The Tale of Genji is considered to be the world's first full-length novel. It was written by a noblewoman named Murasaki Shikibu in the early eleventh century.
Until then the Japanese had imitated Chinese culture, and Chinese poetry and writing had been popular. However, a home-grown syllabic writing system called hiragana emerged around that time as a means of expressing the sentiments and thoughts of the Japanese - particularly of women. Murasaki Shikibu used the hiragana script in writing the Tale of Genji.
The hero of this 54-chapter novel, regarded as a masterpiece of Japan's cultural tradition, is a handsome aristocrat named Hikaru Genji. The novel describes the life of Genji and his many romances against the backdrop of Japan's court society.
The author, Murasaki Shikibu, was gifted with great literary talent. After the death of her husband, she served in the imperial court. It is thought that she based the novel on her true-life experiences at court.
Photo:Goto Art Museum