Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context
Issue 7, March 2002

Marriage, Rank and Rape in
The Tale of Genji

Royall Tyler

  1. Those familiar with The Tale of Genji (early 11th c., by Murasaki Shikibu), know that its hero, Genji, establishes liaisons with a wide variety of women. Actually, the stories about these liaisons are concentrated above all in the first dozen chapters (out of fifty-four), but since these are the ones most widely read and remembered, the general reputation of the tale tends to rest upon them.
  2. There are two basic evaluations of Genji's love relationships. One, established for centuries and still current, accepts the position taken repeatedly by the narrator herself, to the effect that Genji is all but irresistible; that he values character as highly as he values looks; and that he never abandons any woman with whom he has established a bond. These are striking or admirable traits, and Genji has often been praised by both men and women as representing an ideal. However, a reaction against this sort of view has set in recently in Japan, North America, and no doubt elsewhere.[1]
  3. The dissenters charge Genji with crimes against women. Setouchi Jakuchô, a woman novelist and the most recent translator of the tale into modern Japanese, is an example. An American newspaper interview with her reads, 'While Genji's liaisons are normally described as seductions, Ms. Setouchi scoffs at that. 'It was all rape, not seduction,' she says.'[2] This attitude is so common in North American classrooms that one colleague felt obliged to defend Genji in a recent article in the Journal of Asian Studies.[3] In Japan, so-called Genji-girai ('detestation of Genji') flourishes. Meanwhile, some readers now hold that the women of the tale, not Genji, are the tale's intended centre of interest. One such voice is that of Komashaku Kimi, who also insisted that the author wrote her book in order to warn all women against marriage.[4]
  4. The narrator is right about Genji, but there are also times (as the narrator also knows) when he behaves deplorably. His pursuit of Princess Asagao in chapter 20 ('The Bluebell') embarrasses him, distresses her acutely, and torments his lifelong love and quasi-wife, Murasaki.[5] Elsewhere, for example in chapter 35 ('Spring Shoots, Part Two'), he fails completely to understand Murasaki's feelings, even though he loves her passionately. Despite his qualities, he is a male after all. In any case, there are other men in the book, and other male-female relationships than those involving him. There is also worse than what he does. For example, in chapter 50 ('The Eastern Cottage'), Niou (Genji's grandson) behaves like a common, shameless lecher—something of which Genji could never be fairly accused.
  5. In this essay I will consider aspects of gender relations in The Tale of Genji not from any theoretical standpoint, but from a perspective expressed or implied by the narrative itself. After covering some general considerations, I will discuss the significance of social rank in these relations, especially with reference to the women known to readers as Utsusemi (chapters 2 and 3, 'The Broom Tree' and 'The Cicada Shell') and Suetsumuhana (chapter 6, 'The Safflower'). I will then take up the issue of 'rape,' particularly as it concerns Genji's first intercourse with Murasaki (chapter 9, 'Heart-to-Heart') and the fate of Ôigimi (chapter 47, 'Trefoil Knots'). I argue that in these cases forced sexual intercourse has a significance unimaginable in the contemporary world.[6]

    Gender, law and power in The Tale of Genji
  6. Perhaps the first thing to note about gender relations in The Tale of Genji is that they are humane in tone. There is no trace of physical violence against women, nor is there any unreasonable insistence on purity, virginity, and so on. Men expect women to overlook many things, but they may also do their best to reciprocate.
  7. However, the men of the tale certainly dominate their world. The entire government hierarchy was male, except for certain offices concerned with palace women, and it was men who studied 'serious' subjects (moral philosophy, statecraft, and so on) in Chinese, the 'serious' language. While a gentleman had a public (or professional) life as well as a private one, a lady travelled rarely and spent most of her time carefully screened from view in inner rooms. She might not let a female relative, or even certain of her own gentlewomen, get an unimpeded view of her; but of course her main concern, and that of her entire household, was that she should escape the gaze of any unrelated male. If such precautions had always been effective there would have been no tales to tell; the world would not have 'gone round' at all.

    Figure 1. Guard
    But of course they failed now and again, and the stock literary motif that sums up men's illicit spying on women is thatof kaimami ['peering through a crack']. Denied any chance to see a woman legitimately, a man might resort to glimpsing her through a fence, or between shutters, blinds, curtains, and so on; or casual curiosity might reward him in the same way with a sight that he had never expected to come upon at all. In either case, and no doubt especially in fiction, the effect could be as devastating as the view was rare. When a frisking cat lifts a blind for an instant (chapter 34, 'Spring Shoots, Part One'), the sight a young gentleman sees will lead him through years of painful obsession towards folly and death.

