The Tale of Genji Emaki (源氏物語絵巻)

The Tale of Genji Emaki is a picture scroll depicting the subject matter of The Tale of Genji. There is more than one picture scroll on the Tale of Genji, but this chapter describes one created during the end of the Heian period that is commonly called 'Takayoshi Genji' and is designated as a national treasure.

"The Tale of Genji Emaki" that used to be called 'Takayoshi Genji' is the oldest among existing picture scrolls created on The Tale of Genji, and it is said to be created during the end of the Heian period. Together with "Bandainagon ekotoba" (picture scrolls about the Conspiracy of Otenmon gate), "Shigisan engi emaki," and "Choju Jinbutsu Giga" (caricatures of frolicking birds, animals, and humans) (all are designated as national treasures), are called the best four picture scrolls of Japan. There is a different view that lists "Kokawadera Engi emaki" (a picture scroll on the legends of Kokawadera Temple) instead of "Choju Jinbutsu Giga" in the best four picture scrolls of Japan.

It is considered that it was originally created based upon the entire 54 chapters of The Tale of Genji. One to three scenes were chosen from each chapter and pictorialized, to which 'Kotobagaki' (notes) are attached copying texts of the story that correspond the pictures. Kotobagaki' and 'pictures' are repeated alternately. It is supposed that this picture scroll was composed of about 10 volumes.

Only a part of the picture scroll remains now. Currently, the Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya City possesses 15 pictures and 28 Kotobagaki (Yomogiu, Sekiya, Eawase (Kotobagaki only), Kashiwagi, Yokobue, Takekawa, Hashihime, Sawarabi, Yadorigi, Azumaya) and the Gotoh Museum in Setagaya Ward Tokyo possesses four pictures and nine Kotobagaki (Suzumushi, Yugiri, Minori), which are both designated as national treasures. Three plus volumes that are possessed by the Tokugawa Art Museum used to belong to the Owari-Tokugawa family. On the other hand, slightly less than one volume in the Gotoh Museum used to belong to Hachisukashi in Awa Province, but was released out to the general public, once possessed by Takashi MASUDA (Donno), a business man and a chajin (master of the tea ceremony) and bought by Keita Goto. The whereabouts of these before they came into the possession of the Owari-Tokugawa family and Hachisuka family respectively are unknown. For both, Kotobagaki and pictures are separated and made into gakuso (put in a frame) in paulownia boxes, not left in a scroll state, in consideration of storage. Adding to these, the Tokyo National Museum possesses Dankan (pieces of a picture scroll) from the chapter Wakamurasaki and several others and the Shunkei Kinen Shodo Bunko of Shogeibunkain possess Dankan of Kotobagaki.

As Kotobagaki of picture scrolls, texts of The Tale of Genji that correspond to the pictures are excerpted. While most of these texts are generally same as those of The Tale of Genji that is commonly known now such as Aobyoshi bon (Genji Monogatari copied by FUJIWARA no Teika) and Kawachi bon (Genji Monogatari copied by MINAMOTO no Mitsuyuki and Chikayuki), some of them contain texts that are significantly different. It is unknown whether they are different because they are based on manuscripts that have different texts or because modifications such as the abstraction of the original texts were done in accordance to the nature of Kotobagaki of picture scrolls. Therefore, this picture scroll cannot be considered as a Denpon (existing manuscript) of "The Tale of Genji," yet it is the oldest existing text of The Tale of Genji, so it the only existing valuable book that brings down the text from the Heian period.

There are many picture scrolls on the subject matter of The Tale of Genji, and there are also some picture scrolls that have the proper name "The Tale of Genji Emaki." Other famous 'The Tale of Genji Emaki' includes those by Naonobu KANO, by Morikage KUSUMI, and by Eisen KANO. However, because this is the oldest, most famous and most important for research among the picture scrolls on The Tale of Genji and among picture scrolls that are called 'The Tale of Genji Emaki,' 'The Tale of Genji Emaki' often means (only) this one except as otherwise noted.

FUJIWARA no Takayoshi, who was active as a well-known painter at the end of the Heian period used be thought to have painted this all by himself, so it used to be generally called 'Takayoshi Genji.'
However, there is no absolute proof that this picture scroll was created by Fujiwara no Takayoshi, but judges in the Edo period started saying so, and it is thought that the name 'Takayoshi Genji' became common after the Meiji period.
Moreover, as research in recent years develop, there are four different painting styles including brushwork faces even in the existing parts as follows:

Group A: Chapters Kashiwagi, Yokobue, Suzumushi, Yugiri, and Minori
Group B: Chapters Yomogiu and Sekiya
Group C: Chapters Wakana, Sawarabi, Yadorigi, and Azumaya
Group D: Chapters Takekawa and Hashihime
Also, the writing styles of Kotobagaki can be grouped into five:
Group 1: Chapters Kashiwagi, Yokobue, Suzumushi, Yugiri, and Minori
Group 2: Chapters Yomogiu, Sekiya, Eawase, and Matsukaze
Group 3: Chapters Wakana, Suetsumuhana, Sawarabi, Yadorigi, and Azumaya
Group 4: Chapters Takekawa and Hashihime
Group 5: Chapters Usugumo, Otome, Hotaru, and Tokonatsu
Therefore, these chapters were thought to have been written by different groups respectively. For this reason, calling this picture scroll 'Takayoshi Genji' has been thought to be inappropriate, so currently, expressions such as 'used to be called Takayoshi Genji' may be used, but it is not simply called 'Takayoshi Genji' as before except when quoted from a literature during an older period.
(It has been considered that it is likely or highly possible that Fujiwara no Takayoshi was among one of the groups that created this picture scroll.)

Although there are many picture scrolls of The Tale of Genji, only this one is designated as a national treasure, so it is sometimes called 'Kokuho Genji Monogatari Emaki' (The Tale of Genji Emaki National Treasure). This name is often used in official web sites and booklets of Gotoh Museum and Tokugawa Art Museum, who possess the picture scroll.

In addition, in conformance with customary practices of naming ancient documents and literatures, it is sometimes called 'Tokugawa bon The Tale of Genji Emaki' or 'Goto bon The Tale of Genji Emaki,' capping the name of the owners or former owners.

Showa fukugen mosha (picture scroll restored and reproduced in Showa period)
The Tale of Genji (Showa fukugen mosha is a reproduction by Kiyoka SAKURAI of the original stored in Tokugawa Art Museum. Unlike Heisei fukugen mosha (picture scroll restored and reproduced during the Heisei period that precisely reproduced the original using the latest science and technology, the personality of Kiyoka SAKURAI herself is reflected in the pictures, so it is a different style of painting art from the original.

[Original Japanese]