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List of The Tale of Genji characters

Suzuki Harunobu, ca. 1766)

The characters of The Tale of Genji do not possess birth names. Instead they are assigned
sobriquets derived from poetic exchanges (ex. Murasaki takes her name from a poem by Genji),
from the particular court positions they occupy (in the Tyler translation, characters are often
referred to by such terms as His Highness of War, Her Majesty the Empress, His Grace, the
Palace Minister and so on), from their geographical location (ex. Lady Akashi who lived on the
Akashi coast before meeting Genji), or from the name of their residence (ex. Lady Rokujō,
whose mansion is on the Sixth Avenue, rokujō, or Fujitsubo, literally wisteria pavilion, the part
of the Imperial Palace where this particular lady resided). Out of the two most recent translations
into English, Seidensticker’s tends to systematically employ the same names (ex. Genji,
Murasaki, Akashi, Utsusemi, etc.), whereas Tyler’s, a more textually accurate translation, tends
to change sometimes characters’ appellation with every chapter.

Similarly, many women writers of the Heian period left behind their sobriquets alone. Murasaki
Shikibu is no exception: “Murasaki” is presumably borrowed from her character in the tale,
whereas “Shikibu” refers to a court position in the Bureau of Ceremonial (shikibu), that her
father used to occupy.

Contents
 1 Notes
 2 Characters
o 2.1 Part II
o 2.2 Part III
 3 References

Notes[edit]
Following Genji, all the other characters are introduced following the chronology of the events in
the tale. However, this chronology does not take into account the first time a character is
mentioned, but rather the time a character actually makes his or her debut into the tale. Some of
the character descriptions below include a reference to the chapter in which the character is
introduced to the narrative. Important characters are in capital letters.

Characters[edit]
 Prince Genji (Hikaru Genji/ the Shining Genji/ the Shining Prince) – The eponymous
hero of the tale, he is the son of an emperor (usually referred to as Kiritsubo Emperor)
and of a low-ranking imperial concubine (known to readers as Lady Kiritsubo or
Kiritsubo Kōi). Many scholars have tried to decipher the real or fictional model behind
the character of Genji. Some of the favorite candidates are Ariwara no Narihira (the hero
of The Tales of Ise), Emperor Murakami, Sugawara no Michizane, Minamoto no Tōru or
Fujiwara no Korechika.[1] Independently of Murasaki Shikibu’s sources of inspiration,
Hikaru Genji cannot be simply reduced to being a mere fictional reflection of a real
historical figure. In the tale, Genji occupies center stage from chapters one to forty-one
and the narrative focuses on his amorous exploits and political successes. Although
demoted to commoner status (and forced to take the name of Minamoto), Genji rises in
rank to the position of Honorary Retired Emperor and lives to see his children becoming
Emperor, Empress and Minister, respectively. In the realm of amorous relationships, the
narrative follows Genji from his adventurous youth, a time in which he engages in
multiple relationships with women of various ranks, to his mature years, when his
political and erotic success is best reflected in his Rokujō-in mansion, a residence built to
shelter the most important women in his life and to mirror the Imperial Palace (or at least
its hidden quarters reserved to the emperor’s female staff).[2]:112 The peak of Genji’s
glory, however, also announces his slow but inexorable decline, and chapters such as
“Nowaki” and “Wakana” reveal his vulnerability in front of a new generation of young
heroes, Yūgiri and Kashiwagi. The disintegration of Genji’s world becomes final with the
death of his beloved Murasaki, in chapter forty, “Minori,” and not long after, the Prince’s
shining light is finally extinguished.
 Lady Kiritsubo (the Kiritsubo Intimate/ Kiritsubo Kōi/ Kiritsubo Consort) – Genji’s
mother and the favorite of Emperor Kiritsubo, Lady Kiritsubo is disadvantaged at court
because she lacks parental support. Her father, a Grand Counselor, is already dead at the
beginning of the narrative, and her mother cannot provide her with political support.
