Lady Nijo s story begins when her father gives her to the retired emperor GoFukakusa as his concubine Lady Nijo s mother died when she was two, and she was raised at court, knowing GoFukakusa all her life Lady Nijo doesn t describe her experiences with GoFukakusa as rape, but she describes being taken unwillingly to the palace, and weeping and being unable to speak for days She spends the majority of her time at the palace with GoFukakusa and the other courtiers and his other concubines She Lady Nijo s story begins when her father gives her to the retired emperor GoFukakusa as his concubine Lady Nijo s mother died when she was two, and she was raised at court, knowing GoFukakusa all her life Lady Nijo doesn t describe her experiences with GoFukakusa as rape, but she describes being taken unwillingly to the palace, and weeping and being unable to speak for days She spends the majority of her time at the palace with GoFukakusa and the other courtiers and his other concubines She is a person of high rank and accomplishment she writes poetry, plays instruments, and paints She is constantly besieged by men men at court approach her all the time, and she has many affairs and has several children by different men She is attached to these men, and becomes attached to GoFukakusa, but I couldn t stop thinking about how much pressure she was under, and how men constantly demanded her affection and attention She longs to live a secluded life, and it s no surprise that becoming a nun offers freedom and solace to her Her life is an unhappy one, but it s an amazing account full of details of court life and of life as a travelling nun, as well as details of poetry, art and Buddhist thought I found this book moving and sad, and I m glad it survives Some years ago, when I started my plan of reading Japanese short stories, fiction, history, memoirs, etc due to my lingering interest and wonder on anything Japanese before and our trips to Japan which generously allowed me to see, observe and admire Japan, Japanese people, infrastructure, transports, services, etc during our weekly stays and visits to Tokyo, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kamakura, Hokkaido, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Nikko, etc I simply couldn t help admiring the people, the rice fields, the fo Some years ago, when I started my plan of reading Japanese short stories, fiction, history, memoirs, etc due to my lingering interest and wonder on anything Japanese before and our trips to Japan which generously allowed me to see, observe and admire Japan, Japanese people, infrastructure, transports, services, etc during our weekly stays and visits to Tokyo, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kamakura, Hokkaido, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Nikko, etc I simply couldn t help admiring the people, the rice fields, the forests, the hills especially, Koyasan , the rivers and canals, the flowers, the fishes in the streams, the highways, the railway stations, the Shinkansen, etc Definitely, Japanese culture and history has long dictated what I viewed in awe and amazement since Japan, in my mind, is second to none as one of the most advanced nations in the world.That made me read two of the great writings in the Heian era, that is, Sei Shonagon s The Pillow Book Penguin Books, 2006 and As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams Penguin Books, 1975 Moreover, along my search in the Wikipedia and other books, I first read heard the title of this memoir written around three centuries later in late thirteenth century and again I longed to read it but I simply couldn t find it anywhere, I tried by going shopping in some large bookstores but it was rare for it was not a popular book like contemporary chick lit or manga ones Fortunately, around the middle of last July, I came across this copy at the DASA Book Caf so it s my delight to have it, a fine translation by Karen Brazell As for her life and fame, you can visit this site for a quick look I d like to say somethingon its outline and some interesting extracts worth reading and pondering so that readers keen on anything Japanese would be eager to read her as one of the three amazing literate court ladies who left their writings to posterity to have some glimpses of her nostalgic thoughts, court services, daily chores, boredom management, etc in Heian Japan as introduced by Ms Brazell in about 1307 a remarkable woman in Japan sat down to complete the story of her life p vii The result has since been impressive in the literary world as the pioneering inception of Books One Five, dating from 1271 1306 each Book covering the following years, that is, One 1271 74, Two 1275 77, Three 1281 85, Four 1289 93, and Five 1302 6 Before reading the real thing, after the 21 page introduction, readers would be informed by two pages of major characters pp xxix xxxi