Picture Scroll of the Tale of Genji (National Tresure)
The Picture Scroll of the Tale of Genji, a natoinal treasure, is the oldest of the handscrolls created to portray scenes from the Tale of Genji, the early eleventh-century romantic novel written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady of the Heian court. The scroll, which dates from the first half of the twelfth century, over a hundred years after the novel was written, appears to have included one to three scenes per chapter for each of the fifty-four chapters of the Tale of Genji. Today, however, only scenes from twenty chapters are known to survive, including fifteen scenes from ten chapters in the Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya, four scenes from three chapters in the Goto Art Museum in Tokyo, and a few fragments in other collections.
The handscrolls were created in the tsukuri-e(manufactured painting) technique: first an underdrawing was prepared in ink, then the lavish color was applied and final subtle changes made. Among the distinctive features of this Genji scroll is its highly stylized technique for drawing faces, known as hikime kagibana, "line for an eye, hook for a nose." The rendering of interior view using the "blown-off-roof"(fukinuki yatai) technique, which omits the roofs of buildings and uses a diagonal perspective to show what is happening indoors, is also characteristic.
Many other sets of illustrations of Genji have been created over the centuries, but none rival these in communicating the emotional tenor of the novel through the keen artistic sensibility expressed in the illustrations and the beauty of the calligraphy.
Shogakukan is delighted to have the opportunity, with the permission of the Tokugawa Art Museum, to reproduce both the illustrations and calligraphy of Takekawa-II and Kashiwagi-III of the Picture Scroll of the Tale of Genji, and to issue them in hanging scroll and framed editions.




The Tale of Genji is a world-famous novel written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu a thousand years ago and is a major part of Japan's cultural legacy. It is the world's earliest full-length love story and a peerless masterpiece. It has been translated into many languages and has found fame in many other countries. Japanese painters who have read the novel were moved by it and were often motivated to depict the great scenes of the novel in their works. Among these, the Illustrated Tale of Genji is a national treasure, the most famous and greatest masterpiece. It is now preserved in the Tokugawa Art Museum and the Gotoh Museum.

In these illustrations, we can see many dramatic scenes of Hikaru Genji's love affairs with many of princesses, almost as if we were watching TV or seeing a film, making the Tale of Genji more immediate and enticing to the modern reader.

In the illustrations, all the men and women wear the elegant and graceful clothes of the time, and spend their time in places surrounded by beautiful scenery in all seasons or inside their gorgeous noblemens' residences built in the Shindenzukuri architectural style of the Heian period.

We can see the interior of Genji's Rokujoin, a harem that looks like a paradise. Furthermore, it gives us the feeling of being there, almost as if we were actually attending a series of extravagant banquets and parties.

All the men and women in the illustrations have an L-shaped nose and narrow eyes and a round, full-cheeked face. In spite of the similar appearance of the characters in the illustrations, however, we can clearly distinguish between them. This masterpiece will soon be reprinted in facsimile using state-of-the-art printing techniques. This is splendid event for the new century and I look forward to seeing it.
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