Thus, the lady provokes the jealousy of other imperial concubines, in particular that of
the Kokiden Consort, a lady with well-founded hopes of becoming Empress. As a result,
Kiritsubo is constantly harassed by the other women and the humiliations she has to
suffer at court eventually trigger her premature death, only three years after having given
birth to Genji. Her name is derived from the Paulownia Pavilion, where she resided while
at the Imperial Court, the farthest location from the emperor’s chambers and symbolic of
the lady’s low status (at least when compared to other imperial concubines). (chapter 1).
The character of Kiritsubo is loosely based on the historical Yang Guifei.
 Emperor Kiritsubo (Kiritsubo no Mikado) – Genji’s father, who despite the large social
gap between him and the Kiritsubo Lady, maintains an unwavering devotion to her,
tragically exposing her to the jealousy of his other consorts. Aware of Genji’s fate were
he to attract the hostility of the Kokiden Lady, and also worried about the predictions
made by a Korean soothsayer concerning Genji’s potential future (as an emperor, Genji
would bring about unrest; as a minister, he would also face foreboding uncertainty), the
Emperor demotes Genji from imperial prince to commoner. Thus, at least in theory, Genji
is forbidden to ascend to the throne. Instead, Kiritsubo Emperor names Suzaku, Genji’s
stepbrother and the son of the ambitious Kokiden Lady as Heir Apparent (or Crown
Prince). Furthermore, the emperor also arranges Genji’s marriage to Aoi, the daughter of
the Minister of the Left and, by this, ensures that his son will benefit from the powerful
political support of his father-in-law, the only one able to balance the influence of
Kokiden and her party. Sometime after the death of his beloved Kiritsubo, the emperor
learns of the existence of an imperial princess, referred to as Fujitsubo (again, after the
name of her residence, the Wisteria Pavilion), who uncannily resembles his lost love. Of
an incomparable higher status than her unfortunate predecessor, Fujitsubo goes on to
become the emperor’s favorite and ultimately Empress, but her resemblance to Genji’s
mother also attracts Genji’s initially childish interest in her. This childish interest, once
turned erotic, fuels much of the later narrative plot.(chapter 1; dies chapter 10)
 Suzaku (later, Emperor Suzaku/ Suzaku (Tale of Genji)) – The son of Kiritsubo Emperor
by the Kokiden Lady, Genji’s half-brother and grandson of the powerful Minister of the
Right, he is named Heir Apparent, although the Kiritsubo Emperor would have
personally preferred to make Genji a Crown Prince. Apparently a pathetic figure
throughout the narrative (he is cuckolded by Genji, sees the women he would like to have
taken away from him, becomes a puppet in the hands of his mother and her political
faction), Suzaku still retains a tragic dignity, especially during the “Wakana” chapters,
when, after having abdicated and taken Buddhist vows, his religious devotion is
obstructed by his excessive paternal love for his favorite daughter, the Third Princess
(Onna San No Miya/ Nyōsan). Moreover, at least one Genji critic distinguishes Suzaku’s
vengeful potential, by identifying him with the possessing spirit affecting the women of
the Uji chapters.[3](chapter 1; like Genji's death, Suzaku's death is not featured in the
narrative)
 Lady Kokiden (Kokiden Consort) – Kiritsubo Emperor's consort of higher rank (nyōgo)
than Lady Kiritsubo (kōi), she is the daughter of the powerful Minister of the Right.
Bitterly jealous of the emperor’s love for Kiritsubo, once her rival is dead, her animosity
comes to affect her rival’s son, Genji. Thus, due to political scheming, she finally has her
son, Suzaku, appointed Heir Apparent. Nevertheless, once Fujitsubo debuts into the
narrative, Kokiden is confronted with a much more powerful rival, one that is more high-
ranking than Kiritsubo and thus can claim the title of Empress, leaving Kokiden to
content herself with being “only” the Empress Mother. Time and again, Kokiden figures
in the narrative as Genji’s archrival, plotting and scheming to eliminate him from court
and finally succeeding in stripping him of his rank and sending him into exile at Suma.
