Tale of Genji' had the better quality text, a revised edition of "The Tale of Genji" was published by Yuhodo Bunko paperback library and was widely circulated. Before long, around the late Meiji period, the academic study of text was being conducted in earnest. Many old manuscripts such as 'Oshimabon (Oshima book),' which is a manuscript in the 'Aobyoshibon' line, and the 'Kawachibon' line manuscripts (which had already been considered lost in those days) were found, and these manuscripts were compared from the academic perspective. As a result, Kikan IKEDA published "The Tale of Genji Match-up" and "The Tale of Genji Match-Up Corpus."

Kikan IKEDA classified many gathered manuscripts into three lines: the 'Aobyoshibon line,' 'Kawachibon line' and 'Beppon,' a group of manuscripts that don't belong to either of the aforementioned lines. Although the 'Aobyoshibon' and 'Kawachibon' manuscripts were referred to in the ancient commentaries, only their names were well known and it can be said that their actual existence was first revealed during this time. These three groups came to be widely accepted as a plausible view, and were considered to be in accordance with the study in various respects.
To decide which manuscript should be classified into which group, IKEDA took seriously the outward form of the manuscript such as Okugaki (the part of the manuscript having information such as who made a copy, when it was made, which book it was copied from, etc.)

However, it should be noted that there is a question as to whether the manner of grouping is reasonable as a classification of the text itself based on its historical situation or its outward form, and in the first place, even though it was true that 'Aobyoshibon' and 'Kawachibon' were made, it is questionable whether it was really necessarily to sort them as a line of the text.

This is how these three groups came to be questioned by the following study, but for the meantime it is tentatively considered to be valid.

The view in favor of reconsidering these three groups is as follows: according to Akio ABE, 'the question if it is appropriate or not to classify the manuscripts into Aobyoshibon and Kawachibon according to their Okugaki should be asked after comparing the texts and determining the existence of such group of text. To classify the manuscripts by Okugaki in avoidance of the process means less than the tentative work of a previous stage in the work of comparing the texts themselves.'
There is also an opinion that 'if the Aobyoshibon were true to the text that had existed before, Aobyoshibon would be one of the Beppon, in contrast to Kawachibon, which is a mixed text newly made; therefore, the lines of the text of The Tale of Genji shouldn't be divided into the three of Aobyoshibon, Kawachibon and Beppon, but instead into the two groups of Beppon and Kawachibon.'

Real manuscript

The real existent manuscript made in the old times usually didn't take a perfect form when it was completed but would instead be missing a part or would combine another manuscript to make up for the missing part, and it was often collated with the manuscript having a different line of text. Also, there are manuscripts copied from the manuscript in such a condition, so they already had different lines of text in each volume when they were first completed.

For example, 'Oshimabon,' which was handwritten by Masayasu ASUKAI, is considered to have the best quality of all the manuscripts of the 'Aobyoshibon' line and is still used today as the original text for many revised books. Unfortunately, it is missing the chapter 'Ukifune' and so includes only 53 chapters. Just like the other chapters, the 'Hatsune' chapter is in Masayasu ASUKAI's handwriting, but the text itself is like the 'Beppon' manuscript rather than the 'Aobyoshibon' one. The first and last chapters, 'Kiritsubo' and 'Yume no Ukihashi,' were written by others at a later date. Also, many traces of additions and revisions can be recognized in most volumes but the contents mostly seem to be based on the 'Kawachibon' line.


First of all, here is a list of recensions that focused on the revision of the text and applied through matching:
Other than these, the major manuscripts were respectively reissued.

"The Tale of Genji Match-up" (4 vols. complete) Kikan IKEDA (Chuokoron-sha, Inc., 1942)
"The Tale of Genji Match-up Corpus" (Match-up edition) Kikan IKEDA (Chuokoron-sha, Inc., 1953-1956)
"Kawachibon of Match-up Corpus of The Tale of Genji" Yosuke KATO (Kazama Shobo, Co., Ltd., 2001) ISBN 4-7599-1260-6
"Genji Betsubon, Another Tale of Genji Corpus" (15 vols. complete) Haruki II et al. Genji Betsubon, Another Tale of Genji Corpus Publication (Ofu, March 1989 to October 2002)
"Genji Betsubon, Another Tale of Genji Corpus 2" (to be published in 15 vols.) Haruki II et al. Genji Betsubon, Another Tale of Genji Corpus Publication (Ofu, since 2005)

The following annotated versions have been published:
Most of them include recensions, and some have comparative modern translations. Also, soft-cover editions that simplified content such as notes, as well as paperback editions, were published by the same publishers. These are all based on the manuscript of the Aobyoshibon line, particularly Oshimabon, except the (old) "An Anthology of Classical Japanese Literature" (and the Iwanami paperback library of the light-type edition), which was based on Sanjonishikebon.

