Genji, still 17 years old.

At this time, Genji was frequently making amorous visits to a high-class lady who was older than himself. She was known as Rokujo-no-miyasundokoro and was a princess from a former Emperor who had long-since passed away. One day as he traveled to visit this lady, Genji stopped in Gojo to see his old wet-nurse who was not well. In a neighboring yard he noticed some delightful moonflowers and ordered his servant to pick him one. As the man did so, a pretty girl came out from the adjacent house and offered him a fan. "It is a somewhat awkward flower to carry" she said "so please lay it on this fan". On receiving it, Genji noticed that there was a poem gracefully composed upon the fan's surface, clearly written by a female hand. He wondered who the lady author might be and what she was doing in such a lowly house so he instructed Koremitsu, the son of his old nurse, to find out. Eventually, through Koremitsu's enquiries, Genji was able to meet the lady and was immediately attracted to her. 'Yugao' or 'Moonflower' (meaning, literally, 'an evening face') was the theme of the poem.

On the night of the August 15th full moon, which Genji was spending at Yugao's lowly lodgings, he decided, as dawn approached, to take her to a grand but deserted mansion located nearby. The adventure proved fatal when the lovers were startled by the face of a beautiful woman who appeared next to Yugao's pillow. It was the living spirit of Rokujo-no-miyasundokoro and it was too much for poor Yugao who died of the shock. Later, through Koremitsu's discrete arrangements, Genji held Yugao's funeral but was himself so desolate that he fell ill and was confined to bed for twenty days.

Genji later learned from Yugao's lady in waiting, Ukon, that Yugao had in fact been the 'hidden wife' of Genji's great friend and brother- in-law To-no-Chujo, the same lady referred to back on that rainy night when the men were discussing women and how to grade them. Ukon also revealed that Yugao had a three-year old daughter and that she had been hiding out at the lodgings to escape To-no-Chujo's jealous wife, Kita-no-kita. Ukon's service to Yugao was rewarded and Genji arranged a position for her at his Nijo residence. It was also around this time that Utsusemi left the area to join her husband on his return to the far off lands of Iyo.


A poem from the Tale of Genji
I suppose all of you have heard of the Tale of Genji, this monumental work of Murasaki Shikibu from the 11th century, the single most famous novel of classical Japanese liturature. Just like the Ise Monogatari, the Genji is full of "embedded" poems, and their meaning is often highlighted by the events and characters they refer to.

The poem is from Chapter 4, "Yuugao". Prince Genji has a brief love affair with a young girl, called Yuugao. But there is another lady, deeply in love with Genji, who hates Yuugao so much that she dies. Yes, at that time people believed that hatred can kill people!

After the funeral of Yuugao, Genji is looking at the smoke from the pyre, and recites this poem (Helen McCullough's Translation):

The evening sky itself
becomes something to cherish
when I gaze at it,
seeing in one of the clouds
the smoke from her funeral pyre

It also is important to know that Yuugao's name means "Evening Faces." Therefore, Genji's reference to "being deeply intimate with the evening sky" refers to the love he shared with Yugao.

The poem in classical Japanese:


mishi hito no
keburi o kumo to
yuube no sora mo
mutsumashiki ka na

mishi is the rentaikei of miki, which is the past of miru, to see. The rentaikei form is used when a verb is set before a noun as an adjective. In modern Japanese, we would say mita hito, the person seen. In this case it means "beloved person."

mutsumashiki would be mutsumajii in modern Japanese. It meams "intimate, harmonious."

Adated from:


See also these general comments:

The Genji Monogatari

The Tale of Genji (The Genji Monogatari) is the great classic of Japanese literature. It was being written in the first years of the 11th century (so just a thousand years ago) by a lady at court, Murasaki Shikibu, and runs to 1200 pages in English translation. There are now two full translations, one, published beginning in 1929, by Arthur Waley, the second, published in 1976, by Edward Seidensticker. It is frequently called the first great novel in world literature, for it is prose narrative, but laced with waka, as that was presented as almost the standard courtly medium of dialogue. The first two thirds of the book are the story of Genji, the "Shining Prince," opening with his experience as a young lover, as he moves from one woman to another. Then, as Genji grows older, the book does deal with more extended relationships, particularly with his second wife, Murasaki, and with his political fortunes--both out of power, in exile, and in power. As a hero, Genji is not a fighter, comes before the samurai warrior ideal makes its entry into Japanese literature, a few hundred years later He is a dancer, a singer, a poet--a man of all arts--and, above all, a lover. And the book as a whole is not "The Tale of Genji." Two-thirds of the way through the book, chapter 42 opens with the sentence "Genji is dead," and the central character in the last third is Kaoru, thought to be Genji's son, but actually the son of his friend Kashiwagi. The book is not structured as most Western novels are, for, while generally chronological, and while one complication does lead to another, for a Western reader there seems to be relatively little attention given to plot--the author is interested in her characters (as Kawabata still is). But its narrative substance, and, above all, that glorious Heian milieu, have provided the story material and characters for much of the important fiction and drama that has followed in the thousand years of Japanese literature since it was written.

In the early chapters, the character of the young Genji is central. He is a son of the emperor, so a prince, and in natural capacities a "shining" prince, but his mother was a lesser lady of the court, so his inherent charm breeds jealousy in many others of superior station, and his mother dies when he is just an infant,which means that he absolutely depends upon the favor of his father--which, in general, he has. In his romantic affairs, he seems at times to be chasing the memory of his mother. In the early chapters it is as if the young Genji has a new woman in each chapter, and clearly the memory of his mother attracts him to some of them. He has an affair with one of the emperors concubines, Fujitsubo, who reminds everyone of Genji's mother, and she then has his child, though it is thought to be the emperor's--which causes many problems later.

Murasaki could be called the heroine of the novel, is the most attractive female. Genji first sees her when she is still a child (and he is but seventeen, though already an experienced lover), from a distance, when he is at a retreat recovering from a particularly traumatic love affair which has resulted in the death of the woman, Yugao. He is so taken by Murasaki that he "kidnaps" her from her grandmother, a nun, and then undertakes to train her to be the perfect wife. This is a provocative idea in any culture, and it is fascinating to see how this sophisticated court lady of 1000 years ago works out the details of the relationship.

Generally acknowledged as the best critical study of this novel in English is Ivan Morris's The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan (Oxford University Press, 1964).