Genji’s return from exile marks the beginning of his political ascension and also his
victory over the Kokiden Lady.(chapter 1–14)
 Lady Fujitsubo (Her Highness/ Majesty Fujitsubo) – Daughter of a previous emperor
and thus imperial princess, Fujitsubo enters the service of Emperor Kiritsubo at the age of
sixteen, mainly because of her resemblance to the deceased Lady Kiritsubo. She soon
becomes an imperial favorite, but also Genji’s childhood crush and later lifelong
obsession. By chapter seven, “Momiji no ha,” it becomes obvious that Fujitsubo and
Genji are already involved in an illicit love affair (although the author does not describe,
but rather implies the beginning of the relationship), the result of which is the birth of
Reizei (future emperor) whom everyone, except the two lovers, believes to be the son of
the Kiritsubo Emperor. Elevated to the rank of Empress and having her son named Heir
Apparent (Reizei is supposed to succeed Suzaku), Fujitsubo gradually grows more and
more troubled by guilt and the fear of having her secret exposed. Once Genji’s advances
intensify and, in the public realm, the faction of the Kokiden Lady comes to power,
Fujitsubo’s only countermeasure is to take vows and become a nun (“Sakaki”). By this,
she hopes on the one hand, to permanently put Genji off and eliminate the risk of their
affair being discovered and, on the other hand, to reassure Kokiden that she renounces
any secular, political claims to power. After Genji’s return from exile, she forms a
political alliance with him and turns into a genuine “politically ambitious”[2]:30 figure in
the tale. Only on her deathbed (in “Usugumo”) does she return to being a romantic
heroine.[2]:44 Nevertheless, Fujitsubo’s importance in the tale lies beyond her immediate
contribution to the plot, in what Norma Field termed as being an “original substitute”[2]:24
(she makes her debut as a substitute for Kiritsubo, yet, later, Genji will look for
substitutes for her, in women such as Utsusemi, the Third Princess, but most of all, in
Murasaki). (chapter 1; chapter 10 becomes a nun; chapter 19 dies)
 Ōmyōbu(Fujitsubo’s Ōmyōbu) – She is a lady-in-waiting in Fujitsubo’s service and
Genji’s accomplice. Her major narrative role is to facilitate Genji’s access to Fujitsubo,
an event which will have as its result the birth of the future emperor Reizei. In addition,
she acts as a go-between in their epistolary exchanges. (chapters 5–12)
 Minister of the Left (Sadaijin) – Genji’s father-in-law, father to Aoi and Tō no Chūjō,
his role is to maintain perfect political balance at the Emperor Kiritsubo’s court by
countering the influence exerted by the Minister of the Right. He is entrusted with
Genji’s fate and becomes his protector during Genji’s younger years. With the death of
the Kiritsubo Emperor however, the Minister falls out of favor and eventually retires
from public activities altogether. His main wife is Princess Ōmiya, the mother of Aoi and
Tō no Chūjō.(chapter 1-chapter 19)
 Minister of the Right (Udaijin) – Kokiden Lady’s father and thus Kiritsubo emperor’s
father-in-law, the Minister of the Right plays a role similar to the historical position of the
Fujiwara leaders (see Fujiwara clan). Like them, the Minister marries his daughter to the
emperor, has his grandchild appointed Heir Apparent and rules de facto after the
abdication (in the Genji, after the death) of the emperor. Although one of Genji’s enemy,
the Minister is often portrayed as un-courtly, indiscreet, even headstrong, but never more
evil or more determined to destroy Genji than his daughter, the Kokiden Consort. The
Minister of the Right is also Tō no Chūjō’s father-in-law.(chapter 1-chapter 13)
 Tō no Chūjō – The son of the Minister of the Left and brother of Aoi, he becomes
Genji’s friend and rival in love during the Prince’s adolescence and youth. Their
relationship remains fairly harmonious for the first twelve chapters of the tale: they
engage in conversations about women, share their amorous experiences and love letters
and, once in a while compete, or pretend to compete, in conquering a woman (with
Suetsumuhana, the competition seems more genuine, whereas in the case of Gen no
naishi, it is a mock-competition meant to create a humorous interlude). Unbeknown to Tō
no Chūjō however, Genji has an affair with one of his former mistresses, Yūgao, finds
out about the existence of his friend’s child, yet reveals nothing to him and, for all that
we know, Tō no Chūjō remains ignorant of these events until the end. After Genji’s
return from exile however, his friendly rivalry with Tō no Chūjō is no longer related to
love matters, but becomes political. Although associated with the Fujiwara clan, Tō no
Chūjō is not on the winning side: the daughters he sends to court are always outshined by
Genji’s own candidates so that Tō no Chūjō can never get to play the part of a Fujiwara
regent. Later in the tale, the two heroes, Genji and Tō no Chūjō seem to reach some sort
of reconciliation, once Genji revels to Tō no Chūjō the existence of his daughter,
Tamakazura, and the latter finally accepts Yūgiri, Genji’s son, as his son-in-law.(chapter
1-chapter 41)
 Lady Aoi (Aoi no Ue) – Daughter of the Minister of the Left (Tō no Chūjō’s sister) and
Genji’s first principal wife, she marries Genji when she is sixteen and he only twelve.
