Sagoromo Monogatari (狭衣物語)

"Sagoromo Monogatari" (The Tale of Sagoromo) is a story written at the end of the dynastic era of the Heian period. Four volumes. It was once thought that the author was Daini no Sanmi. It is now the overwhelmingly predominant view that the author was Rokujosaiin no senji (Baishi Naishinnoke senji), a daughter of MIANAMOTO no Yorikuni. It is said to have been written between the Kohei era (1058 - 1064) during the reign of the Emperor Goreizei and the Enkyu era (1069 - 1073) or Joho era (1074 - 1076) during the reigns of Emperor Gosanjo and Emperor Shirakawa.
"Mumyo Zoshi" (Story Without a Name) praises the work by stating that 'Sagoromo Monogatari is second only to Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji).'

"Sagoromo Monogatari" depicts the love affairs of a hero who closely resembles Kaoru from the 'Uji Jujo' (The Ten Quires of Uji) section of "Genji Monogatari," and the significant influence of "Genji Monogatari" can be seen in its themes and structure. However, unlike "Genji Monogatari" which begins 'in a certain era,' "Sagoromo Monogatari" begins with 'The springtime of youth does not stop, for it is already around the 20th day of the third month' (Yuhodo Bunko), which is based on a Chinese poem and a famous poem from "Kokin Wakashu" (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry) and depicts Sagoromo's anguish caused by his unrequited love for his younger female cousin Genji no Miya while being true to reality.

Fatalism and fantastic depictions stand out as can be seen in the story of Asukai no Onnagimi and Sagoromo's enthronement, while the hero's indecisiveness and the melancholic atmosphere that envelops the entire narrative are very different from "Genji."

There are many variations of the story and it was adapted into a nara-ehon (a type of illustrated woodblock-printed book or handscroll popular from the Muromachi through mid-Edo periods) called "Sagoromo" during the Muromachi period. There remain six incomplete sections of the "Sagoromo Monogatari Emaki" (Illustrated handscroll of the Tale of Sagoromo) which are thought to have been painted by Mitsuaki TOSA in the 14th century.

The storyline

Volume One
Sagoromo, who is the only son of Emperor Saga's younger brother Chancellor (kanpaku) Horikawa, is secretly deeply in love with his younger female cousin, Genji no Miya, with whom he was raised like a brother. Knowing of the hope that Genji no Miya would become Imperial Crown Princess, Sagoromo panics and declares his feelings for her but she rejects him. It is around this time that Sagoromo becomes engaged to Onna Ninomiya, the emperor's beloved daughter.

Sagoromo is heartbroken after being rejected by Genji no Miya but his heart is healed after a chance sexual encounter with Asukai no Onnagimi. However, Sagoromo thinks little of Asukai no Onnagimi whose social status is low, and does not even reveal his name. Asukai no Onnagimi is unable to have faith in the love of Sagoromo and, while pregnant with his child, is cheated by her wet nurse and taken away to Tsukushi but attempts to commit suicide on the way by drowning herself.

Volume Two
Sagoromo is shocked by the disappearance of Asukai Onnagimi and obstinately refuses to marry Onna Ninomiya but falls in love with her at first sight, breaks into her bedroom and forces himself upon her. Onna Ninomiya becomes pregnant as a result and her mother Omiya arranges to hide the fact of her daughter's condition. Onna Ninomiya, driven to despair by Sagoromo's indecisive and dishonest attitude, becomes a nun after giving birth to Sagoromo's son, Wakamiya (announced as the second son of Emperor Saga and Omiya). Emperor Saga abdicates the throne and the Crown Prince is crowned (Emperor Goichijo) but Genji no Miya, who was expected to become the consort of the new emperor is appointed a Sai-in (Imperial Princess appointed to serve the deities of the Kamo-jinja Shrines) by an oracle. Sagoromo grows sick and tired of the world, and on his way to Kokawa-dera Temple receives news of Asukai Onnagimi and the existence of his daughter (Asukai Himegimi) to whom she gave birth.

Volume Three
With the sole desire to meet his daughter, Himegimi, born to the dead Asukai Onnagimi, he sneaks into the residence of Ippon no Miya who took in Himegimi but the ensuing chaos results in a situation in which he is obliged to marry Ippon no Miya who is 12 years his senior. Ippon no Miya discovers Sagoromo's real intention but maintains her obstinate resolve, resulting in a marriage that is cold from the outset.

Volume Four
Sagoromo grows weary of the world from the bottom of his heart and resolves to enter the priesthood but his parents and an oracle of Kamo Myojin Shrine prevent him from doing so. Sagoromo later becomes involved with Shikibukyo no Miya no Himegimi, who is beautiful and exactly like Genji no Miya, and his heart is healed. Sagoromo is eventually declared emperor by an oracle, and it is promised that his real son, Wakamiya, will succeed the imperial throne. Shikibukyo no Miya no Himegimi (Fujitsubo Nyogo (consort)) gives birth to an Imperial Prince and becomes chugu (the second consort of an emperor), while his daughter Asukai Himegimi becomes Ippon Naishinno (Imperial Princess Ippon). However, even at the peak of his glory, Sagoromo's heart remains trapped in the melancholy of thoughts of Genji no Miya and Onna Ninomiya.

[Original Japanese]