Prince Genji maneuvered his way through all classes of life in 11th-century Heian-period Kyoto. Demoted to a commoner, the amorous and politically astute son of a concubine eventually retired an honorary emperor during the last period of classical Japanese history.
So wrote Murasaki Shikibu, in the world’s very first novel. The Tale Of Genji was scribed by Empress Shoshi’s lady-in-waiting over 12 years from around 1000 to 1012 in archaic court language, by one of the few literate women of the age. The tome depicts the romantic life of the fictional “shining prince” Hikaru Genji in the very real natural beauty of the Arashiyama district where Shikibu lived. To this day, Arashiyama retains the scenery of a millennium ago, the 1000-year-old Togetsukyo (moon crossing) Bridge still traversed daily by man-powered rickshaws and illuminated by glimmering lanterns.