  8. Women could own, inherit, and pass on property, and the author of The Tale of Genji demonstrates as well as anyone that they could be highly cultivated and accomplished; but, as so often elsewhere, men enjoyed by far the greater degree of sexual licence. Ladies of good family were expected to uphold thoroughly conservative standards, and in the tale the great majority of them do just that, with conviction. In most respects their sentiments are identical with commonplace notions of 'morality' today. The only visible difference between 'nowadays' among 'us' and 'in those days' among 'them' has to do with the then-customary practice of limited polygamy.
  9. The law code in nominal force in the time of the tale allowed a man only one wife,[7] but practice stretched it to permit lesser wives (lesser sometimes by only a small degree), who could also bear him fully recognised children; although in principle a child by a lesser wife enjoyed less prestige, hence less promising prospects. On the average, members of the high aristocracy seem to have had two to three such hierarchically ordered wives. The custom was variously advantageous to a male courtier, but it was clearly a trial to many women. Perhaps the most famous example is the author of The Kagerô Diary—a woman known to posterity only as The Mother of Michitsuna.[8] This lady's account of her marriage to a great lord covers the years 954-974. She was not her husband's senior wife; in fact, she ranked low enough that he might not have committed himself to her at all if she had not been a beauty. Nonetheless, she was intensely jealous of the senior wife and fiercely resented the time her husband spent with her or with other women. Such sentiments from a woman in her position are not seen in The Tale of Genji, but in the tale as no doubt in real life an established wife could certainly be jealous of a late-comer, even a lesser one. For example, Genji feels obliged repeatedly to remind Murasaki that the Akashi Lady (the mother of his only daughter) is no threat to her (chapters 13 and 14, 'Akashi' and 'The Pilgrimage to Sumiyoshi'); and Kumoi no Kari, the childhood sweetheart and then wife of Genji's son, Yûgiri, storms out of the house when Yûgiri also marries Princess Ochiba (chapter 39, 'Evening Mist').
  10. The practice of polygamy could therefore try a wife sorely. However, neither Murasaki nor Kumoi no Kari is jealous of every woman with whom her husband has a lasting bond. Murasaki understands that most of the others matter relatively little. What troubles her about Akashi is Genji's special interest in her.[9] Alas, much later in the story Genji marries the Third Princess, who far outranks Murasaki, and for Murasaki (as for Genji) the final result is disaster. Genji never wavers in his devotion to Murasaki, but that is not enough. Murasaki falls gravely ill, and her sickness lasts until her death years later. Kumoi no Kari fares better in comparison. After the initial crisis she understands that Princess Ochiba does not ultimately threaten her supremacy. In the meantime she hardly worries (at least on the page) about another woman who is actually the mother of several of her husband's children. This is no doubt because the woman ranks quite low and because Kumoi no Kari's husband makes no move to honour her above her station.

    Figure 2 Lady
    In short, it appears that at least in The Tale of Genji the simple existence of another wife or quasi-wife may not alarm a lady too seriously. What matters more is the other woman's intrinsic rank, which has to do first of all with who her father is; and, if that rank is relatively low, with the way the lady's husband behaves towards her. A formal wife seems to have been prepared to accept the existence of other wives or quasi-wives as long as none threatened her own standing with her husband. Presumably the other women involved also managed most of the time to make some sort of peace with their situation.

