Shiga: Temple Restores Doll of Murasaki Shikibu; ‘Tale of Genji’ Said to Have Been Inspired by Temple Stay

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The restored doll of Murasaki Shikibu at Ishiyamadera temple in Otsu

OTSU — A doll depicting author Murasaki Shikibu has been restored at Ishiyamadera temple in Otsu.

Murasaki Shikibu is one of the best-known historical figures in Japan, having written the full-length novel “The Tale of Genji” about 1,000 years ago. She is drawing particular attention this year as the main character in a popular TV drama.

“The Tale of Genji” depicts protagonist Hikaru Genji’s love affairs with various women and his success in the Imperial court. Murasaki Shikibu is said to have been inspired to write the book when she stayed at Ishiyamadera temple and saw the moon reflected on Lake Biwa and the Seta River.

The temple began displaying the doll around 1955 to let visitors know about its relationship with Murasaki Shikibu. It has been a familiar sight for many years, showing Murasaki Shikibu sitting at a writing desk in the main hall working out ideas for the story.

However, cracks had appeared on the doll’s face and the colors of her layered kimono had faded.

The temple raised money through crowdfunding and other means, and hired experts to restore the doll. It took about four months to change the doll’s clothes and touch up her face.

The beautifully restored doll was unveiled on March 18.

“I’m happy the doll has been restored to its beautiful form. We want to continue to preserve it with great care,” temple priest Ryuge Washio said.

The main hall is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is ¥600 for adults.