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Full set of oldest novel found in Tokyo home

Sun., July 13, 2008

OSAKA, Japan – A full set of chapters of “The Tale of Genji,” the world’s oldest surviving full-length novel, believed to have been transcribed in the Muromachi period (1333-1568) has been discovered at the residence of a family in Tokyo.

It is rare for a complete set of manuscripts from the 11th-century novel to be found in one place.

The volumes are expected to be a major source for scholars of the novel, which marked its 1,000th anniversary this year.

According to Kazuomi Ikeda, professor of Japanese classical literature at Chuo University, who researched the documents, the volumes are all 19.6 centimeters long and 15.1 centimeters wide, and have a uniform cover sheet decorated with powder derived from seashells.

The volumes were kept in a lacquer-coated wooden box and are in good condition.

A label stating the section was written by Sir Tamekazu was stuck in a volume containing a chapter called “Akashi,” leading the researcher to believe that Reizei Tamekazu (1486-1549), a renowned Muromachi period poet, transcribed the novel from that section onward.

The variorum edition of “The Tale of Genji” by Kikan Ikeda (1896-1956), a scholar of Japanese literature, insists that a volume titled “Utsusemi” exists.

Kazuomi Ikeda visited the Tokyo home and found that the manuscripts contain a complete set of the tale’s 54 chapters.


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