Another of Genji’s special talents is his attention to important and intimate details. The way he seduces the object of his desire is to adapt to their moods with tacit details that fill their sights, and sounds while swirling them into a fantasy of delectable scents that will later remind them of the pleasure of his company. This is shown to perfection when Genji is enticed by the beautiful Tamakazura. As Genji shows his regard for the much younger woman, she is made uncomfortable by his attentions. She feels his behavior is inappropriate since she thinks Genji is her father or in the least her protector. In fact her real father is Genji’s former brother-in-law, the Lady Aoi’s brother.
To win Tamakazura, Genji uses his considerable charm, ingenuity and consummate accomplishment on the koto of which he is a master. His majestic playing of the seven-string instrument won her when none of his other tactics did.
The modern reader no doubt sees Hikaru Genji as an incorrigible Don Juan, a shameless rake. Yet Ivan Morris tells us in The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan that for the modern reader who inhabits a monogamous society, The Tale of Genji provides valuable insight into a world where polygamy is the order of the day. The possession of numerous wives and consorts is normal and actually a respectable means of behavior for Heian gentleman.
In the Heian aristocracy, large families have an important advantage, one being that women tend to die young. Also the fact that women are almost completely dependent on men, therefore, a wealthy man who possesses numerous wives and concubines is not labeled a lecher. In fact, it is considered a status symbol.
The type of disapproval our modern-day societies would put on unfaithful husbands is instead directed at the man who has only one or two wives. He is considered anti-social.
The way Genji comports himself during his romantic liaisons falls into the proper ways a courtier is expected to behave. A Reader’s Guide: the Tale of Genji gives us the appropriate guidelines for ladies and gentlemen of the aristocracy. They should “compose delicate poetry,” written in a certain way with just the proper “shade of the ink”. Even “the selection of the paper” is important, the texture, the color. All these nuances are “meticulously scrutinized for evidence of courtly sensibility” (49).
In the Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature we find more valuable information such that the particular way a courtier paints their calligraphy is very important. They should prepare special music that would entice an erotic encounter. In this way, both men and women carry on their romantic affairs around the standing screens posed between them.
The reason for much of this painstaking decorum is that the women of the upper had few options to deal with the mind-numbing monotony of their lives. These were love and literature. They must have something exciting to fill their days.
In regards to Genji, it is not only his astonishing looks, his sensitivity, and his remarkable artistic talents that elevate him as the ideal male. It is the way in which he savors each of his romantic encounters and their various, individual virtues with almost religious devotion. In Heian Japan, an era when a man could walk away at anytime for any reason, leaving the woman destitute if he chose, once Hikaru Genji gives his support to a woman, he never withdraws it, even though he may have lost all interest in her as a mistress. In fact, he builds a magnificent mansion with rooms enough to house all his women.
Copyright 2008 by Ledia Runnels
If you are just now reading this article, Part One begins here: http://creativemusingsoflediar.com/2012/06/11/a-saga-of-seduction-in-japan-tale-of-genji-the-first-novel-ever-written-part-one/
Brulotte, Gaetan. Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2006. 680, 682.
Greenway, Robert. The Art of Seduction . New York: Penguin Books, 2001. 55, 271.
Morris, Ivan. The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in
Ancient Japan. New York: Kodansha America, 1994. 236-237.
Puette, William J. A Reader’s Guide: The Tale of Genji. Massachusetts, 1992. 49, 63, 104.
- A Saga of Seduction in Japan: Tale of Genji (The first novel ever written) Part One (creativemusingsoflediar.com)
- A Saga of Seduction in Japan: Tale of Genji (The first novel ever written) Part Two (creativemusingsoflediar.com)
- A Saga of Seduction in Japan: Tale of Genji (The first novel ever written) Part Three (creativemusingsoflediar.com)
- “The Tale of Genji” translated into Italian (english.kyodonews.jp)
- Tale of Genji: Week 14, Chapter 14 (chazzw.wordpress.com)
- Tale of Genji: Week 17, Chapter 17 (The Picture Contest) (chazzw.wordpress.com)
- Tale of Genji: Week 13, Chapter 13 (chazzw.wordpress.com)
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- Genji in Midair (summergenji.wordpress.com)
- Samurai Library: Useful Books for GMs (ageofravens.blogspot.com)