Ukiyo-e Comparisons of the Cloudy Chapters of Genji,

Part I

(Genji kumo ukiyoe awase, 源氏雲浮世画合)

Publisher: Ise-ya Ichibei



The Tales of Genji (Genji monogatari) is the greatest novel in classical Japanese literature, and arguably, the world’s first novel.  It was written in the first decade of the eleventh century by Lady Murasaki, and relates the womanizing exploits of Prince Genji.  Each of the fifty-four chapters of the novel is named and is associated with a crest called a Genji-mon.  Two different forms of each crest are reproduced below.  This series of prints portray various scenes from history, legend, and literature that are suggested by a specific chapter of the novel.  In several of these prints, the characters portrayed are recognizable as specific kabuki actors.  This series consists of one design for each of the fifty-four chapters and six supplementary designs.  The title cartouche in the right upper corner reads Genji kumo ukiyoe awase (源氏雲浮世画合) on the former and Genji kumo shu-i (源氏雲拾遺) on the latter.  The prints in this series are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ôban.




Chapter number: 1

Chapter name: Kiritsubo (桐壺, Paulownia Court)

Scene: Hatakeyama Shôji Shigetada, fan in a hand, seated by a go-board with the pieces spilled on the floor

Robinson: S45.1




Chapter number: 2

Chapter name: Hahakigi (Broom Tree)

Scene: Kuzunoha peering over a screen at her sleeping child.  Her shadow on the screen shows her true form as a fox-woman.

Robinson: S45.2




Chapter number: 3

Chapter name: Utsusemi (Shell of Locust)

Scene: Soga Gorô Tokimune with drawn sword lifts the mosquito-net preparatory to killing his father’s murderer, Kudô Suketsune

Robinson: S45.3




Chapter number: 4

Chapter name: Yûgao (夕顔, Evening Faces)

Scene: O-Rie, wife of Yazuma, in the snow with a large dog carrying a rolled straw mat

Robinson: S45.4




Chapter number: 5

Chapter name: Wakamurasaki (若紫, Lavender)

Scene: Tegoshi no Shôshô, mistress of Soga Gorô, tying her obi on a windy night

Robinson: S45.5




Chapter number: 6

Chapter name: Suetsumuhana (末摘花, Safflower)

Scene: Actor Ichikawa Danjûrô VII as Kumagaya Jirô Naozane standing over Anewa Heita, who has fallen backwards

Robinson: S45.6


The breaks in the black line that forms the upper border of the bottom image indicate a later printing than the top image, in which the line is intact.  The wooden block used to print black lines, text and the black outlines found on most ukiyo-e prints is called the “key block”.  Since it prints thin lines, rather than broad areas of color, it is usually the first block to show evidence of ware.





Chapter number: 7

Chapter name: Momiji no ga (紅葉賀, Autumn Outing)

Scene: Actor Ichikawa Danjûrô VIII as Moritô on a flight of stone steps amidst falling maple leaves holds up the severed head of Kesa-gozen.  This is a scene from the kabuki play Sakigake Genji.

Robinson: S45.7




Chapter number: 8

Chapter name: Hana no en (花宴, Festival of Cherry Blossoms)

Scene: Actor Iwai Kumesaburô III as Hinadori under a blooming cherry tree with her maid.  This is a scene from the kabuki play Imoseyama onna teikin (Imoseyama, an Example of Womanly Virtue)

Robinson: S45.8




Chapter number: 9

Chapter name: Aoi (, Heart vine)

Scene: Kon-ô Maru of Edo fishing with a net from his boat

Robinson: S45.9




Chapter number: 10

Chapter name: Sakaki (, Sacred Tree)

Scene: O-Miwa, the daughter of a lowly sake merchant, holding a ceremonial sake ladle while being bullied by malicious and homely ladies-in-waiting at the palace of Soga Iruka, in the kabuki play Imoseyama onna teikin (Imoseyama, an Example of Womanly Virtue)

Robinson: S45.10




Chapter number: 11

Chapter name: Hana chiru sato (花散里, Orange Blossoms)

Scene: Katô Shigeuji seated with a sake cup in which is a cherry-blossom.  His wife is kneeling beside him.

Robinson: S45.11





Chapter number: 12

Chapter name: Suma (須磨, Suma)

Scene: Tamaori-hime, wife of Atsumori, at the seashore carrying a naginata

Robinson: S45.12


Two editions of the same design are shown.  The lower print with a simplified design is the less labor-intensive printing, which almost invariably means a later edition.  In the lower print, only a single shade of blue was used for the water and the shading (bokashi) in the foreground was omitted.  Bokashi was achieved by hand-applying a gradation of ink to the wooden printing block rather than inking the block uniformly.  This hand-application had to be repeated for each sheet of paper that was printed.  Although some of the colors in the lower print are faded, the garishly bright purple and red are clearly chemical inks, as opposed to the warmer and more subtle colors used in the above print.




Chapter number: 13

Chapter name: Akashi (明石, Akashi)

Scene: Actor Bandô Shuka I as O-Hatsu in the kabuki play Onoe Iwafuji

Robinson: S45.13




Chapter number: 14

Chapter name: Miotsukushi (澪標, Channel Buoys)

Scene: Shimobe Yodohei with a large box on his back by a garden gate in the snow

Robinson: S45.14




Chapter number: 15

Chapter name: Yomogyû (蓬生, Wormwood Patch)

Scene: Hisamatsu standing and holding a napkin with the elderly Yamazaki no Kyûsaku seated before him

Robinson: S45.15




Chapter number: 16

Chapter name: Sekiya (真木柱, The Gatehouse)

Scene: Shirai Gompachi tying his girdle by a netted palanquin with his foot on the neck of a prostrate bearer

Robinson: S45.16




Chapter number: 17

Chapter name: E-awase (絵合, Picture Contest)

Scene: Yaegaki-hime with her chin in her hands gazing a picture of her deceased lover, Katsuyori, before which incense is burning

Robinson: S45.17




Chapter number: 18

Chapter name: Matsukaze (松風, Wind in the Pines)

Scene: Actor Ichikawa Danjûrô VII as the pirate Kezori Kuemon grasping a huge ax by moonlight

Robinson: S45.18




Chapter number: 19

Chapter name: Usugumo (薄雲, Wisps of Cloud)

Scene: Earth-Spider in web behind Sôma Yoshikado (right) and Utou Yasukata

Robinson: S45.19




Chapter number: 20

Chapter name: Asagao (朝顔, Morning Glory)

Scene: Actor Ichikawa Danjûrô VIII as Fuwa Banzaemon in the kabuki play Hiyoku no inazuma

Robinson: S45.20

“Robinson” refers to listing in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-Prints by Basil William Robinson (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1982) and its privately published supplement.