Shelves: diary , classics , japan 3. However, having read "The Tale of Genji," I decided to have a go with this formidable diary because it "belongs to the same period as the celebrated Tale of Genji" and it "offers a timeless and intimate glimpse into the culture of ancient Japan. It had been rumored till the authoress knew this heartbreaking news so we can imagine how bitter she felt. As for the protest she made on the marriage system then might be categorized as feminism in the 10th century Japan.

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At the outset of the Kagero Nikki, Michitsuna no Haha states her purpose in writing her journal. I have included the McCullough translation of the opening passage rather than the Seidensticker translation because I found it more compatible with the tone of the overall work: There once was a woman who led a forlorn, uncertain life, the old days gone forever and her present status neither one thing nor the other. Telling herself that it was natural for a man to attach no value to someone who was less attractive than others and not very bright, she merely went to bed and got up day after day.

But then it occurred to her as she leafed through the many current tales of the past, that such stories were only conventional tissues of fabrications, and that people might welcome the novelty of a journal written by an ordinary woman. If there were those who wondered what it might be like to be married to a man who moved in the very highest circles, she might invite them to find an answer here.

Her memory was not good, either for the distant past or for more recent events, and she realized in the end that she had written many things it might have been better to omit. Its scope is not broad enough to be considered an examination of a social situation. As Keene points out, "the author shows hardly a trace of interest in anyone except herself and members of her immediate family. However, the way in which she expresses her sympathy reveals the narrow focus of her intention: "These are matters that have no place in a diary that describes only things that have happened to me, but since the person who felt this grief was none other than myself, I have set down what I felt.

Instead, the Nikki is told in temporal order, first as a retrospective autobiography or memoir, and in the last third or so, more as a journal. The fact that Michitsuna no Haha states in the opening paragraph that she intends the Kagero Nikki to be read by other people may indicate to a modern reader that Michitsuna no Haha must be trying to make a statement with her work. There is evidence that Heian noblewomen relied on each other instead of husbands and lovers for emotional support: "Aside from these rivalries, there were strong ties between the women of the courts.

Many of the romances with men seemed shifting and impermanent - affections might change. Women frequently formed a support system for one another within the courts.

They wrote each other letters, sent poems, and shared the sorrows and deaths of friends. He was unable to hold back his tears, and my own grief I find quite impossible to describe. I had managed somehow to hold myself together while she was alive, but my wretchedness now was something few people know. I of all the family had been most attached to her, and I had hoped and prayed that I should not survive her. Now she was dead. For a time it seemed that my prayer would be answered-I quite lost control of my arms and legs, and felt that I must even stop breathing.

Although depression following the death of her mother is reasonable, many of her depressive episodes are not during periods of mourning. Compared with the Pillow Book, for example, which includes anecdotes of varying moods, the Kagero Nikki seems bleak and depressing. Perhaps a society which considers "tragic beauty" an ideal overlooked the constant unhappiness plaguing one of its most beautiful noblewomen.

There are a few occasions, particularly when celebrating the accomplishments of her son, when she expresses happiness. For example, when her son, Michitsuna, participates in an archery meet, she writes, "And even I, despondent though I usually am, was swept up in the happiness of the occasion.

Most of the Nikki is related in a hopeless, plodding tone which ranges from misery to emotional numbness.

The consistency of this mood leads me to wonder if the burden that Michitsuna no Haha laid down in the Kagero Nikki was more severe than that carried by her contemporaries, and if she was actually using the Nikki to release the burden of a mild chemical-emotional depression. In Black Sun, a book about depression in literature, Julia Kristeva describes the voice of depression: "Let us keep in mind the speech of the depressed-repetitive and monotonous A repetitive rhythm, a monotonous melody emerge and dominate the broken logical sequences, changing them into recurring, obsessive litanies.

She seems limited to her feelings from moment to moment and unable for the most part to step back and understand the larger picture that she is a part of. Instead, she keeps repeating how Kaneie neglects her, and how lonely she is for approximately the first two thirds of the book.