Her first grief 1273 1274 It was at this time that I learned of the illness of the son I had borne to GoFukakusa last year, who was now being raised quietly by Takaaki Hardly did I have time to ponder the evil consequences that might flow from my misconduct when I heard, on the eighth day of the tenth month, that my son had died, vanishing like a raindrop after a winter rain I had tried to prepare myself for this, but its swiftness left me grief stricken p 51 Her only view of Fujisan 1289Next I reached the Ukishima Plain at the base of Mount Fuji, which someone once compared in the fifth month to a dappled fawn Now the metaphor seemed apt, judging from the apparent depth of the snow on that high peak, as deep, it seemed, as the layers of worry covering this transient self of mine No smoke arose from Mount Fuji now, and I wonder what the poet Saigyo had seen yielding to the wind p 184 Her reflection on her life 1289 90 I persisted in dwelling on the past I could not recall my mother s face, for she had died when I was only two When I turned four I was taken, toward the end of the ninth month, to the palace of the Retired Emperor GoFukakusa During the years that I was well received at the palace I cherished the secret dream of becoming the pride and joy of my clan Such expectations did not seem unreasonable, yet I decided to give up everything and enter the path of renunciation I thought I had renounced all such worldly attachments, but I still found myself longing for the palace of my youth and recalling His Majesty s great kindness Reminded of these things, my only solace was to weep until tears darkened my sleeves p 196 To continue In abouta remarkable woman in Japan sat down to complete the story of her life The result was an autobiographical narrative, a tale of thirty six years in the life of Lady Nijo, starting when she became the concubine of a retired emperor in Kyoto at the age of fourteen and ending, several love affairs later, with an account of her new life as a wandering Buddhist nunThrough the vagaries of history, however, the glory of Lady Nijo s story has taken six and half centuries to arrive The Confessions of Lady Nijo or Towazugatari in Japanese, was not widely circulated after it was written, perhaps because of the dynastic quarrel that soon split the imperial family, or perhaps because of Lady Nijo s intimate portrait of a very human emperor Whatever the cause, the book was neglected, then forgotten completely, and only a single manuscript survived This was finally discovered in , but would not be published until after World War II inThis translation and its annotations draw on multiple Japanese editions, but borrow most heavily from the interpretations offered by Tsugita Kasumi I m glad to have found another pillow book, much like Sei Shonagon s earlier book entitled well The Pillow Book Japanese literature, even if I do have to read English translations, is beautiful The language choices are unusual to Western culture and simply lovely to read about Attention to details such as clothing color and changes in the weather provide a very clear path of imagery of a complex society Really, it s very incredible Therefore, I m really glad to have found The Confess I m glad to have found another pillow book, much like Sei Shonagon s earlier book entitled well The Pillow Book Japanese literature, even if I do have to read English translations, is beautiful The language choices are unusual to Western culture and simply lovely to read about Attention to details such as clothing color and changes in the weather provide a very clear path of imagery of a complex society Really, it s very incredible Therefore, I m really glad to have found The Confessions of Lady Nijo, since it fits all of the descriptions I ve listed Unlike any of the other Japanese works I ve read, this one is a real soap opera Notice I said a real soap opera, not a fictitious one for all of you that might bring up Genji Lady Nijo really must have been a conflicted person her entire life surrounded by troubles What a dramatic change, to be one of the emperor s concubines for years then to become a wandering nun because of mistakes with men in the past What a hardship, truly Her emotions are so clearly presented that I feel her sorrow when I read her words, I really feel as if I m being sucked into her story And like I felt with Shonagon s work, I feel like I m really being pulled into her world, transported to another time and place This is the wonder of pillow books for me Since this is such a short work I don t have a lotto say about it, but really all I can do is praise it Despite it being such a dramatic work, the wonder of Confessions is that it s all a true account, and written very well at that P.S I went into this thinking it was going to be a Heian era pillow book and I was mistaken it s a little later than that So it is very interesting