About the Book

Book Protagonist: Hikaru Genji
Publication Date: 1021
Genre: Classic, Fantasy

Character List

The Tale of Genji

By Murasaki Shikibu

'The Tale of Genji' an esteemed classic of Japanese literature composed in the 11th century by the talented Murasaki Shikibu, intricately weaves a captivating narrative around the life and escapades of Prince Genji, a remarkably charming and gifted aristocrat.

‘The Tale of Genji’ is a revered Japanese literary masterpiece written by Murasaki Shikibu in the eleventh century. It centers on the lives and exploits of the charming and gifted aristocrat Prince Genji. The novel’s namesake, Murasaki, the true love of Genji, as well as Lady Fujitsubo, the Emperor’s lover, Lady Aoi, the first wife of Genji, and other characters all play a part in how the plot develops in ‘The Tale of Genji.‘ The work thoroughly examines love, beauty, and court life in ancient Japan because of the characters’ intricate relationships, emotions, and social roles.

Hikaru Genji

Hikaru Genji, a handsome and gifted man, represents the height of Heian-era royal culture in many respects. Along with being a talented musician and dancer, he is also an exceptional poet and painter. He is sensitive to the harmonies that beauty can bring and finds beauty in nature and people. He is so devoted to these characteristics that he becomes disinterested in a potential lover when he discovers she produces subpar poetry. No matter how attractive she may be, he cannot pursue someone who has obvious shortcomings in the arts.

Despite all of his excellent traits, Genji is not without flaws. Genji frequently disregards other people’s feelings, especially those of the ladies he is trying to attract, and pursues them despite the potential consequences to their reputations. Genji doesn’t kill Yūgao, but his attentions do result in her demise in this instance. In the same vein, Princess Hitachi keeps him waiting so long that he feels bad. While he had lost interest in her, he never really expressed how he felt. Modern readers might find some of the scenes troubling, such as when he kidnaps little Violet or forces himself on women.

Throughout these seventeen chapters, Genji develops significantly, becoming more conscious of the impact of his actions on others. For instance, he demonstrates his loyalty to his romantic interests by promising to take care of the Lady of Rojukō’s daughter. Genji and Violet are one of the few characters in the book who dramatically changes. Unlike the majority of the other characters, Genji learns from his experiences and gradually modifies his behavior.


Kokiden is one of the Emperor’s favorite lovers, and although it isn’t explicitly stated, she may be his wife. She is also one of Genji’s most formidable foes. Despite having a lot of authority for much of the book, she is incredibly insecure. Kokiden works very hard to make life difficult for her enemies as a result, as seen by the fact that she helped drive the Lady of the Paulownia Court away. Even if she is made to acknowledge that Genji is a lovely and endearing young man, this doesn’t stop her from trying to undermine him whenever she has the chance. Suzaku, her son, is successfully steered early in life to the emperorship, and she makes the decision not to retire with the Emperor.

Kokiden frequently makes fun of the Emperor when he is sad or depressed, especially after the Lady of the Paulownia Court’s passing, so it’s unclear what kind of relationship the two of them even had to begin with. Kokiden and her father, the Minister of the Right, effectively rule in Suzaku’s place now that he is the emperor. Kokiden plays a key role in creating the impression that exile is Genji’s only option after she discovers that Genji is secretly having sex with one of her younger sisters.


Ten years after being spotted by Genji, Violet goes on to become his major love interest. Princess Wistaria and Violet share a resemblance, which is what draws Genji’s attention to them. Princess Wistaria is not available to Genji even though he fathers her child because she is his father’s concubine and later his father’s wife. To escape Genji, she eventually withdraws from court life.

Contrarily, Genji can shape Violet into what he wants, educating her to be a talented poet and a wonderful friend. As Genji is in exile in Suma and Akashi, Violet has a strong sense of self and can thrive on her own. But even though she is never able to give birth to a son or daughter for him, their bond endures.


Suzaku is Genji’s half-brother; their fathers are the Emperor and Kokiden, respectively. Suzaku is a few years older than Genji and is not as widely liked, yet this has little effect on the brothers’ relationship because they have remained quite close throughout their lives. However, Suzaku shows himself to be a poor ruler after ascending to the throne at a young age. Kokiden and his grandfather, the Minister of the Right, practically prevent Suzaku from achieving his goals. They also prevent Suzaku from carrying out his father’s instructions, such as adopting Reizei and paying attention to Genji’s counsel.

He consents to Genji’s exile after learning about his relationship with Suzaku’s ex-girlfriend Oborozukiyo. During this time, Suzaku and Genji correspond with one another until Kokiden ends their correspondence. Over a year later, Suzaku has a dream in which the Emperor visits him and chastises him for disobeying Genji. As a result, Suzaku develops an uncomfortable eye problem. Within a few months, Suzaku decides to ask Genji to return from exile. During a brief amount of time, the brothers’ relationship is still somewhat positive, but it soon deteriorates after Genji adopts the young woman Akikonomu.

Lady Rokujō

Another name for Rokujō is “Lady of the Sixth Ward.” The fact that Rokujō is seven years older than Genji makes her feel more insecure about their relationship. Although Genji truly loves her and thinks she is a lovely, elegant, and bright woman, their relationship suffers as a result of her jealous temperament. Unconsciously, a malevolent, aggressive spirit takes the appearance of Rokujō’s jealousy. Genji’s mistress Yūgao and Genji’s wife Aoi perished at the hands of Rokujō’s disembodied ghost. For several months, Murasaki was likewise possessed by her spirit. Although Murasaki is freed from the evil spirit, her health is irreparably harmed. When Rokujō’s spirit joins Nyosan after leaving Murasaki, it inflicts the young woman with a severe depression that nearly kills her.


