The Emperor and Kiritsubo give birth to the novel's hero, Genji, in 11th-century Japan.
Kiritsubo, the Emperor's true love, is of the lower ranks of court. The slander and petty
jealousy of the other palace wives contribute to the mental anguish which results in her early
death, when Genji is but three-years-old.
Genji from the start impresses everybody with his unparalleled beauty. He is exceptional in
every way. He is raised in the court. Despite his father's unflinching devotion, indeed because
of it, the boy receives the name Genji, which classifies him as a commoner. The Emperor
knows that without influential maternal relatives, Genji's position as a crown prince (or a son
picked to become future Emperor) would be tentative, especially after his own death. Since
the Kokiden faction will most certainly cause his son problems, it seems more practical to
secure for him a court ranking (a political but not royal position) and to encourage his studies.
A Korean soothsayer's prediction that the boy will never become emperor plays a part in this
Genji, or Minamoto, roughly translated means ''commoner.'' It carries negative connotations,
that the bearer of the name has been dispossessed of a potential birthright because of an
embarrassment or scandal. But the name Hikaru Genji, by which he becomes known, means
"the shining prince."
The Emperor's grief over Kiritsubo is eased when he meets her look-alike, Fujitsubo. She
becomes the Emperor's official consort, and Genji grows up in her presence. Genji is drawn
to Fujitsubo for much the same reasons as his father. The Emperor seeks a substitute for his
wife, and Genji seeks a mother. Right after Genji's coming-of-age ceremony, at the age of
twelve, Genji is married-off to the Minister of the Left's daughter, Aoi. She is a Fujiwara. Aoi
turns out to be cold and unsympathetic, and Genji spends most of his time at the Palace in his
mother's apartments (though he is now denied access to her). His inattentiveness to his wife