The Tale of Genji

Fujitsubo Character Analysis

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 Paulownia Court. However, because she's even more beautiful and perfect than the Paulownia Lady, she doesn't suffer the abuse that her predecessor did. When Genji learns that Fujitsubo looks like his mother, he's very touched; yet as he grows up, he develops an unhealthy obsession with and attraction to her. The Emperor doesn't discourage this when Genji is younger, which leads Genji to pursue the relationship years laters. When Fujitsubo goes home ill at one point, Genji rapes her. She becomes pregnant with Reizei, Genji's child, though she allows the Emperor to believe that the baby is his. This causes Fujitsubo a great deal of stress, as she fears that her power and position could be taken away at any minute were he to find out about Reizei's paternity. She also worries about Kokiden's wrath, especially when the Emperor names Fujitsubo empress not long before his death. In the aftermath of her rape, it's also somewhat unclear whether or not Fujitsubo does indeed nurse secret affection for Genji, as she often finds herself caught between trying to keep him as far away from her as possible and letting him know in small ways that she does have feelings for him. At one point, however, Genji makes Fujitsubo very ill by attempting to rape her a second time. After this, when Reizei is a small child, Fujitsubo makes the decision to remove herself by court life and from Genji's advances by becoming a nun. This proves an effective way to keep herself safe, and she and Genji are able to agree to maintain respectful contact for Reizei's sake. When Reizei takes the throne, Fujitsubo is unable to be treated as a real empress or a regent, but she's given the honors of a retired empress. Genji also gives her many of his paintings from his time in exile.

Fujitsubo Quotes in The Tale of Genji

The The Tale of Genji quotes below are all either spoken by Fujitsubo or refer to Fujitsubo. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Tale of Genji published in 1976.
The Paulownia Court Quotes

Because she was of such high birth (it may have been that people were imagining things) she seemed even more graceful and delicate than the other. No one could despise her for her inferior rank, and the emperor need not feel shy about showing his love for her.

Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lavender Quotes

She did not seek to hide her distress, and her efforts to turn him away delighted him even as they put him to shame. There was no one else quite like her. In that fact was his undoing: he would be less a prey to longing if he could find in her even a trace of the ordinary.

Related Characters: Genji, Fujitsubo, The Emperor, Omyōbu
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
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An Autumn Excursion Quotes

Fujitsubo was tormented by feelings of guilt and apprehension. Surely everyone who saw the child would guess the awful truth and damn her for it. People were always happy to seek out the smallest and most trivial of misdeeds.

Related Characters: Genji, Fujitsubo, Reizei, The Emperor
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:
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In the Seventh Month, Fujitsubo was made empress [...] Making plans for his abdication, the emperor wanted to name Fujitsubo's son crown prince. The child had no strong backing, however [...] The emperor therefore wanted Fujitsubo in an unassailable position from which to promote her son's career.

Related Characters: Genji, Fujitsubo, Suzaku, Reizei, The Emperor
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
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Heartvine Quotes

Genji felt like a child thief. The role amused him and the affection he now felt for the girl seemed to reduce his earlier affection to the tiniest mote. A man's heart is a very strange amalgam indeed!

Related Characters: Genji, Fujitsubo, Murasaki, Aoi
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:
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Memories had dimmed over the years, but now the astonishing resemblance did a little dispel his gloom. The dignity that quite put one to shame also reminded him of Murasaki. He could hardly think of them as two persons, and yet, perhaps because Fujitsubo had been so much in his thoughts over the years, there did after all seem to be a difference.

Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:
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"Though I leave behind a world I cannot endure,

My heart remains with him, still of that world.

And will be muddied by it."

Related Characters: Genji, Fujitsubo, The Rokujō Lady, Reizei, Akikonomu
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Sacred Tree Quotes

She was quite aware of Kokiden's feelings and knew that a world at the service of the other lady would be difficult to live in.

Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:
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Fujitsubo Character Timeline in The Tale of Genji