Genji’s brother-in-law and close buddy is Tō-no-Chūjō. He has many of the traits coveted by Heian Japan, much like Genji: he is a brilliant dancer, an expressive poet, and a commanding presence at court. Yet, Genji consistently defeats him in their competitions for women. He is a kind man, but he is nothing compared to Genji’s brilliant example. Tō-no-Chūjō is less kind and more rigid than Genji, as the second chapter makes abundantly obvious. When Genji encounters Yūgao, the woman that Tō-no-Chūjō portrays in the exchange from “The Broom-Like Tree,” he realizes that his buddy had misjudged her. While Tō-no-Chūjō saw an uninteresting person, Genji found a charming woman. Once Yūgao passes away, Genji not only oversees her caregivers and young child but also reprimands his friend for mistreating the kind and charming spirit.

Even though his prestige has been degraded by his father’s retirement, Tō-no-Chūjō disobeys Lady Koki-directive den and the court halts all communication with Genji after he is banished. Murasaki presents a striking portrayal of close male friends in the friendship between Genji and Tō-no-Chūjō.


One of the Emperor’s preferred lovers is Fujitsubo. When Genji is seven or eight years old, the Emperor summons her to court because she resembles the late Lady of the Paulownia Palace. She does not, however, experience the abuse that her predecessor experienced because she is even more stunning and flawless than the Paulownia Lady. Genji is touched to find that Fujitsubo resembles his mother, but as he gets older, he begins to have an unhealthy fascination with her. When Genji is younger, the Emperor doesn’t forbid this, thus Genji pursues the relationship years later. Genji rapes Fujitsubo when she eventually returns home sick.

She becomes pregnant with Reizei, Genji’s child, though she allows the Emperor to believe that the baby is his. This puts Fujitsubo under a lot of stress since she worries that if he learns that Reizei is his child, he would suddenly decide to strip her of her authority and position. However, she fears Kokiden’s fury, particularly after the Emperor names Fujitsubo empress just before his passing. It’s also not quite obvious whether Fujitsubo does harbor a secret crush on Genji in the wake of her rape since she frequently finds herself torn between wanting to keep him at a distance and letting him know in subtle ways that she does feel something for him.

Genji, however, makes Fujitsubo very unwell at one point by attempting to rape her again. After this, when Reizei is still a young kid, Fujitsubo decides to distance herself from Genji’s advances and court life by becoming a nun. She finds that doing this is a good method to keep herself safe, and she and Genji can decide to keep in touch politely for Reizei’s benefit. As Reizei ascends to the throne, Fujitsubo is only permitted to be treated as a retired empress rather than as an actual empress or a regent.


Genji can recognize some of himself in his son even though Yugiri is known for his calm demeanor. Childhood buddies from birth, Yugiri and his wife Kumoi have eight kids together. Inadvertently catching a peek of his stepmother Murasaki as a teenager, Yugiri was amazed by her flawless beauty. Until she dies, he will be secretly in love with her. Yugiri consents to take care of Kashiwagi’s wife Ochiba after Kashiwagi’s passing. After a while, Yugiri declares his love for Ochiba and takes her as his second wife. Yugiri assumes Genji’s roles as family head and executor of his several estates after Genji’s death.


Ryozen doesn’t know that Genji is his father until the priest of his mother tells him. Even though he is still a young guy, Ryozen maintains the information hidden from everyone because he knows that if it were to be known, his family and their dependents would suffer greatly. As his uncle retires, Ryozen succeeds him as emperor, but he feels like a fraud for the entire 18 years of his rule. When Suzaku’s son, Ryozen’s nephew, reaches the legal age to ascend to the kingdom, Ryozen retires.


Who is Kiri-Tsubo in ‘The Tale of Genji’?

Kiri-Tsubo is a young lady who serves as one of the ladies-in-waiting in the court. She is known for her beauty and charm, and she becomes one of the romantic interests of Hikaru Genji. Despite being a minor character, Kiri-Tsubo plays a role in the unfolding of certain events and relationships in the novel, contributing to the intricate web of courtly affairs and emotions that characterize the story.

Who was Genji’s first wife in ‘The Tale of Genji’?

Lady Aoi. Genji’s marriage to Lady Aoi is arranged when he is twelve years old to elevate his position in the court. The couple’s relationship is not very strong. She has a cold personality that is made worse by her husband’s romantic antics.

Did Genji have a mistress in ‘The Tale of Genji’?

Yes. The Akashi Mistress. She was raised by her father to be fit for a prince.

Why did Genji lose interest in Princess Hitachi in ‘The Tale of Genji’?

She was deficient in musical and poetic skills. This turned off Genji but Princess Hitachi continues to long for him.

Who is Niou in ‘The Tale of Genji’?

Niou is impetuous, passionate, promiscuous, and self-centered. In some relationships, Niou views women as a tool. He exhibits extreme dominance and obsessional jealousy in other relationships. Niou rarely considers the effects of his actions on other people since he feels entitled to them due to his strong position in the aristocracy.

Charles Asoluka
About Charles Asoluka
Charles is an experienced content creator, writer, and literary critic. He has written professionally for multiple reputable media organizations. He loves reading Western classics and reviewing them.
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