GENJI MONOGATARI
   
Play title Genji Monogatari  In Japanese
Authors Murasaki Shikibu (original novel)
Setouchi Jakuch˘ (Kabuki script)
History

This special version of the "Genji Monogatari" was written by Setouchi Jakuch˘ and staged in September 2004 in Nagoya at the Misonoza to celebrate the shűmei of the young star Ichikawa Ebiz˘ XI, who played the role of Hikari-no-Kimi.

Structure

This special version of the "Genji Monogatari" is made up of 3 acts (divided into 18 scenes!).

Key words Shinkabuki
Jidaimono
Genji Monogatari
Heian Jidai
Summary

It is during the reign of Emperor Kiritsubo. Among the Emperor's numerous mistresses there is a minor court lady called Kiritsubo no Koi. Though she was not from such a high-status family, she was in the Emperor's great favor and gave birth to the Emperor's second son, a gem-like baby. This unearthly beautiful baby soon became the apple of the Emperor's eye. People nicknamed him Hikari-no-Kimi or "Shining Prince". In those days if a mistress bore the Emperor a son, her father became very powerful politically. So, it was a great achievement not only for the mistress herself but also for her family. Kiritsubo no Koi's father, however, had died young. Without his backing, she became a target for the resentment and envy of other mistresses. Most vehement of all was Kokiden no Taigo, daughter of the Minister of the Right and mother of Emperor Kiritsubo's first son, Crown Prince Suzaku. The persecution against Kiritsubo no Koi was so furious that she was overcome with anxiety and finally passed away when Hikari-no-Kimi was only three years old. The Emperor thought that if he put Hikari-no-Kimi forward as a candidate for Crown Prince, the boy would suffer greatly from the severe competition for the post, because he lacked the sponsorship of a powerful family which was so important in the political world. Considering it better for Hikari-no-Kimi to be discharged from Imperial family membership, the Emperor lowered his status to that of a court subject. Hikari-no-Kimi was given the family name Genji, but could not pass that name down to future generations.

When Genji is ten years old Kiritsubo orders Fujitsubo to join the Imperial Court as one of his mistresses. She is a former Emperor's fourth daughter and bears a strong resemblance to the late Kiritsubo no Koi who Emperor Kiritsubo cannot get out of his thoughts. Kiritsubo calls Fujitsubo to the court because he wants to dispel his lonesome feelings. Fujitsubo and he come to love each other deeply, and he regains his lost vitality.

Two years later at the age of twelve Genji has his Coming-of-Age-Ceremony. The Minister of the Left takes charge of his instruction and becomes his father-in-law when in the same year Genji gets married to his daughter Aoi no Ue. Being a much more mature sixteen, she refuses to play the part of a nice submissive wife. Genji also finds it difficult to give his love completely in what was a political marriage planned by his father Emperor Kiritsubo and the Minister. Thus their married life gets off to a rocky start. Aoi's brother To no Chujo, however, understands Hikari-no-Kimi's feelings and becomes one of his closest friends. Sometimes they are close and trusted confidants, at other times rivals and adversaries.

When Genji reaches seventeen he begins to exhibit his excellent talents out shining other nobles not only in his attractive appearance, but also in his abilities in scholarship, singing, dancing, poetry, and other areas. He misses Fujitsubo, who reminds him of his dead mother. What starts out as simple maternal affection for his step mother, however, gradually escalates into passionate love until finally he cannot control himself. At last with the help of Omy˘bu, he sneaks into Fujitsubo's bedchamber and attains his desire by force. After this love affair Fujitsubo trembles with fear whenever she thinks of the sin which they have committed, but the delicate workings of her female mind are dazzled and overwhelmed by Genji's youth as well as his bold and ardent manner of courting. Although Genji wants to continue to see Fujitsubo, she is the First Lady of the Court, the Emperor's most beloved woman. It is extremely difficult for Genji to arrange meetings. As a result his thwarted love turns to Rokuj˘-no-Miyasudokoro, widow of the late crown prince. Since her husband's death she is always surrounded by young court nobles, including Hotaru Hy˘bu-no-Ky˘, Sotsu-no-Miya, Fuji-no-Saisho, Gon-no-Chűnagon, Saemon-no-Kami. They are all in the prime of their lives. While outwardly competing with each other, testing their talents in singing, verse making, music, and games of physical skill, their true goal is Rokuj˘-no-Miyasudokoro herself. Each hopes that he will win the heart of this beautiful, but proud, woman. In this rivalry, too, Hikari-no-Kimi outdoes the competition and is rewarded with her love. Thus he comes to visit her mansion regularly.

