The world’s oldest psychological novel, ‘The Tale of Genji,’ was celebrated at CSUN on Sept. 24 with the hopes of introducing Japanese culture to foreigners and giving those of Japanese descent a better understanding of their own culture.
The Tale of Genji Millennium Festival was held at the USU Grand Salon with more than 100 visitors.
‘Because this year is going to be (the) millennium after ‘The Tale of Genji’ was written by Murasaki Shikibu, we are introducing and familiarizing this venerable novel not only in Japan but also in Los Angeles,’ said Dr. Hiroaki Sera, a specialist in classical Japanese literature and a professor at Shikoku University. ‘In addition, we would like to introduce kimono, the Japanese traditional clothes.’
The millennium event included lectures on ‘The Tale of Genji’ and life in the Heian period (794-1185).
‘Sad to say, young Japanese people cannot answer the questions about Japanese culture when they are asked by foreigners,’ said Dr. Aki Hirota, a Japanese language professor at CSUN. ‘Through the event, I hope all attendees including Japanese people learn Japanese culture.’
‘The tale of Genji’ was written in 1008 and became a well-known novel in the Heian period. It is not only called the world’s first novel, but also the first modern novel, and the first romance novel. The book has been translated into many languages. The influence of the novel on modern literature is inestimable.
As for the Heian period, it is said to be one of the most beautiful periods in Japanese history that still influences Japanese culture today. Kimonos represent Japanese culture in the Heian period. However, many people don’t know how to wear a kimono or the roots of this tradition. In Japan, the opportunity to wear a kimono is rare except for formal occasions such as an enthronement ceremony or a wedding.
‘We, especially young, are not looking toward the roots of our culture,’ said Sera. ‘We should be proud of our own culture, and we should realize the beauty of it.’
Two main parts of the festival were a short play of ‘The Tales of Genji’ performed by CSUN students and a demonstration on how to wear a kimono given by the instructors of Seo Shizuko Kimono Academy. The goal of the performance was to enhance the understanding of the book along with the Heian period.
Dr. Alexis Krasilovsky, a CTVA professor, was one of the volunteers dressed in a kimono.
‘I’m so fascinated about Heain period and extremely inspired to be able to see such a event,’ said Krasilovsky.
Japanese students, interested in learning more about their own culture, also attended the event.
‘I personally decided to volunteer for this event to broaden my knowledge of ‘The Tale of Genji,’ ‘ said junior Asuka Taketsuna, a linguistic, and culture and language major. ‘I also wanted to learn how professors bring the tradition and culture down to next generation by hosting a event like this.’