    Polygamous marriage
  11. Critical in the context of a polygamous marriage, rank was also a vital factor in any relationship between a man and a woman. To start at the low end, a lord seems in principle to have been free to approach any woman serving in his household. (Men in a similar position have enjoyed the same tacit privilege in societies all over the world.) A liaison of this kind could be genuinely affectionate, judging from examples in the tale, but it carried no social consequences. No doubt it happened occasionally in real life that a young gentleman completely lost his head over such a woman, but there were ways to remedy the situation. The woman could be sent away, or the man could forcefully be reminded of the consequences of too visible an infatuation: a cloud over the family name and, above all, diminished future prospects for himself. In the tale, only one man gets in over his head with a woman completely unworthy of him. In chapter 51 ('A Drifting Boat'), Prince Niou risks at least his standing as the future Heir Apparent, and perhaps a great deal more, for someone who should be beneath his notice. (The tale ends before the outcome is clear.)
  12. A woman of somewhat higher rank, but still not high enough to command the man's full respect as a matter of course, could also test the limits of social tolerance. The most famous example in the tale is that of Genji's mother (chapter 1, 'The Paulownia Pavilion'). Her father is dead (a great handicap, since a father's support was vital to the interests of his daughter), and in any case he had never risen higher than Grand Counsellor. This is no mean office, but it is the Emperor himself who loves the gentleman's daughter, and she therefore remains unqualified under normal circumstances to bear an imperial heir.[10] When the Emperor's infatuation with her distracts him from giving due attention to his other women, especially the Heir Apparent's mother, the result is intense anxiety and political discontent at court. The Emperor (Genji's father) then considers trying to replace the already appointed Heir Apparent with the young Genji, but even he desists when he understands that he cannot possibly bring it off.
  13. As all this suggests, a man owed his greatest, fully sanctioned allegiance to a social equal. (The rare gentleman who managed to marry above his rank was particularly expected, in the tale as in real life, to remain on his best behavior.) Two examples that occur early in the tale illustrate the difference that rank could make. The first is that of Utsusemi and the second that of Suetsumuhana.
  14. Utsusemi, the young stepmother of one of Genji's retainers, ranks well below Genji himself, and he approaches her on a lark. He is only sixteen, an adventurous age, and both their stations encourage him to believe that he can get away with it—as indeed he does. Meanwhile, she resists him stubbornly because of that very same difference in standing. As she explains to him, they do not really belong to the same world, and she refuses to be taken as lightly as he seems to wish to do; nor does she intend to compromise herself in her husband's eyes. (Her husband is away.) However, she secretly regrets that a social gulf should separate them, and she reflects that if they were more nearly equal she would gladly accept him as a lover.
  15. Suetsumuhana's case is different, above all because she is a Princess.[11] Genji courts her obstinately, goaded onward by her complete failure to respond. At last he takes matters into his own hands and goes straight in to her through a door that she had been told was locked. The narrative says no more, but one may assume that he makes love to her, or at least tries to, on the spot. Alas, Suetsumuhana is not really all there, as the reader knows and as Genji now discovers. It is impossible to imagine deriving pleasure of any kind from her company. Still, she is a Princess, and Genji knows his duty. His invasion of her intimacy has committed him to her. It is true that later on the turmoil of his exile causes him to forget all about her, but in time he comes across her again, and thereafter he takes full responsibility for her wellbeing.
  16. His dutifully correct behaviour towards Suetsumuhana contrasts sharply with his failure to act properly in a far more important and absorbing affair: the one with the Rokujô lady (chapters 9 and 10, 'Heart-to-Heart' and 'The Green Branch'). Rokujô is the proud, extravagantly gifted daughter of a Minister and the widow of an Heir Apparent. Genji is already her lover when she first appears in the book (chapter 4, 'The Twilight Beauty'), and she clearly expects him sooner or later to acknowledge their relationship publicly: that is, to marry her. However, he does not; hence her jealousy towards Genji's original wife, Aoi, and Aoi's eventual death from the torment inflicted on her by Rokujô's baleful 'living spirit' (chapter 9). Rokujô is far too great a lady for Genji to treat in this manner, as Genji is reminded by his father, and her dramatically effective resentment springs from accepted social reality. In time she dies (chapter 14), but her spirit lingers on to attack Genji through other women central to his life (Murasaki, the Third Princess), with dire results.
  17. It is worth noting, too, that Genji's obligation to Suetsumuhana stems not only from her rank, but also from the fact that he is her first man. The customary view in the author's time was that the first man to make love to a woman remained responsible for her thereafter and was to carry her on his own back across the river of death. In the tale, Genji is not the only man to feel this sense of responsibility. The young men who take part in the famous 'rainy night discussion' (chapter 2) end up praising constancy, despite their accounts of their own lapses, and later on (chapter 31, 'The Handsome Pillar') Higekuro shares similar sentiments. Yes, he is fed up with his original wife, who is no longer in her right mind, and has taken a new one; but he seems to be sincere when he protests that he has no intention of abandoning his original wife outright. An analogous attitude may be discernible in the way the Kagerô author was treated by her husband, Fujiwara no Kaneie (929-990). The author makes it quite clear that Kaneie was no model of conjugal behaviour. Still, considering the way (according to her account) she let him know time after time exactly what she thought of him, it is also interesting that he should have kept in touch with her at all.