"The Tale of Genji," A Complete Book of Japanese Classic (seven volumes, complete) written by Kikan IKEDA (The Asahi Shinbun Company, 1946 to 1955)
"The Tale of Genji," An Anthology of Classical Japanese Literature (five volumes, complete) Tokuhei YAMAGISHI (Iwanami Shoten, Publishers, 1958 to 1963)
"Exegesis of The Tale of Genji" (complete in 12 volumes, with two supplements) Takuya TAMAGAMI (Kadokawa Group Publishing Co., Ltd., 1964 to 1969)
"The Tale of Genji," The Complete Works of Classical Japanese Literature (six volumes, complete) Akio ABE et al. (Shogakukan Inc., 1970 to 1976)
"The Tale of Genji," Shincho Collection of Classical Japanese Literature (eight volumes, complete) Joji ISHIDA (Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd., 1976 to 1980)
"The Tale of Genji," Complete Translation of Japanese Classics (10 vols. complete) Akio ABE et al. (Shogakukan Inc., 1983 to 1988)
"The Tale of Genji," New Anthology of Classical Japanese Literature (five volumes, complete) Shinsuke MUROFUSHI et al. (Iwanami Shoten, Publishers, 1993 to 1997)
"The Tale of Genji," New Edition of Japanese Classic Literature Complete Works (six volumes, complete) Akio ABE et al. (Shogakukan Inc., 1994 to 1998)


Characters in The Tale of Genji

"The Tale of Genji" has an enormous number of characters, so only the major figures will be mentioned here.

The characters of "The Tale of Genji," whose real names are revealed, are only FUJIWARA no Koremitsu and MINAMOTO no Yoshikiyo, who are the retainers of Hikaru Genji, and most of the characters such as Hikaru Genji are known only by their 'nicknames.'
Additionally, there are two types of characters' names in "The Tale of Genji": one is the name that appears in the tale, and the other is the name that doesn't appear in the work itself but has been generated in the process of accepting the work.
Also, the characters' names in the work seem to be followed by the social custom in those days, and they are called by their ranks and places of dwelling, or by general honorific titles such as 'Ichi no Miya (first Imperial Prince),' 'Onna Sannomiya (third Imperial Princess),' 'Oigimi (oldest sister)' or 'Kogimi (youngest child).'
Therefore, readers often must infer who the character is from the situation; the same character is sometimes called a different name in the work, or even in the chapter, while the same name refers to a different character, depending on the scene.

Hikaru Genji, a main character in the first and second parts
A child of Kiritsubo no Mikado and Kiritsubo Koi, the second son of Kiritsubo no Mikado
He was degraded and given the family name of MINAMOTO. He is forced to seclude himself in Suma, but later he returns to his home and is elevated to Jun Daijo tenno (quasi Retired Emperor), thus being called Rokujoin.
In the original text he is called 'Kimi' or 'In.'
His wives are Aoi no Ue, Onna Sannomiya and Murasaki no Ue, who is virtually a legal wife. His children are Yugiri (mother, Aoi no Ue), Emperor Reizei (mother, Empress Fujitsubo, considered a son of Kiritsubo no Mikado) and Empress Akashi (Empress of Kinjo no Mikado's (The Tale of Genji) mother, Lady Akashi). His daughters-in-law are Empress Akikonomu (a child of Lady Rokujo) and Tamakazura (The Tale of Genji) (a child between Naidaijin and Yugao), and he has an ostensible child, Kaoru (a child between Kashiwagi and Onna Sannomiya).

Kiritsubo no Mikado, father of Hikaru Genji. His other children who appear in the tale are Emperor Suzaku (later called Suzakuin), Hotaru Hyobukyo no Miya and Hachi no Miya. His youngest son, Emperor Reizei, is not his biological son but the son of Genji.

Kiritsubo Koi, Koi of Kiritsubo no Mikado
She died young when Genji was three.

Fujitsubo, the Imperial Princess of the Retired Emperor of Kiritsubo no Mikado
Because she looks exactly like Kiritsubo Koi, she is ordered to stay in Kokyu (the palace) after the death of Koi. She commits adultery with Genji and bears the child that will one day become Emperor Reizei.

