Summary of the Tale of Genji Uji-Jujo Related Spots
 
The Tale of Genji is a full-length novel consisting of 54 individual chapters that was written at the beginning of the 11th century in the middle of Japan's Heian Period.
The tale, written by a woman known as Murasaki Shikibu, is a masterpiece that depicts the life of an imperial prince and had a significant influence on later literary works. It has been revered by many up to the present day.
The Tale of Genji is divided into three distinct parts. The first part includes 33 chapters that cover the birth of Hikaru Genji (Shining Genji) to when his power and achievements are at their height. The second part consists of eight chapters that cover the time up until Genji completes his life amidst decline and misery. The third part, consisting of thirteen chapters, depicts the life of his son, Kaoru, intertwined with stories of love and tragedy.
The last ten chapters, in particular, are primarily set in the Uji region and are actually referred to as the Ten Uji Chapters or Uji-Jujo.
As Uji was a 'getaway' locale for the Heian nobility, there were many 'betsugo' (personal villas) in this area. Not only was it a place renowned for boating pleasure and viewing of the beautiful autumn leaves, Uji was also regarded as a religious destination that soothed the spirit of its visitors. The strong religious atmosphere of Uji was primarily due to the fact that it was the burial ground for the Fujiwara Clan, whose prosperity was at its height in the middle of the Heian Period.

In many such personal villas, noblemen often shut themselves in a small temple specifically built to house an image of Buddha or their protective god and spent time praying to it. In fact, the famous Byodoin Temple, a World Heritage Site, originally was such a villa. Yorimichi Fujiwara received the structure from his father, Michinaga Fujiwara, and rebuilt it into a temple, although this was actually somewhat later than The Tale of Genji is thought to have been written. Moreover, the word Uji has long been used as a 'kakekotoba' (pivot word) in Japanese 'waka' poetry and can mean both the place itself (Uji) and 'melancholy.' Along with the fact that Uji was a very familiar place for the nobility of the Heian Period, these circumstances likely explain why Uji was selected as the final setting for The Tale of Genji.

The Ten Uji Chapters, which begin with "Hashi-Hime" (The Princess at the Bridge) and end with "Yume no Ukihashi" (The Floating Bridge of Dreams), alluded to the spatiotemporal transfer from Kyoto to Uji and from Hikaru Genji to his son, Kaoru, using the 'hashi' (bridge) reference. Contrastive elements between Kyoto and Uji, such as 'vibrancy and tranquility' as well as 'shigan and higan' (this world and the other world), were also added to represent the development of the tale from 'spring to autumn' and from 'day to night.'
The Tale of Genji has been read and handed down for over 1,000 years.
Its author, Murasaki Shikibu, had the protagonist of the tale, Hikaru Genji, say "the intention to communicate what one has heard and seen to posterity creates a fiction that precisely contains the truth." It was this concept that may have resulted in this full-length novel characterized by universality being comprehensible in any and every era.

The original manuscript written by Murasaki Shikibu unfortunately does not exist anymore. However, shortly after the original was written, a large number of duplicate manuscripts and commentaries were created. Even today, translations into modern language and related comics continue to be published in great numbers. Our museum is in possession of over 3,000 different publications related to The Tale of Genji, including some of the old duplicate manuscripts and commentaries. 2008 marks the 1,000th year since references to The Tale of Genji first appeared in records. The Tale of Genji promises to delight many more people far into the future, all the while exerting its influence on various genres.
Murasaki Shikibu was born around the first year of Tenen (973) as a daughter of Tametoki Fujiwara, a renowned Chinese poetry scholar and court official. Her great-grandfather was Tsutsumi Chunagon Kanesuke, a famous waka poet during the mid Heian Period. She lost her mother early in life and was brought up under the full influence of her father. After being married for three years, her husband died of an illness and she reportedly began writing The Tale of Genji as a way of overcoming her sense of grief and loss.
It was highly acclaimed and eventually led her to the imperial court to become a 'nyobo' (lady-in-waiting) to Chugu Shoshi, the empress of Emperor Ichijo and a daughter of Michinaga Fujiwara, the most powerful and influential political noble of that time. A nyobo was a court lady ('nyo') who was provided with a private room ('bo') in her workplace. It seems that Murasaki Shikibu was a tutor and companion to Chugu Shoshi.
Murasaki Shikibu's real name is unknown, but she was the author of Murasaki no Monogatari, otherwise known as The Tale of Genji, and her father, Tametoki, once worked as a 'Shikibu no Jo' (Secretary of the Ministry of Rites), which likely led to her being referred to as Murasaki Shikibu.