    The issue of rape
  18. No doubt the most sharply controversial aspect of gender relations in The Tale of Genji is what Setouchi Jakuchô and others have defined as rape. The victim of rape is forced into sexual intercourse without her consent, and this certainly happens in the tale. However, a man courting a woman socially worthy of him (within quite a wide range) does not in principle take initial intercourse with her lightly. In the tale, such intercourse is typically the beginning of a long-term relationship. In fact, it may be the start of a marriage or quasi-marriage[12] and may therefore affect the woman's entire future. It therefore makes sense first of all to ask whether a woman in such a situation can properly give her prior consent.
  19. An attentive reading of the tale shows that no young woman of good family could decently, on her own initiative, say yes to first intercourse. One conscious of 'who she is,' and who wishes to remain so, must be directed to comply by someone with the authority to do so—normally, her father. In theory, her own feelings on the matter are irrelevant, although in practice a father in the world of the tale knows that it would be folly simply to ignore them. A young woman may enter into correspondence with an appropriate suitor and may even receive him in a manner that does not compromise her good name, but she may not, on her own, betray sexual interest in him. A lady in the tale did not do that, in which she resembled many other respectable ladies in other countries and times.
  20. The tale contains only rare instances of a man forcing himself on a woman of good family whose father is alive and active in the world. One of these is Genji's first intercourse with Oborozukiyo (chapter 8, 'Under the Cherry Blossoms'), the whole point of which is to be amusingly dangerous. Moreover, Oborozukiyo's failure to resist Genji seriously reminds him that, despite her charm, she has unfortunately not been brought up to what he considers the highest standard. Another example is that of Nokiba no Ogi (chapter 3), with whom Genji goes to bed by mistake and who does not object. However, Nokiba no Ogi is personally and socially insignificant, at least in Genji's eyes, and she is only a passing figure in the tale.
  21. A young woman without a father is likely to be more or less seriously disadvantaged either materially or socially, or both. Utsusemi is an example. If her father had lived, he would have saved her from falling to the level of a provincial governor's wife. As for Suetsumuhana, her father seems never to have had much political weight, but if he were still alive she at least would not have been all but destitute, with her women starving and her house slowly collapsing around her. She would also have had someone to authorise her to accept a husband. Dedicated as she is to honouring her father's memory, she could not possibly give herself this licence. Genji (who for reasons explained in the narrative is determined to see the thing through) therefore has no choice but to proceed without her consent. His decisiveness saves her life not once but twice. As soon as the act of sharing her intimacy (whatever that may actually consist of) has committed him to her, he has her house and grounds redone and supplies her and her household with all that she needs. Then his own troubles erase the thought of her temporarily from his mind. When she comes to his attention again, her material situation is even more desperate than before, but he puts things right again, this time permanently. She literally owes him everything.
  22. Her experience provides a simple model for that of Murasaki.[13] Murasaki is about ten when Genji (then seventeen) discovers her. He immediately wants her, for reasons familiar to anyone acquainted with the tale. However, she is not easy to get. When he comes upon her she is living with her grandmother, now a nun, in the hills north of the capital. Her mother is dead. Her father, a Prince, is alive, but unfortunately Murasaki's mother was not his formal wife. His wife fiercely resented Murasaki's mother when she lived and resents Murasaki even now. As a result, Murasaki's father has never dared to recognise Murasaki as his daughter and has always refrained from bringing her home for fear of the treatment she would receive there.
  23. Genji asks the grandmother for her granddaughter, but she demurs. Murasaki is not yet of marrigeable age, and the grandmother finds his request suspiciously strange. Meanwhile, Murasaki's father decides to bring her home after all. Genji realises that if he lets that happen he will have little further access to Murasaki and will have to wait several years before he can even hope to obtain her. The thought being unbearable, he abducts her instead. Suddenly, she is gone without a trace.
  24. What Genji does is outrageous, not to mention implausible outside fiction. Many recent readers have roundly condemned him for it. But does it harm Murasaki? Considering the realities of her life and her prospects, the answer is no, on the contrary. At her father's house she would be (from her stepmother's controlling standpoint) no more than an unwanted stepchild, a sort of Cinderella. All her stepmother's efforts go to promoting her own daughters, who, needless to say, lack Murasaki's many qualities. The stepmother would soon be defending her daughters against the threat that Murasaki represents and relegating Murasaki as much as possible to the outer darkness. Mursasaki would of course be married off in the end, but to a relative nobody. Her beauty and her abundant gifts would go to waste. In contrast Genji treasures them throughout her life. No husband approved by her father could possibly have become Honorary Retired Emperor or made her an Empress's adoptive mother.
  25. Still, there remains the question of how Genji actually consummates his marriage with her. That he rapes her has been self-evident to many recent readers, for whom the matter is so clear and so reprehensible that nothing further need be, or even should be, said about it.
  26. This is what happens. Having obtained Murasaki after all, Genji treats her with great affection but also with unfailing tact and respect. Despite sleeping with her (literally) every night when at home, he never betrays the slightest wish to press himself upon her. Meanwhile, she grows up. Then Genji's original wife dies, under the circumstances alluded to above. When the mourning is over, Genji looks at Murasaki with fresh eyes and sees that the time has come. He therefore tries in various, discreet ways to arouse her interest in changing the nature of their relationship. However, he fails completely. His hints pass right over her head. She cannot even wonder whether or not to consent, since she has no idea what he is talking about.
