Hikaru Genji (光源氏) is the protagonist of Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji. In the story, he is described as a superbly handsome man. Genji is the second son of an emperor, but he is delegated to civilian life for political reasons and lives as an imperial officer.
The first part of the story concentrates on his romantic life, and in the second, he and others' internal agony is depicted. He appears from the first volume "Kiritsubo" to the 40th volume "Illusion".
"Genji" is the surname as a noble demoted from royalty. His true given name is never referred to in the story, like most other characters. "Hikaru" means "shining", which is a nickname deriving from his appearance. He is also referred to in the book as Rokujō no In (六条院), sometimes abbreviated as In (院). He is often called Genji when speaking of the story.
Life of Hikaru Genji in Tale of Genji
The ages of characteres are counted in Kazoedoshi (数え年), as the story tells.
It is common to divide the tale into three parts, and this article follows that customary, but the division is not what's given by Lady Murasaki.
Hikaru Genji was born the second son of Emperor Kiritsubo (桐壺帝) by his lower ranked consort, Kiritsubo no Koi (桐壺更衣). Genji was blessed with peerless beauty and genius, even from infancy, and was nicknamed "the Shining Prince". His mother died when he was only three years old. Persuasion of the ideal of his mother is an important element which defines his love.
His father Emperor Kiritsubo considered appointing Hikaru the crown prince. He was however worried that his second son had no support from his maternal line. Also discouraged by a prediction by a Korean fortuneteller that the country would be thrown into chaos if Hikaru would ascend to the throne, the Emperor lowered Hikaru's rank to civilian, giving him the clan name Minamoto (Genji).
Genji adored his stepmother Lady Fujitsubo (藤壺), a later favorite consort of Emperor Kiritsubo, because of her close resemblance to the dead Lady Kiritsubo, and that similarity was also the reason that Emperor Kiritsubo had her enter his court. As a result of Fujitsubo and Genji's forbidden love, she bore a boy, later Emperor Reizei (冷泉帝), to Genji when he is 19, but almost no one knew the truth of his birth, and the child was raised as a prince and son of Emperor Kiritsubo.
He had two wives in the legal sense during his life; he married Lady Aoi (Aoi no Ue､葵の上) in his youth, and much later Onna san no Miya (女三の宮) (meaning "The Third Princess", called so in Japanese, and known as Nyōsan in the Arthur Waley translation.) Lady Aoi died after she bore a son to Genji. But Genji's de facto wife and most beloved one was Lady Murasaki, Murasaki no Ue (紫の上), a niece of Fujitsubo. Genji met her by chance when she was very young - at the age of 8, and when he was 18 years old. When her grandmother who brought her up died, and before her real father could take her to his mansion, Genji kidnapped Murasaki and brought her up himself. After Aoi died, Genji made her his unofficial wife. Although their marriage didn't follow the whole protocol of official marriage, she received as many honours as the factual wife of Genji. But she remained officially his concubine, and that was one of the reasons Genji was offered the opportunity to marry the Third Princess in the second part of the story. Genji couldn't reject this offer because of his affection for Fujitsubo, but Onna san no miya was so young that she turned out to be too naïve, and he was very disappointed and had many regrets.
Genji had many love affairs. He even made love to one of his brother's de facto consorts Oborozukiyo (朧月夜). She was nominally the Head of Ladies-in-waiting and no official consort, but it was a scandal, and gave a pretext to political opponents. Genji moved to Suma, in Harima province, before he could be expelled officially.
In Harima province, Genji met Lady Akashi and had a daughter by her. Later his brother Emperor Suzaku was afflicted by illness and feared it was a result of the wrath of his late father's spirit, by his poor treatment of his brother, Genji. Genji was invited to return to Miyako (nowadays Kyoto). He left Lady Akashi and the child, and returned to Kyoto.
After Genji was back in Kyoto, Emperor Suzaku abdicated in favor of the crown prince (Reizei) who was really the son of Genji and Fujitsubo. This prince ascended to the throne, but he learned the secret of his birth by chance, and wanted to abdicate in favor of his real father, Genji. It was however impossible and as the second best, Emperor Reizei later gave Genji nearly the same rank as an abdicated emperor. After rising to this noblest rank, Genji was called Rokujo-in (六条院), a name taken from his mansion.
Genji wanted his daughter to be the next Empress. He invited Lady Akashi and the child (known as Princess Akashi, 明石の姫君) to Kyoto. Later, Lady Murasaki adopted this girl and brought her up. This girl later became a consort of the crown prince and eventually his empress.
At the age of forty, he married his niece Onna san no Miya, who was a daughter of his elder half-brother Emperor Suzaku (朱雀帝), and her mother was a lady whose half-sister was Empress Fujitsubo, hence her another niece. This marriage did not make him happy. Kashiwagi (柏木), a friend of his son Yugiri (夕霧), hence a nephew of Lady Aoi, lusted after Onna san no Miya and sought her love even after her marriage with Genji. Finally he intruded into Rokujoin and raped her. She bore a boy whose father was Kashiwagi. Genji later came to know the secret and get angry, but finally realizes it was just what he had done to his father, and it was a punishment of his past treachery to his father and emperor. He decided to keep the secret of the birth of this boy and to bring him up as his real and third child.
After Lady Murasaki died, he became a monk and secreted himself in Saga (嵯峨).
Hikaru Gengi appears in Ōkamiden as the character Genji. Murasaki Shikibu appears as Shikibu, who tends to scream a lot. After cleansing the knowing jewel of evil spirits, Genji appears. The mermaid on Chibiterasu's back, Nanami, falls in love with him. He kidnaps Nanami and drags her all over the Sage Shrine. After Chibiterasu finds him in the bed with her, Nanami snapped out of her love and started attacking Genji, where he then talked to Shikibu. He apologizes for his actions and womanizing, and tells her that he cannot live without her. Shikibu says that he learned nothing and she "unwrites" him. She then starts screaming again.
Shikibu then talks to them about creating Genji. She describes the intention to create a perfect man, but then explains that she came out with a womanizer. The story continues and Genji is only ever mentioned again in the bestiary.
Genji's bestiary entry says: "This loathsome lothario loves all women, and thinks they all love him. A demon gave life to the character created by the famous author Shikibu. Originally written as the perfect man, this Mr. Right went wrong, to the detriment of all the ladies in the world."
- The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu