The New York Times is a bit behind the times, as usual, when it comes to articles on Japanese culture. I was in Kyoto & Uji back in May, seven months ago, and celebrations relating to the supposed 1000th anniversary of the Tale of Genji had been in full swing for months… and only now does the Times put out an article on the subject.
Still, it’s a pretty nice introduction to the Genji, and a peek at a few of the things that were going on in the Kyoto area last year in celebration, along with some nice but not stunning photos. It is a shame they didn’t publish this earlier, it being a Travel section. It would have been good info for tourists to help them plan a trip to Kyoto during the festivities, though it is too late now.
Across Japan, the anniversary has been marked by music festivals, parades, a chrysanthemum-doll competition and a hairstyle show featuring looks popular in Lady Murasaki’s time. In Kyoto, the festivities have included “Genji”-themed poetry readings, moon-viewings and even performance art, which I have chosen.
A walk through central Kyoto in November underscored the novel’s lasting power. Posters of the ingénue Yuki Shibamoto, the face of the national celebration, gazed from windows in office buildings and bridal shops. At the Museum of Kyoto, visitors inspected illustrated scrolls and painted screens from across the centuries depicting Genji’s exploits, and they walked out with playing cards and refrigerator magnets bearing images of Japan’s own Casanova.
(Photo at the top of the page my own. Taken in Uji Station.)