The Tale of Genji

A koto is a type of stringed instrument that has either seven or thirteen strings. The thirteen-string version is based off of a Chinese instrument called a zheng. Kotos are flat and sit either on the ground or on a table, and the strings are made of either silk or metal. In Genji's time, the instrument was popular primarily among the wealthy, as kotos are expensive to manufacture.
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Koto Term Timeline in The Tale of Genji

The timeline below shows where the term Koto appears in The Tale of Genji. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Paulownia Court
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...and one chilly autumn evening, he remembers how he and his love had played the koto for each other. He sends a messenger woman named Myōbu to the Paulownia Lady's mother's... (full context)
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...Even Kokiden likes him. He learns the classics and to play the flute and the koto, and his musical talent is shocking. (full context)
Lavender
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...They drink wine, play music, and sing. The bishop even talks Genji into playing the koto. This impresses all the priests and nuns and, importantly, Murasaki. She deems him handsomer than... (full context)
An Autumn Excursion
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...never visits, and Genji reprimands her for complaining. He asks her to play a thirteen-stringed koto for him and she does, beautifully. They look at pictures until Genji's attendants surreptitiously remind... (full context)
The Festival of the Cherry Blossoms
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...continue and thinks too of Fujitsubo. At a banquet later that day, Genji plays the koto and wonders whether he may have an opportunity to see Oborozukiyo in the daylight. He... (full context)
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Aoi keeps Genji waiting, so Genji fiddles with a koto. The Minister of the Left congratulates Genji on his poem and his dancing at the... (full context)
The Orange Blossoms
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...and her younger sister. On his way, he notices a house with ladies playing the koto inside. Koremitsu carries a note to the ladies. In their reply the ladies feign ignorance... (full context)
Suma
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...though the ocean is right outside his window. One night, he weeps and plays the koto, but the music only makes him sadder. This wakes up his attendants, who all begin... (full context)
Akashi
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...to receive notes from the city. Lost in thought one evening, Genji pulls out his koto and begins to play. The ladies in the former governor's house sigh and the former... (full context)
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...it would ruin the mood to force himself on her. Hearing the sound of a koto, Genji asks the lady if she'd play for him. Her sad reply reminds Genji of... (full context)
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...of affection. She weeps and recites poems about her sadness. Finally, Genji sends for a koto. He plays, and the former governor asks his daughter to play. Genji finds her playing... (full context)