Proud and distant to her husband, Aoi is constantly aware of the age difference between
them and very much hurt by Genji’s philandering. For only a short while, after giving
birth to Genji’s son, Yūgiri, and suffering episodes of spirit possession, does Aoi actually
appear appealing in Genji’s eyes. The episode of spirit possession itself (mono no ke) is
extremely controversial and brings to the fore two female characters in the tale: Aoi
(Genji’s wife) and Lady Rokujō (Genji’s mistress). The relationship between the two
women may be that between victim and aggressor, if one follows the traditional
interpretation of spirit possession,[4] or that between accomplices expressing their
discontent with the Heian system of polygymous marriage (and with Genji, obviously).[5]
Aoi dies at the end of the “Aoi” chapter and her exit from the tale is thus
definitive.(chapter 1-chapter 9)
 Governor of Kii (Ki no Kami) – One of Genji’s retainers, he is the son of the Iyo Deputy
and stepson of Utsusemi. Later becomes Governor of Kawachi. (chapters 2 and 16)
 Deputy Iyo (Iyo no Suke) – He is the father of the Governor of Kii and husband of
Utsusemi. Later becomes the Deputy Governor of Hitachi. (chapters 2,4 and 16)
 Utsusemi (空蝉/Cicada Shell/ Lady of the Locust Shell) – She is the wife of the Iyo
Deputy and stepmother of the Governor of Kii. She attracts Genji’s attention, but resists
his courtship despite his repeated attempts to win her over. Although she will not become
a central character in the tale, Utsusemi is memorable as the first woman Genji courts in
the tale and whose courtship the readers actually witness and also, arguably, as the first to
resist him.(chapters 2,3,4; reenters the tale in chapter 16; is mentioned again in chapter
23)

A lady of lower rank, after the death of her father she has no choice but to become the
second wife of the Iyo Deputy, whose first wife is dead at the time of the narrative
(Chapter 2 “Hahakigi”). She accidentally attracts Genji’s attention during one of his visits
to the Governor of Kii’s mansion. Forced to avoid a directional taboo, young Genji leaves
his father-in-law’s mansion at Sanjō and takes refuge to his retainer’s house. Ritual
purification also forced the women of the Iyo Deputy’s household, Utsusemi included, to
temporarily reside in the same place.
Having heard some feminine voices and the movements in an adjacent room, Genji
becomes interested in the Governor’s step-mother, whom he already knew was young
and potentially attractive. That very same night, Genji steals into the women’s quarters
and under the guise of being a lady-in-waiting (Utsusemi is calling for Chūjō, which is
both the sobriquet of her servant and Genji’s current rank of captain), he slips next to
Utsusemi. Once the lady realizes who he really is, she is terrified and would like to call
for help, were it not for her awareness that such a discovery would only bring her shame.
Even so, she still rejects his advances and keeps strong despite his seductive words, until
Genji, at a loss, can only think of taking her away to a more private location. As he
carries her out of the room, he encounters the real Chūjō who is more than ready to
defend her mistress against this unknown intruder until she too realizes who he is. Genji’s
rank and status is simply too high for the two women to dare raise a commotion.
Once Genji secures Utsusemi’s location, he continues to pour out sweet words and
promises, yet the lady “was as (...) the young bamboo: she bend but was not to be
broken.”[6] Despite the textual description, many Genji critics read the incident as Genji’s
success despite the lady’s resistance. Their interpretation lies heavily on one verb in the
original, miru, which, although has multiple meanings, also refers to “making love,
carnally knowing someone.” Because of this one meaning among many, the traditional
interpretation of the scene was that Genji does manage to break through Utsusemi’s
defenses and ends up sleeping with her. Other critics however, most prominently
Margaret Childs,[7] prefer to reject this interpretation as unfounded.
