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Japanese Works : Utsuho Monogatari

Japanese Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'><i>The Tale of the Hollow Tree</i> (Utsubo monogatari 『宇津保物語』) is the oldest extant full-length story (monogatari 物語) in Japan. Its unknown author is thought to have been a man familiar with Sinology who lived in the late 10th century. <i>Utsubo monogatari</i> exerted an undeniable influence on later Japanese narrative literary works, such as the <i>Tale of Genji</i> (Genji monogatari 『源氏物語』). The original <i>Utsubo monogatari</i> was comprised of twenty volumes. It tells the story of a man named Kiyohara Toshikage 清原俊蔭 and his descendants, who are taught the secret technique of playing a Japanese harp (koto 琴) by an immortal. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'><i>Utsubo monogatari</i> was well-known in ancient Japan, but it was the very beginning of this tale, the ‘Volume of Toshikage’ that was enjoyed the most by people who lived during the Edo Period. This Cambridge copy is the second book of a three-volume edition of the ‘Volume of Toshikage’ from <i>Utsubo monogatari</i>, published in 1660 (Manji 3). This copy lacks publication information. However, another imprint that is identical to the Cambridge edition reveals that this title was published with illustrations in Kyoto by Izumoji Izuminojō 出雲寺和泉掾. Four illustrations can be found in this book, on pages <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(5);return false;'>5</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(13);return false;'>13</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(22);return false;'>22</a>, and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(32);return false;'>32</a>. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The ‘Volume of Toshikage’ contains the life story of Toshikage, his daughter and his grandchild. It covers 85% of the timeline of this tale. The name of this tale was taken from one of its chapters, which describes how after Toshikage’s death his family’s circumstances fall into decline. Because Toshikage’s daughter and grandson have nowhere to live, they eventually end up sheltering in the hollow of a huge tree. The Cambridge copy tells the story of how Toshikage’s daughter met Kanemasa 兼雅, the son of the Grand Minister, and how she soon conceives Kanemasa’s child. Without the protection of Kanemasa, the single mother and her young child Nakatada 仲忠 end up living inside the hollow of a tree. One day, when Toshikage’s daughter is teaching her son how to play the koto, the tone of the koto catches Kanemasa’s ear, and this leads to the reunion of Kanemasa and Toshikage’s daughter. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The previous owner’s seal can be found on the lower right of the first page. There is marginalia on almost every page of this book. Some of these notes are written using Chinese characters and others are in katakana. Only one note written in the Roman alphabet can be found on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(28);return false;'>page 28</a>. </p>

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