Aoi no Ue, the daughter of the minister of the left, and Genji's first wife
She is older than Genji. Her mother Omiya is a sister of Kiritsubo no Mikado, and she is a cousin of Genji. The couple has lived in discord for a long time, but she becomes pregnant and bears Yugiri. She provokes Lady Rokujo's wrath in the struggle to obtain a place to house Gissha, and is killed by a wraith.

To no Chujo, the child of the minister of the left, and older half brother of Aoi no Ue
He is Genji's friend and rival. He is always forestalled by Genji in romance, promotion, etc. His children are Kashiwagi, Kumoi no Kari (Yugiri's wife), Kokiden no Nyogo (Nyogo of Emperor Reizei), Tamakazura (child of Yugao, Higekuro Taisho's wife), Omi no Kimi, etc. He is the only character that does not have a consistent name.

Lady Rokujo, the concubine of retired Togu (older brother of Kiritsubo no Mikado) of Kiritsubo no Mikado
Lover of Genji
She loves Genji deeply, but she bears a grudge against Genji and has killed Aoi no Ue. She has a daughter, Saigu, by the retired Togu, and later the daughter becomes Genji's daughter-in-law, entering the kokyu of Emperor Reizei and thus becoming Empress Akikonomu. Genji reforms the residence of Lady Rokujo after her death, and makes a grand residence (the name of Rokujoin comes from this).

Murasaki no Ue, a niece of Empress Fujitsubo, a daughter of Hyobukyo no Miya
When she was a child she was discovered and brought up by Genji, but after the death of Aoi no Ue she becomes a virtual wife of Genji. She doesn't have a child by Genji but instead adopts Empress Akashi as her daughter. In her later years, Onna Sannomiya becomes Genji's wife, but then she becomes estranged from him, sensing the uncertainty of life.

Lady Akashi, a daughter of Akashi Nyudo
When Genji is unfortunate, she becomes his lover and bears the child that will become Empress Akashi. She reluctantly gives her daughter to Murasaki no Ue, but after she formally enters Dairi Castle where she becomes her daughter's guardian.

Suetsumuhana, a daughter of Hitachi no Miya
She becomes a lover of Genji, having been introduced by Taifu no Myobu (wife of a government official), but she is an ugly, thin woman whose nose is as long as an elephant's, and the tip of her nose is red. In the work she is described as the ugliest woman.

Onna Sannomiya, the third daughter of Suzakuin, a niece of Genji
She is a niece of Empress Fujitsubo, and as Suzakuin hopes, she becomes Genji's second wife in his later years.
A mild character
She has a sexual relationship with Kashiwagi, and bears Kaoru.

Kashiwagi, the oldest son of Naidaijin (minister of the center) (The Tale of Genji)
He wants Onna Sannomiya but fails, and after she has become Genji's wife he has a relationship with Onna Sannomiya at Rokujoin. Later it is revealed and he makes Genji angry, and dies in despair.

Yugiri, the oldest son of Genji (The Tale of Genji)
His mother is Aoi no Ue. He is brought up in her mother's residence for a while after her death, but later he is taken to Rokujoin and brought up by Hanachirusato. He grows to love his two-year-older cousin Kumoi no Kari, a daughter of Naidaijin, and eventually he marries her. After the death of Kashiwagi, he falls in love with Kashiwagi's wife Ochiba no Miya and forces her to marry him.

Kaoru, a main character of the third part
He is a child between Genji (the truth is Kashiwagi) and Onna Sannomiya. He gets the nickname because he has a sweet smell from birth. He has romances with Uji no Hachi no Miya no Oigimi and, after her death, with Naka no kimi and Ukifune.

Nioumiya, a child between Kinjo no Mikado and Empress Akashi
He leads a licentious life due to his status as the third son of the Emperor. He bares feelings of rivalry toward Kaoru and becomes obsessed with incense, thus earning the nickname Nioumiya. He makes Uji no Hachi no Miya no Naka no kimi his wife, overcoming the opposition around him, but he also becomes interested in Ukifune, his younger sister by a different mother, and takes her away from Kaoru, knowing he loves her.

Ukifune, a daughter whom Hachi no Miya has a court lady bear
Her mother gets married, and she goes down to Hitachi Province with her stepfather and grows up there. She is placed in a dilemma between Kaoru and Nioumiya and suffers greatly; she tries to commit suicide by drowning but is rescued by Yokawa no Sozu (high priest of Yokawa).


