The site is filled – filled – with photos of shrines, temples and other places to be found in the novel. If you are interested in the Japan of the feudal period as I am, you cannot fail to be ‘knocked over with a feather’ by the exquisite beauty of theses temples and holy places. The pure unity of the architecture, the aesthetic simplicity of the interiors and the peaceful beauty of the gardens are a delight to the eye and a balm to the soul.
The predominating feeling one experiences when exploring this world of Genji is reverence. Reverence for the ancestors; reverence for nature; reverence for heaven and deities; reverence for wisdom and virtue; reverence for beauty. The people of feudal Japan were devoted to the arts, the different ‘Ways’ – the Way of the sword, of the bow, of the brush, of poetry, of the Tea Ceremony, of flower arranging - of virtually any activity. Everyday humble tasks were performed with reverence and attention to detail as a way to perfect the self. As one can imagine, this led to perfection and excellence in craftsmanship, from paper to ceramics to swords; perfection in the visual arts; perfection in the martial arts; perfection in reverencing the Spiritual in everything.
The Spiritual is all about us but we generally do not notice it. The Japanese society of this period did notice it and incorporated it into their daily life. Their society was in many ways of a finer essence.
If you are like me, when you close your computer after imbuing yourself with this world of Genji, you may have the distinct feeling of being transported to some dreary parallel universe.
I have not read The Tale of Genji, yet. It is surely a great treat in store for me. When I do, The Tale of Genji will be my companion and my window into that world.
Photo: Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine, tutelary shrine of the Minamoto (Genji) clan