The Gossamer Years: The Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan
Michitsuna no Haha
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Author note: Translated by Edward Seidensticker
Publish Year note: First published 974
Written in the tenth century, the Kagero Nikki, translated here as The Gossamer Years, belongs to the same period as the celebrated Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Like The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, The Gossamer Years is a journal kept by a noblewoman.
This frank autobiography diary reveals two tempestuous decades of the author's unhappy marriage and her growing indignation at rival wives and mistresses. To impetuous to be satisfied as a subsidiary wife, this beautiful noblewoman of the Heian dynasty protests the marriage system of her time in one of Japanese literature's earliest attempts to portray difficult elements of the predominant social hierarchy.
Very little is known of the author outside of what is related in her diary. Her name is unknown -- but she was related to the Lady Murasaki, author of The Tale of Genji, and to Sei Shonagon, author of The Pillow Book.
A classic work of early Japanese prose, The Gossamer Years offers a timeless and intimate glimpse into the culture of ancient Japan.
tears. Summoning my household, he continued: "Do you know how I have felt about this lady? When I think that I may die without seeing her again, I find the prospect harder than I can tell you." Everyone was weeping by now, and I myself was speechless with tears. His pain was growing worse. His attendants helped him into his carriage, and he gazed at me as it pulled away and seemed genuinely sorry to leave. My own feelings I shall not attempt again to describe. My brother, however, remained
moving in the gray dawn. At Uchidenohama a carriage was waiting, and we reached the city shortly before noon. "You caused quite a stir," my people said. "We wondered whether you might have done something rash, maybe gone off for good this time." "Let them think what they like," I answered. "And am I still enough of a person to cause a stir?" Shortly afterwards came the wrestling meet at court.102 The boy indicated that he would like to go, and I sent him off properly equipped. He first stopped
I had expected too much. Ah, how unwise it had been to hope for what was not in the nature of things. The rain continued on into the evening. I heard someone going into the south apartment,114 a suitor no doubt. Feigning a calm which I did not feel, I remarked to an old attendant that it was indeed gallant of him to come out on such a bad night. "Yes," she replied, "but the Prince used to come on worse nights than this." At that I quite lost control of myself. A poem formed in my mind which I
and I was unable to collect myself for the better part of the day. "What can he be thinking of?" someone remarked tearfully. "It is indeed unfortunate," I answered, with an effort at composure. "I have been subjected to this because I have allowed myself to be kept here. I should have gone away as I wanted to long ago." My anger and chagrin quite passed description. At the beginning of the Sixth Month I was surprised by a letter from him. He was in penance, the messenger said, and the letter
stayed at his leisure and returned the following day, making himself generally objectionable, knocking over incense, throwing rosaries up on high shelves, and otherwise behaving in a most remarkable manner. Seven or eight days later, at about ten in the morning, we started for Hase. We reached the late Inspector's180 Uji mansion at about two in the afternoon. Our retinue was large and gay, but I could not repress a certain loneliness as I looked around at the house and grounds. This was the