7000 Wonders

7000 Wonders

ArticleKey #8: The Tale of Genji. Part II - A Thousand Years Later

Edward Porper

Edward Porper

3 min read

Upon entering a typical multistoried building, taking the elevator to the 5th floor, and stepping through the doors of what seems to be a standard-looking apartment, one finds hirself in…a time-machine where the 11th century comes alive, populated with characters of the “Tale of Genji” renowned for being the world's first novel. Over centuries, the famous book had been translated into most European languages, and even into modern Japanese - yet, it was that relatively small space that rendered Shikibu Murasaki's creation its most unique translation into Artish, including most of its dialects, such as Paintish, Sculptish, Theatrish…

Formally known as Kyoto Costume Museum, the time-machine presents costumes of the epoch in great detail but it's immediately obvious that the exhibition is about so much more than just costumes. High-ranked aristocrats had a lot of time on their hands, and their life at court was filled with entertainment. Games, tea parties, formal receptions, quiet garden walks and romantic boat rides - all those and many other activities are meticulously covered by the creators of the museum, and they make sure not only to present various items and situations but also to explain their meaning, while making references to particular episodes from the book.





Daily routines, such as getting one's hair combed, weren't forgotten, either - and how could they be, considering that a noble woman's hair was her most important asset immediately revealing her high status! Consequently, most women spared no time and effort to keep the hair as long and shiny as possible.


And then, there are actual costumes, such as six-layered kimonos explaining the real meaning of the expression "dress-code". Each combination of colours was to be worn during a particular season - calendar or otherwise - and each colour of any combination represented a specific tree or flower.



Not bigger than an average apartment, the museum is saturated with thousands of tiny figurines inhabiting plenty of miniature sets, and it's oh-so-easy to temporarily forget where you are - and just float back through the centuries on the Ocean of Time…