The original text of "The Tale of Genji" is very difficult for present-day Japanese people to read without special education, so it can be said that many people are more familiar with modern translations such as the best-selling work by Jakucho SETOUCHI. It is probably translated the most among the works of Japanese classic literature because of its rich content, and characteristically it has been translated by many authors.
These translations are often called '**** Genji' after the translator such as 'YOSANO Genji' and 'TANIZAKI Genji.'

Foreign languages

"The Tale of Genji" has been translated into many languages as a representation of Japanese literature. With relay translations and abridged translations taken into account, it has in fact been translated into more than 20 languages.

English translation
The first translation into a foreign language was probably an English translation made by Kencho SUEMATSU. It was completed when he was in Cambridge, England, and was published in 1882. However, it was an abridged translation, and the quality was poor, so it didn't attract very much attention (WALEY, as mentioned later, seems to have read it). Today this is read by only a few scholars.

Eventually, "The Tale of Genji" was seriously introduced to the Western world by Arthur WALEY, of the Bloomsbury Group.
The first volume containing the text from 'Kiritsubo' to 'Aoi' was published in 1925, and it was completed with the 1933 publication of the sixth volume containing 'Yadorigi' to 'Yume no Ukihashi.'
WALEY was a literary talent as well as a linguistic genius. Thanks to his translation, "The Tale of Genji" became popular among readers, and in the process it became a topic of discussion in literary circles. Among the readers was Virginia WOOLF, who was also a member of the Bloomsbury Group. It is said that the high acceptance of "The Tale of Genji" was due to the atmosphere of the time. In those days, psychological novels became popular in the Western world. "The Tale of Genji" has a style similar to so-called 'stream of consciousness,' which was a contributing factor in its wider acceptance and high reputation. The translation by WALEY has been translated into various languages throughout the world.

WALEY made a free translation using a flowery style that was suitable to the tastes of literary circles in those days. However, he omitted many sentences, and mistranslations have been pointed out. Edward SEIDENSTICKER, a scholar of Japanese literature, translated the work (1976) and corrected the flaws in WALEY's translation; he endeavored to approximate the original text by removing overly decorated translation and adjusting to the postwar literary tendency. A translation by Royall TYLER (2001) enhanced this inclination with academic precision and copious notes. Another important English translation is that of Helen MCCULLOUGH (1994), although it is an abridged translation.

French translation
In France, Rene SIEFFERT, an authoritative scholar of Japanese studies, produced a translation (which was published in 1988). Today it remains the only complete translation in French-speaking countries, and the quality of translation is quite excellent; therefore, the work has gained a reputation.

German translation
Oscar BENL translated the original text, and it is also considered to be an excellent translation.

Russian translation
There is a translation by Tatyana SOKOLOVA-DELYUSINA.

Czech translation
Karel FIALA, a professor at Fukui Prefectural University, is currently translating the work.

Finnish translation
Mrtti TURUNEN, a member of the House of Councilors, made a Finnish translation (although abridged), which was published in 1980.

Swedish translation
An abridged translation of the English translation by Arthur WALEY was published in 1927.

Dutch translation
Another abridged translation of the English translation by Arthur WALEY was published in 1930.

Italian translation
Again, in 1944, an abridged translation of the English translation by Arthur WALEY was published.

Chinese translation
FEN Zi-kai made a complete translation, "The Tale of Genji, Vols. 1, 2 and 3," from the original text (Jinmin Bungaku Gepposha, 1980 to 1982). Additionally, there is a translation entitled "The Tale of Genji, Vols. 1 and 2" by LIN wen yue in Taiwan (Zhong wai wen xue yue kan she, 1982).

Korean translation
CHON Yon Haku's translation and YU Gyon's three-volume translation "Iyagi, Tale of Genji" (Nanamu publisher, 2000) are currently available.

Influence and a history of the reception

The influence of "The Tale of Genji" in the old and middle times can be roughly divided into two terms. The first term is until the early part of the cloister government period, and the second is from the establishment of the Tanka poetry circles of the cloister government period until the time that "New Collection of Ancient and Modern" was presented to Emperor.

In the first term, "The Tale of Genji" was widely read as an interesting novel by both the upper and lower classes in aristocratic society. A common dream of the Himegimi (daughters of persons of high rank) in those days was to enter the Kokyu (a section of the Imperial Palace where the Imperial family and court ladies lived) and gain the love of the Mikado (Emperor), thus being elevated to Empress; accordingly, "The Tale of Genji" satisfied such ladies as it had as its protagonist a member of the Genji clan who was a direct descendant of the emperor that lived in a kind of pseudo-Kokyu and loved all women without distinction. The work was also welcomed by court nobles as an appealing work that offered a close observation of human psychology, love, and aesthetics. Such circumstances detailed in "Sarashina Nikki," by a daughter of SUGAWARA no Takasue.