After the incident in question, Genji tries to see the lady two more times. The first time,
she finds out about his arrival and takes refuge into another wing of the house, where she
surrounds herself with her ladies-in-waiting. Frustrated, Genji ends up taking her younger
brother to bed, as her replacement. This episode is considered the sole explicit example of
homosexual relations in the tale.
The second time, Genji manages to get close to her and he even gets to spy on her
playing go with her step-daughter, Nokiba no ogi. This kaimami (man spying on one or
multiple women through a gap in the fence/ curtain/ screen) became a favorite screen
among Genji artists and has been often illustrated as representation for chapter 3
“Utsusemi.”
After having spied on her, Genji, with the complicity of Utsusemi’s younger brother,
Kogimi, steals into her chamber again. Aware of his presence, Utsusemi manages to
escape from Genji’s embrace by discarding her outer robe like a cicada discards its shell
(hence the chapter title). In her desire to escape him, the lady also abandons behind her
sleeping step-daughter, who becomes Genji’s unwitting prey. Unwilling to admit defeat,
or rather to sleep alone for the night, Genji makes do with what is left behind and ends
sleeping with Nokiba no ogi, who does not even imagine she has been the victim of
mistaken identity.
At the end of the fourth chapter, "Yugao", Utsusemi leaves the capital with her husband
who has been appointed governor of a province. Nokiba no ogi also gets married and
leaves the narrative. Utsusemi returns in chapter sixteen, “Sekiya,” when she meets Genji
on her return from the provinces. They exchange poems, and Utsusemi is shown to regret
not being able to accept Genji’s advances (because of Utsusemi's marriage and
differences in rank).
Last time the readers encounter Utsusemi is in chapter twenty-three, “Hatsune,” where
they learn that she has become a nun after her husband’s death. The reason behind her
decision is her desire to escape the unwelcome amorous attentions of her step-son, the
Governor of Kii. After taking the tonsure, Utsusemi comes to depend upon Genji and
takes residence in his former home (his home before the building of the Rokujō-in), Nijō-
in.

 Chūjō (Utsusemi's Chūjō) – She is Utsusemi’s servant. Her name literally means “the
captain.” Genji was a Captain in the Palace Guards at the time of his meeting with
Utsusemi, so he is able to steal into the lady's chambers by taking advantage of the
confusion between Chūjō's name and his rank. (Utsusemi calls for Chūjō and Genji
pretends he misinterpreted her words). Because there are six other ladies-in-waiting in the
tale all referred to as “Chūjō”, the best way to differentiate among them is by the
identities of their mistresses or masters.(chapter 2)
 Kogimi – He is Utsusemi’s brother and 12 or 13 at the time of the narrative in the
“Hahakigi” chapter. Genji is delighted with the boy and uses him as a go-between in the
letter exchanges with Utsusemi and Nokiba no ogi. At the end of the “Hahakigi” chapter,
frustrated because he cannot reach Utsusemi, who took refuge in a different pavilion of
the Governor of Kii’s mansion, Genji beds little Kogimi as a replacement for his sister.
This episode constitutes the only open reference to homosexuality (and pederasty) in the
tale. The boy reappears in chapter sixteen, “Sekiya”, as Second of the Right Gate Watch
(in Tyler’s translation), but by then he is already an adult and of no relevance to the
narrative.(chapters 2 and 3; reappears in chapter 16)
 Nokiba no Ogi – She is the daughter of the Iyo Deputy and the sister of the Governor of
Kii, in other words, Utsusemi’s stepdaughter. She is a fleeting presence in the tale and
only briefly does she take center stage in chapter three, “Utsusemi.” During his pursuit of
the Lady of the Locust Shell, Genji engages in kaimami (lit. “peeping through a hole”) on
Utsusemi and Nokiba no ogi playing go. When later, he intrudes into the lady’s
bedchamber with Kogimi’s complicity, Genji fails to capture Utsusemi, who flees leaving
behind her outer robe and her sleeping stepdaughter. Having been caught in a case of
mistaken identity, Genji cannot extricate himself from the situation and ends up sleeping
with Nokiba no ogi (whom he woos into believing she is indeed the object of his desire).