to read a work which talks about Genji as something that s already become a popular piece of fiction and to see the connections between Heian and medieval Japan I didn t know a lot about this period, and I think this book has let me have a little peek I m sort of stunned by how readable and recognizable as a memoir travelogue this is, seeing as it s from the 14th century The main character, Lady Nijo led a fascinating life Born into life as high ranking court lady, she later becomes a wandering Buddhist nun and travels all over Japan.My one regret is that I really should have read Tale of Genji before reading this book, as there were continual allusions throughout that I found difficult to understand the resonance of, even with footnotes O I m sort of stunned by how readable and recognizable as a memoir travelogue this is, seeing as it s from the 14th century The main character, Lady Nijo led a fascinating life Born into life as high ranking court lady, she later becomes a wandering Buddhist nun and travels all over Japan.My one regret is that I really should have read Tale of Genji before reading this book, as there were continual allusions throughout that I found difficult to understand the resonance of, even with footnotes Otherwise, I found this memoir to be a fascinating portrait of life extremely far away in time and place My favorite character is probably one of her lovers, the priest Ariake, who I think weeps in every scene he appears in haha All in all, I m just sort of stunned by how historically precious this book is I d really like to readfirsthand accounts of women s lives from centuries ago and from different cultures countries, but it doesn t seem there are many out there as prominent or well preserved as this one As this was a unique reading experience, I ll surely be on the lookout forhistorical memoirs by women in the future The world of Lady Nijo whose real name has not survived , a court lady of late thirteenth century Japan, is not ours At a very young age, she was offered by her father to one of the retired Emperors there were three at the time , who had been in love with her mother and admired her from a very young age The Tale of Genji, written a few centuries before is constantly quoted or memorialized and in Nijo s relationship with Cloistered Emperor GoFukakusa is reminiscent of Genji s obsession with M The world of Lady Nijo whose real name has not survived , a court lady of late thirteenth century Japan, is not ours At a very young age, she was offered by her father to one of the retired Emperors there were three at the time , who had been in love with her mother and admired her from a very young age The Tale of Genji, written a few centuries before is constantly quoted or memorialized and in Nijo s relationship with Cloistered Emperor GoFukakusa is reminiscent of Genji s obsession with Murasaki Today we would find such relationships disturbing and illegal here they seem like the arrested development of men in a world that enjoyed wealth and devotion but no real power, and therefore dedicated itself to entertainment, sensation and affairs In the era of the cloistered emperors, the adult monarchs abdicated in favor of their younger siblings and children In Nijo s, GoFukakusa s father and brother were also cloistered emperors and his son, still a child, was Emperor But real power was exercised by a separate government, the Bakufu The imperial court at least GoFukakusa s was full of protestations of love, following by exchanges of poetry, most of it sad, with references to sleeves wet with tears and smoke blowing in a different direction And GoFukakusa told Nijo repeatedly that he loved her greatly, but not in any way that we would recognize When a Buddhist monk arrived at the bedroom where the GoFukakusa and Nijo to profess his love for her, the Retired Emperor encouraged her to go off with him GoFukakusa also made her a go between, arranging trysts and commenting with her on the sadness of what trasnpired afterward As for Nijo, writing years later as a nun exiled from the court, she remains fixated on gifts and clothes she seems to remember what almost everyone wore, and whether it was stylish enough She gave birth to several children GoFukakusa s son died as an infant but we mostly hear about the maternity sash she was given at five months of pregnancy The nun who set these memoirs down is somewhatsympathetic than the young court lady she remembers, traveling among shrines and regretting her youth, but even in penance she seems not to have come far from the lady who stormed away from court because of seating arrangements, or who could make arrangements with the monk for an assignation in the earshot of her beloved GoFukakusa This is not the credo of a nun who has renounced the world it seemslike the recollections of a woman whose world has renounced her This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here