The timeline below shows where the character Fujitsubo appears in The Tale of Genji. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Paulownia Court
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...of them resemble his dead love. Finally, he hears word of a young princess named Fujitsubo, who, according to another lady at court, closely resembles the Paulownia Lady. The Emperor summons... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Because Genji sees the Emperor so often, it's difficult for Fujitsubo to keep herself hidden from him. He doesn't remember his mother, the Paulownia Lady, and... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...and not much with Aoi in Sanjō, mostly because Genji is desperately in love with Fujitsubo. However, now that he's an adult, he's no longer allowed behind her curtains. He resents... (full context)
Lavender
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...sin to cage a bird. As Genji watches, he realizes that the young girl resembles Fujitsubo. He nearly cries. (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...bishop is her uncle and her father is Prince Hyōbu, which explains her resemblance to Fujitsubo—Prince Hyōbu is Fujitsubo’s brother. Genji admits it's a strange and forward request but asks to... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Fujitsubo falls ill and goes home to spend time with her family. Genji feels bad momentarily... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Fujitsubo gets sicker and sicker. After three months, it becomes clear that she's pregnant. Her attendants... (full context)
An Autumn Excursion
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...excursion to the Suzaku Palace. This will include dancing and because the Emperor doesn’t want Fujitsubo and the other ladies to feel left out, he orders a full rehearsal at the... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The next morning, Genji sends Fujitsubo a letter asking if she could sense his feelings for her through his dance. She... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Fujitsubo goes home to her family. Genji tries to see her, but his in-laws criticize him... (full context)
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Finally, Genji is able to visit Fujitsubo. Omyōbu and other ladies in waiting receive him, but Fujitsubo herself won't see him. Prince... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Fujitsubo was supposed to give birth in December, but her pregnancy continues through January. She becomes... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...prince, regretting that he couldn't do the same for Genji. One afternoon, Genji sits in Fujitsubo's apartments listening to music when the Emperor walks in with Reizei. He notes the resemblance... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...to the palace, Genji sends a long letter with carnations to Omyōbu to give to Fujitsubo, but Fujitsubo instructs Omyōbu to reply with something short. Fujitsubo does, however, include a short... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
In the summer, the Emperor names Fujitsubo empress. This, of course, sends Kokiden into a rage. Rumors fly that the Emperor is... (full context)
The Festival of the Cherry Blossoms
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...the end of February, the Emperor holds the festival of the cherry blossoms. He seats Fujitsubo and Reizei on one side of him and Genji on the other, which makes Kokiden... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...the courtiers' poems. Genji's is so exceptional that the reader comments on every line. As Fujitsubo listens, she wonders simultaneously how Kokiden can hate Genji and how she's so drawn to... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...the festivities end, a slightly drunk Genji prowls through the ladies' apartments to see if Fujitsubo left her door open for him. She didn't. He notices that near Kokiden's pavilion, there's... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
...He's intrigued that she clearly didn't want their relationship to continue and thinks too of Fujitsubo. At a banquet later that day, Genji plays the koto and wonders whether he may... (full context)
Heartvine
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...he has less to amuse him and people begin to complain that he's quite aloof. Fujitsubo happily spends her time with the Emperor, which annoys Kokiden. She doesn't follow the Emperor... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...him. Genji shudders at the possibility that his father might learn of his affair with Fujitsubo, and then excuses himself. (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Genji visits the Emperor at the palace and then calls on Fujitsubo. She sends out condolences through Omyōbu. Genji then visits Murasaki and tells her that now... (full context)
The Sacred Tree
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...for advice. Suzaku agrees to follow his father's wishes. Reizei also visits the Emperor with Fujitsubo. Later, the Emperor tells Genji to take care of Reizei. Kokiden delays her visit and... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Fujitsubo knows that Kokiden will be horrible to live with, so Prince Hyōbu arrives to take... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Fujitsubo continues to worry about Reizei. Though she's happy that the Emperor never found out about... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
By evening, Fujitsubo is feeling better, so Prince Hyōbu leaves. Genji slips out of the closet and watches... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Distraught, Genji leaves and vows to make Fujitsubo feel sorry for him. He locks himself away and doesn't write to her. Fujitsubo spends... (full context)
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Genji ignores Reizei to punish Fujitsubo for her "cruelty." He attempts to avoid gossip by spending several days in a temple... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...now, and he finds her very pleasing. He sends some branches of autumn leaves to Fujitsubo and Omyōbu, apologizing for his neglect. Fujitsubo blushes when she discovers a tightly folded note... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...the matter. They discuss all manner of things and finally, they talk about Reizei and Fujitsubo. As Genji leaves the emperor's chambers, one of Kokiden's nephews boldly insults Genji for being... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...that he's sad too and intends to return. On the anniversary of the Emperor's death, Fujitsubo prepares to read the Lotus Sutra for him. She and Genji exchange notes expressing their... (full context)
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
When the ceremony is over, Genji goes to speak to Fujitsubo. He's angry that she surprised them all, but Fujitsubo sends notes through Omyōbu that she... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...Reizei all night. In the morning, he throws himself into getting the nunnery ready for Fujitsubo and Omyōbu, who also decided to take vows. He and Fujitsubo see each other more... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
When the spring promotions are announced, Fujitsubo's household is passed over entirely. She devotes herself to prayer and reminds herself that Reizei's... (full context)
Suma
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...of the Orange Blossoms; he doesn't visit her often, but he is her only visitor. Fujitsubo also begins to write him, worried about rumors. Finally, at the end of March, Genji... (full context)
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...before Genji leaves, he visits the Emperor's grave and but stops in first to see Fujitsubo. They discuss their worries about Reizei and Genji refrains from bringing up old complaints. The... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...seasons pass, Genji thinks often of Murasaki, Reizei, and Yugiri. He sends letters to Murasaki, Fujitsubo, and Oborozukiyo. In her grief and loneliness, Murasaki takes to her bed, making her serving... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...Yoshikiyo about the power of friendship. They stare at the moon and Genji cries for Fujitsubo and the friendship he shared with Suzaku. He realizes he holds no ill will towards... (full context)
Akashi
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...and the former governor asks his daughter to play. Genji finds her playing much like Fujitsubo's and he regrets not asking her to play for him sooner. He asks her to... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...they talk happily all night. Genji sets about commissioning prayers, checks in on Reizei and Fujitsubo, and sends a note to Akashi. The Gosechi dancer is disappointed that Genji is back... (full context)
Channel Buoys
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
...enjoys his retirement, Genji has moved into his mother the Paulownia Lady's old rooms, and Fujitsubo is treated with the respect of a retired empress. She's able to see Reizei again... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Genji consults Fujitsubo in the matter, and she suggests that Genji pretend to not know that Suzaku loves... (full context)
A Picture Contest
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Fujitsubo desperately wants Akikonomu to come to court. Genji has decided to not bring Akikonomu to... (full context)
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Genji helps install Akikonomu at court and feels the Rokujō Lady would be proud. Fujitsubo tells Reizei about the new lady. Reizei fears that because she's older than he is... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...filled with the Kokiden girl and Akikonomu's favorite art. Their two styles are very different. Fujitsubo, a great art lover herself, decides that the court ladies should split into two sides... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
The court turns to examining Genji's journals and Genji gives his paintings to Fujitsubo, promising to one day tell her everything. Tō no Chūjō hopes that Reizei won't forget... (full context)