The Tale of Genji


Shikibu Murasaki

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The Tale of Genji Characters


Genji is the protagonist of the novel and the Emperor's favorite son. However, because Genji's mother, the Lady of the Paulownia Court, is disliked by the Emperor's other concubines, the Emperor feels forced… read analysis of Genji


Fujitsubo is one of the Emperor's favorite lovers. She comes to court when Genji is seven or eight, having been summoned by the Emperor because she looks like the deceased Lady of the Paulowniaread analysis of Fujitsubo

The Rokujō Lady

The Rokujō Lady is one of Genji's first lovers, though she doesn't appear herself until midway through the novel. She had been a consort of the emperor before the Emperor and is therefore a… read analysis of The Rokujō Lady


Murasaki is Fujitsubo's niece. Because she looks so much like Fujitsubo, Genji falls immediately in love with her when he first meets her at age ten, and he decides he must raise her to… read analysis of Murasaki


Kokiden is one of the Emperor's favorite lovers--she's possibly his wife, though it’s not specified—and she's also one of Genji's most powerful adversaries. Despite the amount of power she holds for much of… read analysis of Kokiden
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Suzaku is Genji's half-brother; his mother is Kokiden and they share a father, the Emperor. Suzaku is a few years older than Genji and not as well loved, though this doesn't impact the… read analysis of Suzaku


Reizei is Genji and Fujitsubo's son, though he's conceived through secret rape and therefore grows up believing that the Emperor is his father. Though the novel never notes that Reizei is told outright that… read analysis of Reizei

The Emperor

The Emperor is Genji's father and is the first emperor of the novel. It's unclear how old he is. The Emperor is a man who is more than willing to give himself over to… read analysis of The Emperor

Minister of the Left

The Minister of the Left is Aoi's father and Genji's father-in-law. He's described as being a kind, generous, and at times, more of a doddering old man than the powerful political figure he… read analysis of Minister of the Left

Minister of the Right

The Minister of the Right is one of the most powerful men at court, just one step below the Emperor in rank. Described as being extremely vindictive, he shares his daughter Kokiden's hunger for… read analysis of Minister of the Right


Oborozukiyo is one of Kokiden's younger sisters. Genji meets her after a party one night; he discovers her door open, rapes her, and tells her that it's useless to fight him as he always… read analysis of Oborozukiyo


Akikonomu is the Rokujō Lady's daughter; it's never stated who her father is. When she's still a child, she's appointed to be the high priestess of the Ise shrine, a huge honor. Suzakuread analysis of Akikonomu


Aoi is Genji's wife and the only daughter of the Minister of the Left. She's several years older than Genji, which is one of the main reasons that the two never really get… read analysis of Aoi

Akashi Lady

The Akashi Lady is a young woman who lives in Akashi with her mother and father, the former governor. Though the former governor has high hopes for his daughter's future, the Akashi Lady herself… read analysis of Akashi Lady

Lady of the Evening Faces

The Lady of the Evening Faces is a mysterious woman whom Genji begins a romance with in the beginning of the novel. She's relatively young, very small, and does her best to obscure her true… read analysis of Lady of the Evening Faces

The Former Governor

The former governor is the Akashi Lady's father. He desperately wants his daughter to marry someone important in the city and instructs her to throw herself into the sea if he can't make this… read analysis of The Former Governor

Prince Hyōbu

Prince Hyōbu is Fujitsubo's brother and Murasaki's father. He desperately wants to be a part of court life and makes this happen first by sending Fujitsubo to court, despite their mother's insistence that… read analysis of Prince Hyōbu

Tō no Chūjō

Tō no Chūjō is Genji's brother in law. The two are very good friends, though they're also rivals. In their youth, their rivalry is based on women, specifically Naishi. Tō no Chūjō also… read analysis of Tō no Chūjō


Shōnagon is Murasaki's nurse. Even as the nun and the bishop turn Genji away from pursuing Murasaki, Shōnagon shows herself to be far more willing to entertain Genji's interest in her young charge. When… read analysis of Shōnagon

The Bishop

The bishop lives on the mountain near the sage and asks Genji to call on him when he realizes Genji is in the neighborhood. Though the bishop shows Genji a great deal of hospitality, he… read analysis of The Bishop


Omyōbu is Fujitsubo's serving lady. The two are initially very close, but Omyōbu goes against Fujitsubo's wishes to arrange meetings between Fujitsubo and Genji. This results in Genji raping Fujitsubo and Fujitsubo becoming… read analysis of Omyōbu

