Utsuho Monogatari (The tale of the Cavern) (うつほ物語)

Utsuho Monogatari ("うつほ物語," sometimes entitled "宇津保物語") is a full-length tale written in the mid Heian period in Japan. The story consists of twenty volumes, and although the author is unknown, MINAMOTO no Shitago is said to be a likely candidate. It inherits the characteristics of a tale of fantasy found in "Taketori Monogatari" (the Tale of Bamboo Cutter), and is the oldest full-length tale in Japanese literature. It is said that its realistic description influenced the writing of "The Tale of Genji." The story develops around the music of a 'koto' (Japanese traditional harp), which is one of the musical instruments whose players were considered to be educated persons among the nobles at that time. Another one of the characteristics is that there are many descriptions, in the manner of a diary which recorded the annual events at that time.

Story line

KIYOHARA no Toshikage is sent to the Tang Dynasty China as a Kentoshi, but is shipwrecked on the way and drifts ashore on Persia. Toshikage obtains the essence of the hikin (the magical harps) from a heavenly being and a mountain hermit, and after twenty-three years he comes back to Japan. Toshikage resigns from the government office, and after entrusting his daughter with the hikin and the revival of the Kiyohara family, he dies. Toshikage's daughter bears a child to FUJIWARA no Kanemasa, who is a son of the Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state), but as she is very poor, in the cavern of a tree in the forest of Kitayama she raises up her child (FUJIWARA no Nakatada) and teaches him the essence of the hikin. Kanemasa meets the two of them again, and takes Nakatada in.

In those days, MINAMOTO no Masayori's daughter, Atemiya, has an excellent reputation and there are continuous proposals for marriage. The proposers include Togu (the Crown Prince), Nakatada, MINAMOTO no Suzushi, MINAMOTO no Sanetada, MINAMOTO no Nakasumi, Ueno no miya, and Takamoto MIHARU, most of whom fall behind one after another, and although Nakatada and Suzushi, who recognize each other as rivals, have a match of the fantastic hikin in the Imperial court, Atemiya enters the Togu's court and gets to be called a Higyosha (one of the royal halls).
〔FUJIWARA no KIMI to Atemiya〕

Nakatada marries Onna Ichinomiya, and they have a daughter named Inumiya. Toshikage's daughter is recognized by the Emperor, and becomes Naishi no tsukasa (one of the female palace attendants). Nakatada is promoted to Dainagon (a chief councillor of state), and Togu becomes the new Emperor and the prince, whose mother is Fujitsubo, becomes Togu.
〔Kurabiraki (jo) to Kuniyuzuri (ge)〕

Nakatada asks his mother to initiate Inumiya into the secret of the hikin, and Inumiya masters the special technique of the hikin
Inumiya invites two of the Retired Emperors, Saga no in and Suzaku no in, to her residence to perform the hikin, and makes a deep impression on all of the guests; this scene is the end of the tale.
〔Ro no Ue (jo) to Ro no Ue (ge)〕


"Utsuho Monogatari" is composed of twenty volumes in all, and each of them has a unique title. Some of the volumes of the manuscripts have another title. Also, some of the translations into present-day Japanese or the annotated books differ in the order of the volumes. This article shows both the titles and the order of the volumes according to "Utsuho Monogatari 1 to 3" (Iwanami Shoten, Japanese Classic Literature Systematic Edition Vols. 10 to 12, revised and annotated by Tama KONO) (Letters' readings are expressed with the modern kana usage).

Saga no in
Ume no Hanagasa (also known as Kasugamoude, or Katsura)
Fukiage (jo)
Fukiage (ge)
Matsuri no Tsukai
Kiku no En
Hatsuaki (also known as Sumai no Sechie, or Naishi no Kami)
Tazu no Muradori (also known as Okitsu Shiranami)
Kurabiraki (jo)
Kurabiraki (chu)
Kurabiraki (ge)
Kuniyuzuri (jo)
Kuniyuzuri (chu)
Kuniyuzuri (ge)
Ro no Ue (jo)
Ro no Ue (ge)

[Original Japanese]