One literary analyst commented that "the formal organization of the work The technique is more impressionistic than that, more like variations on a theme The retardation or inactivity, which one might call depressive, would thus constitute a learned defense reaction to a dead-end situation and unavoidable shocks.

Then, Kaneie becomes unfaithful, and Michitsuna feels trapped in this unhappy relationship. Although Michitsuna no Haha could have had an affair, or eventually received a divorce, she would have probably become the subject of harsh criticism at court for being unfaithful to her husband.

The story of Izumi Shikibu, a poet born about one generation after Michitsuna no Haha, dramatically illustrates this possibility. Hirschfield and Aratani xviii Because she never seemed to be wildly in love with Kaneie, I think it is likely that Michitsuna no Haha was less upset about his unfaithfulness than being trapped in her lonely, powerless life.

Her excursions to country temples, one of the few ways in which she can exert some control over her life, seem to bring her some contentment.

In part two of the Nikki, she takes a long retreat at a temple with her son and a few attendants, and she writes "There was no word from the prince[Kaneie]. But I had come here by my own choice, and I was content. As if to emphasize that she has no power over what happens to her, he makes light of her ruined plans to stay at the temple.

She writes down his words in the Nikki, "There is not much for you to do but come with us. Tell your Buddha politely that you are leaving. That is the thing to do, I hear. Although Keene writes that she was considered one of the three most beautiful women of her time she describes herself in the opening paragraph as "less attractive than others and not very bright. Although this could be written off to the Japanese obsession with suicide, it should be noted that Michitsuna no Haha takes the concept of suicide seriously, and her motivation is not love or honor, but despair.

If Michitsuna no Haha would commit suicide, it would almost certainly be as a result of her depression. However, she does not, and she repeatedly cites her son as the only reason. She even says to her son, "I have felt rather strongly that I should like to die, but the thought of you has kept me alive until now.

She resigns herself to living without Kaneie. At the end of book two, she writes "Although I could hardly have been called content, I had reached a certain resignation, and I no longer had the strength of spirit to worry about his coolness.

I had sad thoughts about that and about many other things, but I was no longer concerned with the possibility of any improvement in relations with the Prince. As her emotions have cooled, perhaps she no longer needs an outlet in the Kagero Nikki. Interest in her own life was never an issue; the story that Michitsuna no Haha told was the story of the erosion of her depression and the obsession that accompanied it. In conclusion, I believe that Michitsuna no Haha wrote the Kagero Nikki as an emotional catharsis, with the hope that other Heian noblewomen would read it and understand her grief.

Women in Japan from Ancient Times to the Present. Louis Park, Minnesota: Glenhurst Publications, Hirschfield, Jane and Mariko Aratani, trans. Keene, Donald. Travelers of a Hundred Ages. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Kristeva, Julia.

Black Sun. Translated by Leon S. New York: Columbia University Press, McCullough, Helen Craig, ed. Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, Miller, Marilyn Jeanne. The Poetics of Nikki Bungaku. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. Seidensticker, Edward, trans. The Gossamer Years. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company Publishers,



It is likely that Fujiwara no Kaneie , her husband, asked the Mother of Michitsuna to create such a collection for their family. The diary entries detail events of particular emotional significance, such as when Kaneie visits other women while she stays at home taking care of their son "the boy". In an attempt to find solace, the Mother of Michitsuna makes pilgrimages to temples and mountains of religious importance. Towards the end of the diary, she finally reconciles herself to her separation from Kaneie, and determines to devote herself to caring for her son and her adopted daughter.


The Gossamer Years: The Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan

Jul 25, B. I could see that quote on an Instagram photo. The author spends much of her life waiting for her husband the Prince, Fujwara Kaneie to have some time to spare for her. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. View the Lesson Plans. Her husband spends all his time dodging her messengers, parading his newest wife past her door unnecessarily, ignoring his son by Lady Mayfly, and answering her accusations with myopic, selfish justifications and rationalizations and a general refusal to be accountable for his own action. In fact, I have had this paperback copy since some years ago, I recall I tried to read a few pages and gave up then because I thought it was not interesting and beyond me.

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