Asagao (The Tale of Genji) (朝顔 (源氏物語))

Asagao (The Morning Glory) is one of the fifty-four chapters of "The Tale of Genji." This is the twentieth chapter. Since asagao (朝顔) is an old name for althaea (槿), it is uncommonly written with the letter '槿' (asagao).

It is also a nickname for the heroine of this chapter. She is a princess of Momozono Shikibukyo no Miya (Her Highness of Ceremonies). The details will follow later.


Hikaru Genji, age 32, from autumn to winter.

Around the same time during the death of Fujitsubo, Genji's uncle, Momozono Shikibukyo no Miya passed away, so his daughter, Asagao, resigned from the post of Sai-in (Imperial Princess appointed to serve the deities of the Kamo-jinja Shrines), shut herself up in the residence. Genji, who had been attached to Asagao since he was young, often visited the residence of Momozono under the pretext that he called on his aunt, Onna Gonomiya, living with Asagao, to inquire after her health, which made Murasaki no ue feel uneasy. Asagao also had a liking for Genji, but she refused him, being afraid that she would be unhappy as well as Rokujo no Miyasudokoro, if she got intimately involved with him. One snowy night, Genji, who gave up Asagao, thought back to the past and told Murasaki no ue about the women with whom he had had relationships with so far, comforting her. That night Fujitsubo appeared in Genji's dream, telling him that she was distressed because her sin was revealed, and she was feeling bitter against him. The next day, Genji secretly held a memorial service for Fujitsubo, and prayed that they would live together in the next world.

Princess Asagao
She was the daughter of Momozono Shikibukyo no Miya, the younger brother of Emperor Kiritsubo, so she was Hikaru Genji's cousin. Her name was derived from the episodes in 'Hahakigi' (The Broom Tree) and 'Asagao' in which Genji sent her a waka poem with a morning glory, then she was called 'Princess Asagao,' 'Asagao no Saiin,' ('Asagao' was written in Japanese with the letter '朝顔' or '槿'), and so on. Of the fifty-four chapters, she appeared in the chapter of 'Hahakigi' to 'Wakana' (new herbs).

She was one of the women with whom Genji was infatuated since he was young. Since she was of noble birth, she was seen as his possible legal wife, which made Murasaki no ue, the virtual wife, feel uneasy. She also had a liking for Genji, but she did not want to be his wife, because she often heard about his many love affairs and what had become of the women who had been involved with him. She kept refusing Genji's courtship, forming a platonic relationship with him, and kept a mere friendship all the time elegantly exchanging letters whenever there was a chance. Because she had been Saiin for a long time since the reign of Emperor Suzaku, she missed the chance to get married, remained single, became a nun, then stepped off the center stage of the tale.

[Original Japanese]