  27. The intimacy already established between her and Genji throws her incomprehension into sharp relief. Is such innocence even possible under her circumstances? Or has Genji misjudged her stage of development? With respect to the first question, one need only recall that the tale is fiction. The reader has no reasonable choice but to accept what the narrative says. As for the second, Murasaki is certainly still very young—perhaps only fourteen. However, this was a normal age for marriage in the world of the tale. In fact, many years later her adopted daughter will give birth to a future Emperor, apparently without difficulty, at the age of twelve or thirteen. There is no reason to believe that Genji is wrong by the standards of his time. He seems even to have been unusually patient.
  28. Then what does the author mean by Murasaki's failure to understand him? The answer should be clear already. Her incomprehension proves her quality and promises her future greatness as a lady. For her to say yes would be unworthy of her; for her to say no would place Genji, hence herself, in a very difficult position; and for her to say either would compromise her by showing that she does know what he is talking about. Her utter innocence is what proves her supreme worth. As in the case of Suetsumuhana it is up to Genji to act, and he does. Yes, Murasaki remains furious with him for some time thereafter, but her anger passes, and beyond the chapter in which all this takes place the narrative never alludes to it again. The experience is inevitable, but once it is over, it is over. Its only significant consequence is that now Murasaki can begin her adult life with Genji. That life that will bring her various trials, as anyone's is likely to do, but also great happiness; and in the end it will lift her, for the reader, to a height of grandeur beyond anything her yes or no could have achieved.
  29. The case of Suetsumuhana also provides a key to a situation that occurs much later in the book, after Murasaki and Genji are gone. In chapter 45 ('The Maiden of the Bridge') the reader meets for the first time a young woman known as Ôigimi. She and her younger sister, Nakanokimi, are the daughters of the Eighth Prince (Hachinomiya), a half brother of Genji. Long ago this gentleman lost out in a power struggle at court and vanished into obscurity. His wife died after Nakanokimi was born, and he brought up his daughters alone (although with the help of a household staff). In his last years an extremely distinguished young lord known as Kaoru befriends him, and in time Kaoru glimpses the two sisters. Thereafter he yearns for Ôigimi. When the Eighth Prince feels his end approaching, he lets Kaoru know that Kaoru should assume responsibility for the sisters after him. One may assume that he wishes Kaoru to marry at least one of them and to assure the welfare of the other.
  30. Unfortunately, the Eighth Prince does not (judging from the narrative) express this wish nearly so clearly to his daughters. All they retain from his words, after his death, is a warning to be wary of all men. They recall him holding out the remote possibility that someone worthy of them might appear, but they remain far more impressed by his admonition never to discredit themselves by yielding rashly to anyone unworthy. They conclude that, in their father's absence, marriage is too perilous to embark upon at all.
  31. Meanwhile Kaoru courts Ôigimi, the elder, assiduously. She refuses him time after time, but she also worries so much about Nakanokimi's future that she tries to deflect him towards her younger sister. Kaoru will have none of it, however, and soon Nakanokimi's fate is decided in a quite different way. Some time ago, Kaoru told his great friend Prince Niou about the sisters, and so eventually Niou has Kaoru take him to their house and smuggle him in to Nakanokimi. Being as assertive a lover as Kaoru is reticent, he succeeds instantly. It is impossible to imagine him requesting her consent first, although the narrative makes it clear that she is well pleased afterwards. Niou has married her, and her future is now assured.
  32. Alas, that is not obvious for some time. The sisters live far from the capital, and Niou is too exalted in rank to travel freely. He has great difficulty merely returning, as custom required, for the three successive nights that seal the marriage (see note 12). Then more difficulties intervene, and the sisters conclude gloomily that that he has forgotten Nakanokimi. Their fear of marriage seems to be vindicated. Under the pressure of Kaoru's continued courtship, Ôigimi therefore decides to die. In chapter 47 she starves herself to death.
  33. A great deal has been written about her motivation for doing so. A recent writer cited anorexia nervosa, as well as a quasi-religious attachment to the memory of her father.[14] However, a much simpler explanation accounts for her fundamental refusal to accept Kaoru. She has no one to tell her to do so.
  34. As the elder, Ôigimi feels keenly the duty to uphold her and her sister's honour; they are, after all, a Prince's daughters. Concern for Nakanokimi encourages her to bend her standards in her sister's case, but she gives herself no such latitude. All the responsibility for saving her therefore rests with Kaoru.
  35. Unfortunately, one of Kaoru's salient traits is to be unusually considerate of the opposite sex, at least when the prospective partner is of high standing.[15] He had his chance once with Ôigimi (a night that he managed to spend alone with her, over her protests), but he never seized it, as Genji or Niou would have done. Unlike any other man in the tale, he insists on refraining from making love to Ôigimi until she herself allows him to do so. At first one smiles with approval, as many readers have done in centuries past; but then one begins to understand his ghastly mistake. He is out of touch with reality. If he had acted decisively during that night, regardless of Ôigimi's local feelings on the subject, he would have committed himself to her and her to him. He would have taken the decision out of her hands, and she would not have died. Far from it: considering how deeply he and she actually felt about each other, they might really have lived happily ever after.