The Kokiden Girl

The Kokiden girl is Tō no Chūjō's daughter with his wife, who is one of the Minister of the Right's daughters. She's about Reizei's age and as such is one of the… read analysis of The Kokiden Girl

Lady of the Orange Blossoms

The Lady of the Orange Blossoms is Reikeiden's younger sister. Both used to be consorts of the Emperor, but everyone forgot them after the Emperor died. Genji begins visiting them and begins sexual… read analysis of Lady of the Orange Blossoms


Koremitsu is one of Genji's personal attendants, whom he often sends on missions to find information on Genji's various lovers or to carry messages when Genji is trying to woo women. Koremitsu finds much… read analysis of Koremitsu


Naishi is an old woman who was one of the Emperor's lovers. At age sixty, she's described as experienced and refined, but also not afraid to ask for what she wants. As she and… read analysis of Naishi

Princess Omiya

Princess Omiya is Aoi's mother. She appears very little before Aoi's death and after her daughter dies, she spends most of her time grieving in bed. Princess Omiya and Genji exchange notes often when… read analysis of Princess Omiya

Princess Asagao

Princess Asagao is one of Genji's cousins whom he corresponds with off and on. He's also somewhat romantically interested in her, though she cuts off contact with him after Suzaku becomes emperor. Genji is… read analysis of Princess Asagao


Reikeiden used to be one of the Emperor's consorts, but her popularity plummets after the Emperor dies. Genji begins to visit her and her sister, the Lady of the Orange Blossoms. Reikeiden and… read analysis of Reikeiden
Minor Characters
The Nun
The nun is Murasaki's grandmother and is also a relative of the bishop. She cares for Murasaki and attempts to stop Genji from taking custody of her, but her death prevents her from being successful in keeping Genji away. Genji finds the nun somewhat imposing and scary.
The Nurse
The nurse is a young woman who, prior to Genji hiring her as a nurse for the Akashi Lady's daughter, had a child with someone who wasn't trustworthy. Genji is sexually attracted to her and while the nurse reciprocates, she does as she's told and goes to Akashi.
Lady of the Paulownia Court
The Lady of the Paulownia Court is Genji's mother. She's extremely beautiful and is the Emperor's favorite lover, but because she doesn't have any powerful female relatives, the other ladies at court torment her. Their jealousy makes her ill and she dies when Genji is three as a result.
The Paulownia Lady's Mother
The Paulownia Lady's Mother is Genji's grandmother. She expresses skepticism that the Emperor can actually protect Genji at court, given that the other ladies at court tormented her daughter, the Lady of the Paulownia Court, so much that she died.
Yugiri is Genji's son with Aoi. Because Aoi dies days after Yugiri's birth, Genji and the Minister of the Left think of Yugiri as a memento to remember Aoi by. He's a happy and active young child, and Genji visits often to attend to his education.
Yoshikiyo is one of Genji's attendants, and is also possibly in love with the Akashi Lady. He's instrumental in orchestrating Genji's move from Suma to Akashi and later, is jealous when he learns that the Akashi Lady is pregnant with Genji's baby.
Ukon is the serving lady of the Lady of the Evening Faces. She attempts to stand up to Genji at various points but is unable to do so. After the Lady of the Evening Faces dies, Genji brings Ukon to the palace against her will.
Lady of the Locust Shell
The Lady of the Locust Shell is the governor of Iyo's wife. Though she and Genji have a short-lived romantic relationship, she eventually refuses to see him.
Koremitsu's Mother
Koremitsu's mother was one of Genji's childhood nurses. She implies that she loves Genji more than she loves her own children when Genji visits her in her old age.
The Korean Emissary
The Korean Emissary visits Japan when Genji is a small child. Genji is already so obviously perfect that the emissary notes that Genji should be the father of the nation.
Myōbu is one of the Emperor's female messengers. She carries notes for him to the Paulownia Lady's mother.
Prince Hotaru
Prince Hotaru is one of Genji's brothers. At the end of the novel, Genji asks him to act as umpire in the art critique contest.
The Sage
The sage is a renowned healer who lives on a mountain outside of Kyoto. He cures Genji of malaria.
The Governor of Iyo
The governor of Iyo is an older man whose wife and daughter are lovers of Genji's.
The Gosechi Dancer
The Gosechi Dancer is one of Genji’s lovers while he’s away in exile, though she never appears in person in the text. Genji effectively ends their relationship when he returns to the city.