One day on his way to the mansion he discovers on a hedge by a small house a white evening glory at its best. This area, called Goj˘, is a residential neighborhood for the lower classes. While admiring the flower, he happens to catch a glance of a misfortunate woman. Her name is Yűgao, or Evening Glory. Once again he falls in love. One night in the midst of Genji and Yűgao's love talk a loud reverberating peal of spring thunder is heard. During this interlude Yűgao is possessed by a spirit and dies. While this is happening Genji has a vision of Rokuj˘-no-Miyasudokoro's apparition calling down her curse upon Yűgao.

One day Hikari-no-Kimi manages to have a rendezvous with Fujitsubo, and their passion ignites once again. They have one secret meeting after another, and she becomes pregnant. She hides the fact from Genji and lies to the people close to her about the time of impregnation. This is the greatest infidelity of her lifetime. Ironically when she delivers, the baby boy Prince Reizei bears a striking resemblance to his supposed father (really his grandfather). Meanwhile Genji senses that he himself is the boy's true father, and this is confirmed in a dream. His love for Fujitsubo increases all the more when he realizes and feels sorry for the predicament in which he has placed her. Incidentally his wife, Aoi-no-Ue also conceives, which improves the relationship between them. On the other hand, when Rokuj˘-no-Miyasudokoro, with whom Genji has continued to have relations, finds out about Aoi-no-Ue's pregnancy, she feels fiercely jealous. Although Aoi-no-Ue safely delivers a baby boy, Rokuj˘-no-Miyasudokoro's burning jealousy turns to a wrathful spirit that possesses and eventually kills Genji's wife.

Kiritsubo steps down from the throne in favor of his first son, Suzaku. Reizei, who is next in line for the throne, thereby becomes Crown Prince. Genji is ordered to be an advisor to the boy. When Kiritsubo passes away both Fujitsubo and Genji lose their greatest supporter at Court and gradually fall into a precarious position. Suddenly on the first anniversary of Kiritsubo's death Fujitsubo retires to a convent to pursue a religious life. She does it for the sake of her son, the Crown Prince, and at the same time in order to put an end to her continued indiscretions with Genji. Slowly Genji is being driven into a tight corner because of his frivolous and unbridled sexual activity.

For a while he bides his time in moderation, but there is no cure for his inborn and insuppressible passion. It is resurrected and directed towards Oborozukiyo. She is the daughter of the rival family, that of the Minister of the Right. In addition, she is the beloved lady of Emperor Suzaku, Genji's half brother. Genji again strays from the path of righteousness and risks his political life and future on this clandestine affair. He cannot conceal it for long and is discovered. Thus he makes up his mind to resign from all posts so that his misbehavior does not prevent the Crown Prince's future accession to the throne. Furthermore, he resolves to leave Ky˘to and his dear wife and to live as an exile in the faraway and desolate land of Sumaro. His life has been colored with passion and love, but always at the risk of his political career. The more difficult to obtain a woman was, the more violently his passion burned. In this sense he was a man who lived his life to the full without apology.

This summary has been written by Watanabe Hisao and edited by Jeff Blair [website]

Genji seeing the sights of the Festival of Aoi (illustration made by Okada Motoshi)

 
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