    [1] I did not note it among my students, in my limited experience teaching Genji at the Australian National University.

    [2] New York Times, May 28, 1999.

    [3] Margaret H. Childs, 'The Value of Vulnerability: Sexual Coercion and the Nature of Love in Japanese Court Literature,' Journal of Asian Studies 58:4 (Nov. 1999).

    [4] Komashaku Kimi, Murasaki Shikibu no messêji, Asahi Shuppan (Asahi Sensho 422), 1991.

    [5] For complex reasons, Murasaki cannot be Genji's wife in a completely formal, uncontested sense.

    [6] Royall Tyler, tr., The Tale of Genji (2 vols.), New York: Viking, 2001. All chapter titles and official titles appear below as they do in my recently published translation of the tale. I also capitalise official titles as in the translation itself.

    [7] Kudô Shigenori, 'Ippu issai sei to shite no Heian bungaku,' Bungaku 55:10 (1987):95. On Heian marriage see also William H. McCullough, 'Japanese Marriage Institutions in the Heian Period,' Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 27 (1967); and Peter Nickerson, 'The Meaning of Matrilocality: Kinship, Property, and Politics in Mid-Heian,' Monumenta Nipponica 48:4 (Winter 1993).

    [8] Sonja Arntzen, tr., The Kagerô Diary: A Woman's Autobiographical Text from Tenth-Century Japan, Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 1997.

    [9] Genji is really more interested in Akashi's child than in Akashi herself. In chapter 19 ('Wisps of Cloud') Murasaki will adopt the girl so as to permit her eventual rise to Empress.

    [10] This privilege was reserved for either a Consort (nyôgo, of whom there could be several) or an Empress (kisaki, chûgû, of whom there could be only one). A Consort was normally the daughter of a Minister (otodo, daijin).

    [11] In my usage, the daughter of an Emperor or an Emperor's son.

    [12] To confirm the marriage, the man spent three nights in a row with the woman at her house. The attendant ceremony is described in chapter 9, when Genji marries Murasaki.

    [13] For a discussion of Murasaki in the full context of her relationship with Genji, see Royall Tyler, ''I Am I': Genji and Murasaki,' Monumenta Nipponica 54:4 (Winter 1999).

    [14] Doris Bargen, A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in The Tale of Genji, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997, pp 199-204.

    [15] Later on, Kaoru makes love immediately, no doubt without a word or a thought about consent, to Ôigimi's unrecognised half-sister Ukifune; but Ukifune is far lower in rank and, in a social sense, 'does not matter.'

    The images are from Kojitsu sôsho, a very large compendium of texts and some images on ancient usages. They are public domain.


This paper was originally published in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, with the assistance of Murdoch University.

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