Needless to say that Genji quickly forgets this unfortunate event and, later, when he finds
out about the girl’s prospective marriage, he is confident that, married or not, Nokiba no
ogi will never refuse his advances.(chapters 3,4)
 Koremitsu – He is Genji’s foster brother (in fact his milk brother menotogo; Koremitsu’s
mother was Genji’s wet nurse), trusted servant and accomplice. He plays his most
prominent part in the “Yūgao” chapter, where he approaches Yūgao and facilitates
Genji’s subsequent courtship of the lady. After Yūgao’s death, it is Koremitsu who
carries her dead body and arranges for her funeral rites. Similarly to the Yūgao episode,
Koremitsu also serves Genji in the following chapter, “Wakamurasaki,” where he acts as
a go-between for Genji and Shōnagon, Murasaki’s nurse, as well as Genji’s accomplice
in the kidnapping of Murasaki. A very useful servant and mediator in Genji’s love affairs,
Koremitsu even accompanies Genji during his exile to Suma. Later in the tale, however,
his presence becomes more sporadic.(chapters 4–21)
 Yūgao – She is a woman of lower status of about nineteen with whom Genji has a short
affair in the eponymous chapter four, “Yūgao.” Before encountering Genji, Yūgao was
Tō no Chūjō’s mistress and even gave him a daughter, the future Tamakazura. However,
because of the jealousy of Tō no Chūjō’s main wife, Yūgao leaves him and goes into
hiding. It is under these circumstances that Genji encounters her, while out visiting his
former wet nurse (Koremitsu’s mother). The woman’s name translates as “Evening
Faces” and refers to the flowers that attract Genji’s attraction to Yūgao’s shabby abode.
Genji becomes very fond of this woman, of whom he apparently knows next to nothing,
and proceeds to move her to an abandoned mansion where she falls prey to spirit
possession and dies. The possessing spirit is traditionally associated with Lady Rokujō.
(chapter 4)
 Ukon (Yūgao’s Ukon) – She is the daughter of Yūgao’s nurse and the lady-in-waiting
closest to Yūgao. Orphaned at an early age, Ukon was raised by Yūgao’s father and grew
up together with the lady, whom she is extremely attached to. After losing Yūgao, she
wants to follow her mistress into death, but gives in to Genji’s pleas and enters his
service. She will come to play a great role in the discovery of Yūgao’s daughter,
Tamakazura. There are two other ladies-in-waiting named Ukon in the tale (one in the
service of Naka no Kimi, the other in the service of Ukifune, but only the latter plays a
similarly important role as Yūgao’s Ukon).(chapters 4 and 22)
 Lady Rokujō (Rokujō no miyasudokoro) – She is a lady of high birth and Genji’s senior
by seven years. Introduced in the tale narrative in chapter four, “Yūgao,” as Genji’s lover,
Rokujō is not mentioned in any of the previous chapters. Nevertheless, the later narrative
does clarify certain biographical aspects related to this lady. Thus, she is the widow of a
former Crown Prince (presumably one of Emperor Kiritsubo’s brothers) and would have
become an empress, if not for her husband’s untimely death. Because of her outstanding
social position, she is entitled to be treated with the utmost respect, a fact which Genji,
too caught up in his philandering, neglects to do. Humiliated by Genji’s disrespect for
her, angered and jealous by the rumors of his affairs, Rokujō becomes the perfect
candidate for being the possessing spirit behind Yūgao’s demise, at least in traditional
interpretations of the tale. Her identification as possessing spirit is further reinforced in
the “Aoi” chapter, where several clues seem to make her the culprit in Aoi’s possession
and death. Troubled by the gossip about her involvement in Aoi’s possession, Rokujō
herself comes to believe in her own guilt. As a result, she decides to follow her daughter,
appointed as Priestess, to Ise. After her return to the capital, she entrusts her daughter,
Akikonomu, to Genji and dies in chapter fourteen, “Miotsukushi.” Following her death,
she keeps being identified as the spirit inflicting torment upon Genji’s women, Murasaki
and the Third Princess to be exact. (chapters 4–14; as the presumed possessing spirit,
chapters 35,36)
 Lady Murasaki (Murasaki no Ue) – She is the daughter of Prince Hyōbu by a minor