It s always fascinating to see how another culture handles events that seem clear to me Confessions opens with Lady Nijo s rape by Japan s emperor in response to her trauma, everyone yells at her for her ingratitude Yuck Yet Nijo grows into an unusually free spirited woman for the lives of most noblewomen, see The Gossamer Years written a few centuries before, but little had changed at court It involved sitting in one room and trying not to show how jealous you were as your hu It s always fascinating to see how another culture handles events that seem clear to me Confessions opens with Lady Nijo s rape by Japan s emperor in response to her trauma, everyone yells at her for her ingratitude Yuck Yet Nijo grows into an unusually free spirited woman for the lives of most noblewomen, see The Gossamer Years written a few centuries before, but little had changed at court It involved sitting in one room and trying not to show how jealous you were as your husband cheated Nijo, however, had multiple affairs of her own and was always up to something Later in her life she wandered the world, rather than retiring from it in a nun s cell as a good lady would have done She tortures herself for this free spiritedness, I think because of the social censure that resulted from it also, it was fashionable in her day to agonize over life s difficulties , but she keeps going I admired her, and I loved reading about a time long gone Elizabeth ReuterAuthor, The Demon of Renaissance Drive One of the best books I have read on human emotion and condition I am so deeply moved by the Japanese sensuality of it and I have even really cried over the fate of its heroes though I thought it was impossible for me to get so emotional over a love story again A must read for who follows female voices in literature too So I pretty much read my early Japanese lit in ascending order of awesomeness, because from Lady Murasaki s diary on up to this little gem, they ve been steadily improving Kamakura era Lady Nijo had a lotfun than her Heian period counterparts of Lady Murasaki, Lady Sarashina, and Lady Mayfly, it seems In her world, there s a lot of sake and a lot of partying and a lotfreedom as a woman Sex partners in Lady Nijo s world are sort of like Pokemon cards, or the bikini section at Target So I pretty much read my early Japanese lit in ascending order of awesomeness, because from Lady Murasaki s diary on up to this little gem, they ve been steadily improving Kamakura era Lady Nijo had a lotfun than her Heian period counterparts of Lady Murasaki, Lady Sarashina, and Lady Mayfly, it seems In her world, there s a lot of sake and a lot of partying and a lotfreedom as a woman Sex partners in Lady Nijo s world are sort of like Pokemon cards, or the bikini section at Target Trade, borrow, mix and match, go wild There aren t many rules you have to follow, unless the rules are get drunk, have fun, and hide yo kids if you get pregnant Oh, and if you fuck someone you have to write them a poem the morning after Very important Don t worry too much, it doesn t have to be good.Also, they play some bizarre game where the people of the court go around beating each other up and blaming their abusers family and oops not so secret lovers, who then have to give the victim gifts And everybody laughs Uhhhhh okay Chalk it up to the sake.Lady Nijo s not locked into an annoying marriage and she s pretty free in her role of concubine to the emperor, even if he is a pedophile and a rapist that she somehow actually falls in love with She s a social butterfly and a quirky party girl who obviously spends most of her life enjoying herself, quite a contrast to the woe is me chorus from the Heian girls Even when she s exiled from court for fucking her emperor s brother archnemesis that s the one ball of yarn he didn t want her winding, apparently she becomes a Buddhist nun, which she doesn t seem to mind, and spends all her time traveling around, contrary to everyone s expectations She continues to have adventures and plenty of profound experiences on her way Lady Nijo s pretty much a free spirit who doesn t give a fuck what anyone thinks She s a talented writer and can be extremely funny, but is quite capable of being serious and giving gravity to her own emotions I loved her.I should add it was noteworthy to see that The Tale of Genji had a major influence on Nijo s life even centuries later It ll be interesting reading Genji after all these authors have mentioned its influence on them This lovely quote was my favourite I wished that I could renounce this life and wander wherever my feet might lead me, learning to empathize with the dew under the blossoms and to express the resentment of the scattering autumn leaves I was also touched by the very last lineThat all my dreams might not prove empty, I have been writing this useless account though I doubt it will long