Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 6 of the Genji have together been called "the Broom Tree Sequence," as these chapters are a sort of parody of the main theme, the discovery of forgotten women of the middle rank ("hidden flowers") by showing how easily things can turn out wrong.
In what is a rather short chapter, Genji continues pursuing (if not stalking) Utsusemi and makes a third visit to the house where she is staying. "Utsusemi" is a nickname and means "the cast-off shell of a cicada," and like the "Broom Tree" of the previous chapter, finds it origin in a poetic exchange between Genji and Utsusemi. Her title is "the wife of the Iyo Deputy" - her husband is a provincial official serving in Iyo, present-day Matsuyama (even the hot springs of Dogo are mentioned by Murasaki Shikibu). While on duty, he leaves his wife behind in the capital.
Ironically, it is Utsusemi's rejection that makes her an unforgettable figure for Genji. She is modest, somewhat plain and small, but her behavior stands out splendidly and she has good taste. Even when Genji makes an advance to her, she maintains her honor gracefully to the last, though she is afflicted, which again deeply impresses Genji. If she would have surrendered to him when he first tried to sleep with her, he would probably by now have forgotten her - it is her resistance, and pitiable condition, that keep him interested. By the way, it is said that Murasaki Shikibu herself could have served as a model for Utsusemi, because of the resemblance in circumstances and status.
[Genji spies on Utsusemi playing Go with her stepdaughter (from Wikimedia)]
Genji remains so infatuated that he proceeds for a third time to the mansion of the Governor of Kii under cover of the darkness, again claiming a "directional taboo." With the help of Kogimi, Utsusemi's young brother he has taken under his wing, he manages to steal a glance into the room, where Utsusemi is playing a game of Go with her step-daughter, the younger sister of the Governor of Kii, Nokiba no Ogi. Both women are revealingly under-dressed on the warm summer night. This act of spying on women (through a gap in a fence or curtain) by a man is called kaimami and is an often repeated scene in the Genji Monogatari (and just as often depicted in Genji-e, as here and here).
In fact, Nokiba no Ogi is more attractive and animated than her step-mother, but Utsusemi displays more cultivation and elegance. That night, Genji contrives, with Kogimi's assistance, to secretly creep into the bedchamber of the ladies. But Utsusemi somehow senses his presence, and swiftly flees the room, leaving only a thin robe behind like a cicada discarding its shell (hence the chapter title). In her desire to escape him, Utsusemi also abandons her sleeping step-daughter, who becomes Genji's unwitting prey. He initially mistakes the sleeping Nokiba no Ogi for Utsusemi and embraces her. When he notices his mistake, things have already gone too far - or he is just unwilling to admit defeat -, so he continues making love to her. Nokiba no Ogi does not even imagine she has been the victim of mistaken identity (Genji woos her into believing she is indeed the object of his desire), but is rather miserly treated by Genji afterwards, as he doesn't even send her the usual "morning after" poem, and also never returns to her. Nokiba no Ogi has been left behind by Utsusemi like the discarded robe, and lies just as inert and lifeless in Genji's arms as a cicada shell. It is only later, when she has become a memory, that Genji starts harboring fresh feelings of desire and regret for her.
Genji has managed to steal Utsusemi's robe (his only prize) and for many nights takes it with him to bed, fetischistically trying to find her faint scent in the soft textile. He then writes the following poem to Utsusemi:
at the foot of the tree
where the cicada
shed its shell,
my longing still goes to her
who left it behind
[utsusemi no mi wo kaetekeru ko no moto ni nao hitogara no natsukashiki kana]
Instead of responding with a poem by her own hand, Utsusemi, who is despite everything impressed by Genji's devotion, copies one by the tenth century poet Lady Ise next to Genji's:
dew lying on the wings
of the locust
hiding beneath this tree -
my sleeves are wet with my tears
[utsusemi no ha ni oku tsuyu no kogakurete shinobi shinobi ni nururu sode kana]
The Go game scene is the one most frequently illustrated from this chapter.
Two No plays have been based on the Utsusemi story. In Utsusemi the shite appears in disguise before a priest at Nakagawa, the Inner River Mansion of the Governor of Kii (presumably so called as it stood close to a small river that flowed between the Kamo and Katsura rivers), and site of Utsusemi's encounter with Genji. After telling the story of the place she reveals her true identity as Utsusemi and vanishes. In exchange for prayers on behalf of her soul, she then reappears in the priest's dream that night and performs a graceful No dance. The extended description of Nakagawa at the beginning of the play is based on phrases culled from the Genji Monogatari - in medieval times Genji handbooks were compiled by culling words and phrases from famous scenes as a sort of synopsis. Utsusemi's story also provided various motifs for both waka and renga.
The other play is called Go and focuses on that game as secretly watched (kaimami) by Genji. A priest visiting Nakagawa recalls a poem about the place, causing a woman to appear and engage him in conversation about it. She offers him lodging for the night and promises to provide a game of Go as entertainment, whereupon she disappears. In the second part of the play, the shite (Utsusemi) and tsure (Nokiba no Ogi) face each other across a Go board at the front of the stage as they imitate a game (a prop is used for the Go board). This is a very dense and elliptical play.
Note that Genji himself does not appears in these No plays.
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