As there had existed excellent works and many readers who preferred them, the reception of "The Tale of Genji" became a factor in the establishment of succeeding novels. The biggest characteristic in the history of acceptance for "The Tale of Genji" at the midpoint of the medieval ages could be that it encouraged the emergence of certain kinds of works that inherited its style, world and narrative structure. Many tales composed from the eleventh to twelfth centuries clearly discarded the tradition before "Utsuho monogatari" and depended instead on "The Tale of Genji," in that they had careful narration, excellent psychological descriptions, detailed descriptions rather than eventful stories, and a tendency toward lyricism and refinement. The excessive inclination generated the name of an epigone of "The Tale of Genji," but works such as "Hamamatsu Chunagon Monogatari," "The Tale of Sagoromo" and "Awaken at Midnight" established a distinctive world, inheriting "Genji," so it would be worthwhile to evaluate this trend as the ripening of dynastic stories. (Moreover, it is known that a formula of the late dynastic story, i.e. an epigone of "The Tale of Genji," was due to the strong influence of Kaoru's character formation rather than that of Hikaru Genji (see also 'the third part' of the summary of each chapter of "The Tale of Genji").

It had been already considered a classic in the late Heian period, and in "Six Hundreds Set of Poetry Match," "The Tale of Genji" led FUJIWARA no Toshinari to say, 'I'm very sorry for poets who do not read The Tale of Genji,' so that it was considered an accomplishment necessary for a poet or court noble. Around this time, it was becoming difficult to read the original text in the course of changing language and culture, so commentaries to add the study of poetry quotations and historical events, and explanations of difficult words were generated.

While in the course of spreading Buddhism the idea emerged that 'Murasaki Shikibu, who wrote fantasies of love affairs and caused many people to become misled, must have been fallen into Hell (Buddhism),' and the rite called the 'Buddhist ceremony for Murasaki Shikibu's soul' was often held in order to save her. This was eventually linked with the legend of ONO no Takamura.

During the late Edo period, contrary to the popular Chinese literature in those days, cheap novels such as "Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji (The tale of Genji in the Muromachi period)" (by Tanehiko RYUTEI) were written, which was turned into Kabuki, and a lot of 'Genjie paintings' (a kind of ukiyoe) were made, thus triggering the boom, but they soon disappeared with the emergence of the Tempo reforms.

After the Meiji period, many people tried to make modern translations, and translations by Akiko YOSANO and Junichiro TANIZAKI were published several times; however, beginning in the early Showa period the government prohibited the production or performance of stories adapted from the scene of a secret meeting of Hikaru Genji and Fujitsubo due to the reason that 'it includes a scene insulting to the Imperial Family,' so even the translation was restricted more than a little. After the war, the restriction was abolished and translations by Fumiko ENCHI, Seiko TANABE, Jakucho SETOUCHI and so on were published. In addition to translations true to the original text, various freely translated novels making radical interpretations were written, as represented by "The Tale of Yohen Genji" by Osamu HASHIMOTO, and some have tried to turn it into a manga comic like "Asaki Yume mishi (Not Having a Dream)" by Waki YAMATO and "Maro," by Yoshihiro KOIZUMI.

Today, a similarity between "The Tale of Genji," games for adults with pure love stories, and harem cartoons has been jokingly pointed out, but in the Muromachi and Edo periods there already existed articles asserting that '"The Tale of Genji" was an obscene book, so people shouldn't let children read it.'

"The Tale of Genji" has had significant influence in foreign countries. Marguerite YOURCENA wrote a short story as a sequel to "The Tale of Genji," based on her high assessment of humanity as displayed in the work.

In 2008, various events called "The Millennium of 'The Tale of Genji'" were scheduled to be held, centering on Kyoto City.

Historical commentary
Many commentaries on "The Tale of Genji" have been made since the late Heian period. Among the commentaries on "The Tale of Genji," the ones made before the Meiji period are particularly called ancient commentaries. Generally speaking, the ones from "Genji-shaku Interpretation" to "Kakai-sho Commentary" are called 'ancient' commentaries, the ones from "Kachoyojo" to "Kogetsu-sho Commentary" are called 'old' commentaries, and the ones after that till the late Edo period are called 'new' commentaries. The early commentaries like "Genji-shaku" and "Okuiri Interpretation" were not originally independent but were added at the end of the manuscripts, and later they were gathered up into an independent book.