Genji Monogatari Toshidate (Chronologies) (源氏物語年立)

The "Genji monogatari toshidate," also known as the "Genji monogatari toshidachi," chronologically organize the events in the world of the Tale of Genji on the basis of the age of the main character (Hikaru Genji in the first and the second part and Kaoru in the third part). They are also simply called "toshidate" or "toshidachi."

The Tale of Genji describes events during the reigns of four emperors, covering a period of over seventy years, but the author seldom specifies the ages of the characters in the story.
Even the age of Hikaru Genji, the main character, is never given clearly between the 'Kiritsubo' (The Paulownia Court) chapter, where the author writes that 'he celebrated his attainment of manhood at the age of twelve,' and the 'Fuji no Uraba' (Wisteria Leaves) chapter at the end of the first part, where it is written that 'the next year, he would become forty.'
Therefore, Hikaru Genji's age all throughout the period between the 'Hahakigi' (The Broom Tree) chapter and the 'Fuji no Uraba' chapter was determined by guessing how many years had passed on the basis of clues in the story, such as the description of seasons, then calculating backwards from the 'Fuji no Uraba' chapter. Furthermore, it is also rare for other characters' ages to be mentioned clearly. It has long been said that there exists an unsolvable contradiction about the ages of characters such as Rokujo no Miyasudokoro. In addition, the context of many of the events in the story and the intervals between them are not specified. As a result, not only are they unclear, they are also open to varying interpretations. In addition to this ambiguity, the Tale of Genji has a complicated structure where the author does not describe events in the story in simple chronological order, but has some periods of time overlapping and omits others completely. Therefore, when reading the Tale of Genji, it has been common practice to make it more understandable by arranging the events in the story with the age of the main character, Hikaru Genji, at the core. There is a lot of speculation about the chronologies, not only in separate commentaries but also in annotations in manuscripts. For instance, Hikaru Genji's age in the "rainy night's judgment" scene in the 'Hahakigi' chapter, which is considered the restarting point when counting backwards from the 'Fuji no Uraba' chapter, is seventeen years old according to the new chronologies, and sixteen if the old chronologies are followed. However, according to the notes attached to the end of the 'Hahakigi' chapter in the "Shichigo-Genji," which is a copy of the 13th century Kawachi-bon manuscript and is kept at the Higashiyama Go-bunko library, it is known that there were also theories that he was fifteen or nineteen years old. Kikan IKEDA says that the appearance of the 'Genji monogatari toshidate,' together with the appearance of the 'Genji monogatari kokeizu' (old genealogies on the Tale of Genji), indicates that people at that time were beginning to look at the Tale of Genji from a scholarly point of view.

Early History
In a surviving fragment of the Sarashina Nikki (Sarashina Diary), which records events around 1020 or so, soon after the Tale of Genji was written, the author, SUGAWARA no Takasue, writes that his daughter read the Tale of Genji "with something called 'Fu' beside her." Although there are no definite records of what this so-called 'Fu' was, the following possibilities have all been put forward.

It indicated the order in which the chapters should be read. It was like a 'summary' outlining the story. It was like a genealogy of the characters. It was similar to the existing chronologies. It included some of all the above.

Many of the old commentaries on the Tale of Genji interpreted it on the assumption that events described in each chapter simply followed the events in the previous chapter.

However, with the start of serious scholarship on interpreting the Tale of Genji, it became clear that some periods of time are not described and that there is some 'overlap' between chapters.

Consequently, with the beginning of serious interpretation of the Tale of Genji, people began to consider the age of the characters, the contexts and intervals between the various events in the story. Such consideration is already seen in the 'Okuiri,' which is said to be the first commentary on the Tale of Genji. The 'Kakai-sho,' a compilation of the old commentaries, devotes a considerable number of pages to examining the chronological record.

The Old Chronology
Kanera ICHIJO was the first person to compile such a systematic chronology covering every chapter of the Tale of Genji. The work, written in 1453, is called 'Genji monogatari toshidate' or 'Genji monogatari shokan toshidate'. Later works such as "Shugyoku henji sho" (by Sogi), "Rokasho"(by Shohaku) and "Sairyusho"(by Sanetaka SANJONISHI), although they made minor alterations to parts, generally followed the chronology. The 'Toshidate' that were recorded in Edo period publications such as 'Kogetsusho' (The Tale of Genji Moon on the Lake Commentary) are also, basically, Kanera ICHIJO's chronology. Kanera ICHIJO's chronology is called 'the old chronology' in contrast with the later one by Norinaga MOTOORI ('the new chronology').

The New Chronology
In the Edo period, Norinaga MOTOORI examined 'the old chronology' in his "Genji monogatari nenkiko"(written in 1763), revised part of it and included it as 'the improved and corrected chronology.'
The third volume of the "Genji Monogatari Tama no Ogushi" (Jeweled Comb of The tale of Genji, written in 1799) followed it, and the second volume of the "Sumire so" (1812) written by Kyubi KITAMURA, who studied under Norinaga MOTOORI, followed it in a sophisticated way.
This is called 'the new chronology.'
Between these chronologies, there is a one-year 'gap' between the 'Hahakigi' and 'Otome' chapters. The main reason comes from differences between interpretations of the connection between the 'Otome' and 'Tamakazura' (The Jeweled Chaplet) chapters. Compared to the old chronology, it is regarded that, on the whole, the new chronology is more reasonable. However, even the new one could not answer every question. Many printed books, encyclopedias and handbooks on The Tale of Genji published in modern times include 'toshidate'. Most of them are based on 'the new chronology,' revised and enlarged by editors when deemed necessary. However, it has been pointed out that some problems, such as how much time passed between the second and third part, and the age of Rokujo no Miyasudokoro, are unresolvable, even using the new chronology. As such, the new chronology isn't perfect either.

[Original Japanese]