consort and related to Fujitsubo on her father’s side (Hyōbu is Fujitsubo’s brother, hence
Murasaki is Fujitsubo’s niece). She makes her debut into the tale as a substitute for her
unattainable aunt, but she gradually outshines Fujitsubo in Genji’s and the readers’ eyes,
turning into “a substitute for all seasons.”[2]:160 In fact, her very name, “Murasaki”
translated as “Lavender,” plays on the similarity of two colors (the color “murasaki” is
purple of a darker hue than “fuji”, wisteria, of Fujitsubo’s name). Discovered by Genji in
the Northern Hills when she is only ten, she is taken into his Nijō residence after the
death of her grandmother (the episode of her kidnapping has definite violent undertones)
where she is molded into Genji’s ideal woman, not unlike the myth of Galatea, with
whom she is often compared.[8] She remains Genji’s most important lover throughout the
tale, but, because of her imperfect social status (she is of royal blood on her father’s side,
but her mother was a commoner), she can never be acknowledged as Genji’s main wife
(kita no kata). For that reason, her position is perpetually insecure, especially when
Genji’s attention shifts to other women including Akashi, Asagao, but most importantly,
the Third Princess. Childless her entire life, Murasaki can only adopt Genji’s daughter by
the Akashi Lady and raise her to become an empress. Towards the end of her life, she
repeatedly expresses her desire to become a nun, but meets Genji’s resolute opposition.
She becomes the victim of spirit possession in chapter 35 (the aggressor is once more
identified as Rokujō, though this interpretation has been debated [5]) and dies in chapter
40 without having realized her wish. Murasaki as a character of the Genji has triggered
much debate among scholars. Some see her as an utterly miserable character,[8] while
others claim that her relationship with Genji is the best things that could have happened
to a woman of Murasaki’s status.[9] The beauty of this character resides precisely in its
complexity. (chapters 5–40)
 Shōnagon (Murasaki’s Shōnagon) – She is Murasaki’s nurse and most important
protector after the grandmother. Even so, after the grandmother’s death, Shōnagon is not
high-ranking enough to oppose Genji’s plans and, faced with the decision of either to
follow her young mistress to Genji’s Nijō (at the risk of being accused of kidnapping by
Prince Hyōbu, once he finds out the girl is missing) or to abandon her, she takes the first
choice. Later, impressed by Genji’s social standing as well as by the care he devotes to
Murasaki, Shōnagon is quite happy with her decision. As Murasaki ages, Shōnagon slips
out of the narrative unnoticed. (chapters 4–12)
 Kitayama no Amagimi (The Nun, Murasaki’s grandmother) – She is Murasaki’s
maternal grandmother who took custody of the child after the mother’s death. While
alive, she adamantly rejects Genji’s offers of taking care of the girl because she sees
through his innocent-looking pleas and guesses his ulterior sexual designs for
Murasaki.[10] At the same time, she does not want Murasaki to return to her father’s
household for fear of Prince Hyōbu’s main wife, whose jealousy of Murasaki’s mother
might make her persecute the child as well. After the grandmother’s death, Genji takes
advantage of the situation and spirits Murasaki away before her father is able to take her
into his household. (chapter 5)
 Prince Hyōbu (His Highness of War/ Hyōbukyō no Miya) – He is Fujitsubo’s brother
and Murasaki’s father. Of royal blood (like Fujitsubo, he is the son of a former emperor),
Prince Hyōbu is married with a woman suiting his high status who is extremely jealous of
Murasaki’s mother, a woman below her own social position. The text goes as far as to
suggest that Murasaki’s mother died because of the constant harassment of Hyōbu’s main
wife, not unlike Kiritsubo. After the woman’s death however, Hyōbu and his wife are
both willing to take Murasaki into their household, but Genji kidnaps her before Hyōbu
can act. When Murasaki becomes Genji’s wife, Hyōbu is informed of his daughter’s fate
and, for a while, his relationship with Murasaki seems good. Once Genji falls out of favor
and is exiled however, Hyōbu cuts all ties with his daughter, a mistake which Genji will
not forgive after he rises to the top of the political hierarchy.
