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Friday, July 14, 2023

Uji, The Tale of Genji Museum, and Murasaki Shikibu

I did a few off the beaten path excursions in Japan. Before my trip, I accidently came across a book titled The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. Her work is referred to as the world’s first novel. And I just had to read it. So, I bought the 1200 page or so book and began reading. Unfortunately, I could not finish it because the Protagonist, Hikaru Genji, has no redeeming qualities, and I didn't care about what would happen to him as the story unfolded. I laughed so hard when I read someone’s review on Amazon: “look, I read this book for class...all you need to know is that Genji's a ho.” A blunt review, but not far from the truth. Also, I would not call this book a novel because there is no story, but rather a series of sentences strung together. Apparently, the last third of it was written by someone else. Of course, this book has been translated to English. Perhaps if I was able to read it in its original archaic language, I would have liked it??

Anyhow, just the fact that Murasaki was ahead of her time and decided to write a novel impressed me. I also gained some knowledge about her as a lady-in-waiting, the Hein period, and the aristocratic life in the 11th century Japan.  So, I decided to stop by Uji on my way to Nara to visit The Tale of Genji Museum. Uji is a beautiful city also known for their high-quality green teas.
My tour guide, who took me there, didn’t know anything about Murasaki and didn’t care. He said, “It’s a girl thing.” But later, as we visited different temples, he realized her importance in the Japanese society. When we arrived at The Tale of Genji Museum, he simply went to sit somewhere and didn’t want to bother to go through the museum with me. There was an English audio guide, but it had technical difficulties and wasn’t working and the explanations were in Japanese.
The above photos are scenes from the novel. It’s about Genji, the women he courted, and life during that time period.
There is also a small library and a shop. I bought a few of the photographs which depict Murasaki during different seasons.
Uji is worth a half-a-day trip even if you are not interest in literature. There are small tea shops, a lovely scenery, the Byodo-in: a Buddhist temple, and tea plantations.

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