survive meDear lady, it did It did 3.5 5I will admit, my lack of retention regarding exact scenes and quotes, combined with a lack of learning opportunities in general, hampered my ability to enjoy and or engage with this However, I also remember enough of the sense and feel of the overarching narrative of The Tale of Genji to receive this as a rather pale imitation that would have stood better had it not weighed down so much on the past and endlessly recreated the forms and functions of along ago age Still, that exact action t 3.5 5I will admit, my lack of retention regarding exact scenes and quotes, combined with a lack of learning opportunities in general, hampered my ability to enjoy and or engage with this However, I also remember enough of the sense and feel of the overarching narrative of The Tale of Genji to receive this as a rather pale imitation that would have stood better had it not weighed down so much on the past and endlessly recreated the forms and functions of along ago age Still, that exact action that I critique offers a bevy of treasures for the intrepid scholar, much as the 600 year gap between first concrete composition and entry into mainstream publication resulted in a most fortuitous revival of this only extant manuscript of an amazingly early autobiography In addition, I liked Lady Nijthe further the books of her autobiography progressed, so I was reconciled to her approved mode of behavior by the end of it, especially as there was little, if any drama of her early years at court during the later periods of pilgrimage Times have changed and all that jazz, but it s still unpleasant to read about girls betrothed at 4 to someone 20 years their senior who was enad with her mother, not to mention nephews married to their aunts at bridal festivals held for 14 to 15 year olds of either gender.Even while I cannot recall any exact quotations and the particulars of TToG s plot have, save for some very striking instances, faded from my mind, the particulars of Nij s life and values were all familiar to me due to a sizable amount of interaction with its period and culture It is unfair to draw such comparisons, but she is no Sh nagon or Shikibu, and oftentimes only the unusual trajectory of her existence from rise to fall infuses her observations and life choices with any sort of vitality or suspense Her life is very uncomfortable at times, and it was aggravating to read about what is literal stalking and or sexual assault at the hands of people who are either fully redeemed or pass form officious life to an honorable without any sense of even private recrimination, but such are the days that some would like us to return to I enjoyed certain events of frivolity the text describes, especially one incident involving a faux whacking war between the genders of the court from which no rank, however esteemed, was spared I also appreciated the characterizations of nature, excerpts of literature, and even the odd crafted poem at times However, it just wasn t as rewardingly complex as other autobiographical pieces until the very end of the travels, and beyond the obvious wealth of historical context present here in a century far removed from other classical Japanese biographies by women, I wouldn t recommend this unless the reader really knew what they were doing I, on the other hand, have made an absolute victim of this work through my comparatively abject ignorance, so if you re already motivated to read this, don t let this lackluster review dissuade you The past may be a foreign country, but if it s survived for this long to tell itself to the present, we must reverse such half a millennium long chains of fortune, even if we don t quite understand or approve of what is being handed down to us.I ve been jumping around the literary centuries of late, as well as spending a lot of time in the 19th century drawing upa comprehensive list of contemporaneous women s writing than I have so far seen, and the need to spend effort on readjusting my frame every time I switch books is beginning to wear me out Still, it really is marvelous that I can access such a rich spread of history through narrative, both ancient and otherwise, and sometimes I need to sit back and remind myself of such Still, one can t like everything simply because it s old, and Nij s priorities in narrative commentary on her progression of existence just didn t engage as much as that ofvaunted names in history have Ah well It s still worth delving into far the view it gives on far removed cultural s and less removed themes of humanity such as mourning, gratefulness, and contemplation on the great cycle and how best to pay it forward Maudlin thoughts, but if that s too much for you, you may wish to evaluate your reading plans for this a tad maudlin is Nij s middle name Sow all the words you canFor in a better ageMen shall judge the harvestBy its intrinsic worth.