 Elderly Lady (ja: 源典侍 Gen-no-tenji) – Although most likely in her late forties, the
elderly lady still gains the favor of Genji. In The Tale of Genji she flirts with Genji, even
though he knows any relationship with her would be inappropriate.
 Princess Hitachi (also Old Style Princess) – Because her nose is so big, the traditionally
minded princess never shows her face in public and is very shy. However, because of her
talent at playing the zither, Genji becomes attracted to her.
 Lady Akashi – Born as a middle-ranked noble, a love affair with Genji was not her own
plan, but her father was insistent in getting them involved in a relationship. She gives a
birth to a girl, the only daughter of Genji. She brings up her daughter (called Little Lady
Akashi, later Empress Akashi) until the age of four, when Genji decides that Lady
Murasaki should adopt the little girl. Lady Akashi is saddened, but gradually accepts the
situation. Later, she meets her daughter again, now a court lady of the crown prince, and
receives many honors as the birth mother of little Lady Akashi. She then receives a letter
from her father about his fortune-telling dream. He writes the dream gave him a
prediction that his granddaughter by Lady Akashi would become the empress, and he
turned all his efforts to realize that prediction.
 Tamakazura – A daughter of Tō No Chūjō and a lady called Yugao, who was later a
concubine of Genji. Tamakazura is adopted by Genji. She wants to meet her real father,
who doesn't know she is still alive. Genji forms a salon for her admirers. He takes
pleasure in watching young men compete for Tamakazura's favor. Her brothers, sons of
Tō No Chūjō, are involved, not knowing that she is their sister. Genji himself flirts with
her, just to see her reaction. Later, she and Tō No Chūjō meet again by the courtesy of
Genji. Genji plans to marry her well, but she is raped by a middle-aged courtier and
becomes his wife instead.

Part II[edit]

 Kashiwagi – is the eldest son of Naidaijin (Tō No Chūjō in his youth) and best friend to
Yūgiri. He has an affair with Genji's youngest wife, Onna san no miya (lit. the Third
Princess), which results in the birth of Kaoru.
 Third Princess (Onna san no miya/Nyosan (in Waley's translation)) – is the beloved
daughter of Emperor Suzaku and wife of Genji in his later years. She is a niece of late
Empress Fujitsubo in her maternal lineage. As Genji's wife she is young and naive.
Kashiwagi exploits her innocence and rapes her, their affair resulting in the birth of
Kaoru.

Part III[edit]

 Kaoru – is the protagonist of Part III. Legally he is known as the son of Genji and Onna
san no miya but his real father is the late Kashiwagi. Learning this secret makes him
noncommittal and lean towards Buddhism. He falls in love with Oigimi in Uji, the first
daughter of Hachinomiya, but she dies. He later fell in love with Ukifune whose features
are quite similar to the late Oigimi, but their relationship also fails.
 Perfumed Highness or Fragrant Highness (Nio no miya) – Nio no miya is the third
prince of the current Emperor by Empress Akashi, therefore a grandson of Genji. Nio no
miya is the best friend to Kaoru. He is known a man of love affairs. He falls in love to
Naka no kimi in Uji, the second daughter of Hachinomiya and the younger sister of O no
kimi. Despite some opposition, he makes Naka no kimi a wife. He rapes Ukifune, her
half-sister who eventually stayed at her, and this incident drives her to suicide.
 Oigimi – the elder daughter of Hachinomiya (The 8th Prince), pursued by Kaoru.
Becomes sick and dies after failing to take care of Nakanokimi.
 Naka no kimi – the younger daughter of Hachinomiya, pursued (and made wife of)
Niou.
 Ukifune – An illegitimate daughter of Hachinomiya, the eighth prince of Emperor
Kiritsubo. Her presence is almost not known by her father. She eventually meets her half-
sister Naka no kimi, the second daughter of Hachinomiya, and now a wife of Nio no
miya. While she is staying with her sister, Nio no miya rapes her. Suffering a sense of
betrayal Ukifune decides to die and dives into Uji River. Her life is saved by a passing
Buddhist monk priest. Ukifune decides to be a nun and refuses Kaoru who sends her
brother as a messenger and tries to persuade her to come back to him.