Uji Hachi no Miya (the Eighth Prince) (宇治八の宮)
Uji Hachi no Miya (the Eighth Prince) is one of the fictional characters appearing in "The Tale of Genji" written by Murasaki Shikibu. Among the fifty-four chapters of "The Tale of Genji", he appears in the forty-fifth chapter 'Hashihime' (The Maiden of the Bridge), and passes away in the forty-sixth chapter 'Shigamoto' (Beneath the Oak). He is also called the Eighth Prince in Uji, the Eighth Prince and the Eighth Prince of the Emperor Kiritsubo.
He is the eighth prince of the Emperor Kiritsubo, and his mother was a nyogo (a high-ranking lady in the court (a consort of an emperor)) from a ministerial family. He is the paternal half-brother of the Emperor Suzaku, Hikaru Genji and Hotaru Hyobukyo no Miya. He is the father of Oigimi (the oldest sister) and Naka no Kimi (the second daughter) of Uji and Ukifune who are the heroines of 'Uji Jujo' (The Ten Quires of Uji), in the later part of the story.
Oigimi and Naka no Kimi were born to Hachi no Miya and his Kita no kata (lawful wife) and were treated as princesses of the Imperial family. However, Ukifune was born to him and Chujo no Kimi, a lady-in-waiting who was the niece of his lawful wife, after his lawful wife had passed away, and Hachi no Miya did not acknowledge her as his own daughter.
He was born as a prince whose mother came from a noble family, and his lawful wife was also the daughter of a minister. From that reason, when he was still young, his future seemed to be bright as a prominent imperial prince. However, due to the Empress Kokiden, who had been opposed to Hikaru Genji, he was set up as a rival to push out the Tenth Prince (later the Emperor Reizei), the Crown Prince in those days whose guardian was Genji. Because of that, he became estranged from the people surrounding Genji and was consigned to oblivion while Genji wielded power as he pleased.
(He is described as 'an old prince who had been left behind by the times.')
After his father emperor and his mother nyogo passed away in his early days, he did not have any guardian whom he could rely on. Even his lawful wife passed away after giving birth to their second daughter, Naka no Kimi. It might have been because of his character, being too generous like a noble man, but he lost most of the legacy he had inherited from his mother's family. He immersed himself only in arts such as music, and spent years without knowing how to get on in life. Although no one paid their respects to him and he had been feeling apprehensive due to his being short of money, he was living in the capital while raising Oigimi and Naka no Kimi with much affection. However, he took the opportunity when he lost his residence in a fire and retreated into a mountain villa in Uji with his princesses and lived in seclusion.
In Uji, he devoted himself to the study of Buddhism under an Ajari (a master in esoteric Buddhism) for a long time, and obtained deep knowledge and faith. But he was so anxious about his daughters, who had lost their mother, that he could not renounce the world, stayed in a nonclerical appearance and was also called 'the saint who is still in this world'.
One day, the Ajari, Hachi no Miya's teacher, reported to Reizeiin about the life circumstances of Hachi no Miya, and Kaoru, who was on the spot, also learned about him. Kaoru, who had a strong pessimistic view of life, got interested in Hachi no Miya, 'the saint who is still in this world', began correspondence with him and later he himself paid a visit to Uji and deepened friendship with him. As Kaoru respected Hachi no Miya and helped with his living expenses, messengers sent from Reizeiin, who favored Kaoru, also came to visit frequently. People started to pay visits to the deserted mountain villa at last.
('Hashihime' (The Maiden of the Bridge))
A few years later, as a serious unlucky year had come to Hachi no Miya, he became conscious that his end would be approaching soon and again worked hard at his Buddhist practice. He racked his brains not to make his princesses, who had missed the chance to get married (at that time, Oigimi was twenty-five years old and Naka no Kimi was twenty-three, both of which were no longer regarded as 'young' following the common wisdom in those days), treated as of little account after he died. After consideration, he again requested Kaoru, who had been promoted to Middle Counselor, to be the guardian of his daughters. A little while after that, he confined himself in a mountain temple for prayer, and he became ill there. His illness got critical in a few days, and he passed away on around the twentieth day of the Eighth Month (old lunar calendar) without recovering. Due to the Ajari's instructions, his body was buried without being shown to his daughters..
('Shigamoto' (Beneath the Oak))
Hachi no Miya's Villa in the Mountain
Hachi no Miya's mountain villa along the Uji river is one of the important places in the Uji jujo (The Ten Quires of Uji), and many events occur there.
Kaoru met Hachi no Miya's princesses, and lost Oigimi who he had fallen in love with. Kaoru learned the secrets concerning the circumstances of his own birth.
(Ben, a lady-in waiting who was the daughter of wet nurse of Kaoru's biological father Kashiwagi, had been serving Hachi no Miya, and she told Kaoru about the secrets concerning his birth and gave him the secret letters Kashiwagi had left behind.)
Kaoru set Ukifune up in a secret residence. Niou Miya (Prince Niou) carried on an affair with Ukifune. Ukifune suffered distress because of the love triangle with Kaoru and Niou Miya, and decided to commit suicide.
Connections with Other Literary Works
The image of Hachi no Miya that 'an imperial prince who was driven to retreat into seclusion after getting dragged into political strife and is diligent in his Buddhist training' resembles that of Imperial Prince Koretaka who appears in "Ise Monogatari" (The Tales of Ise). In addition, there are many traits in common between Hachi no Miya and 'the Yoshino Prince' who appears in the "Torikaebaya Monogatari" (The Changelings) such as living in seclusion in somewhere away from the capital and having two daughters, and deepening a friendship with a pessimistic leading character. This character seems to have been greatly influenced by the image of Hachi no Miya.