Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
During the time of the novel, the imperial city was laid out in a strict grid pattern expressing the imposition of human order over a natural location. In line with ancient Chinese prescriptions for an emperor’s proper dwelling place, which Japan’s aristocracy adopted for its own use, the imperial palace stands at the center of the northern edge of the city. Facing south in his great ceremonial hall, the emperor beholds a city neatly divided into two equal parts. To the east, at his left hand, and symbolized by a cherry tree in the garden outside his hall, is the Left City, Genji’s favorite haunting place. At his right hand, to the west and symbolized by an orange tree, is the Right City.
This geographical division extended into society. The imperial government is divided into Left (eastern) and Right (western) factions, and Genji’s strongest opponent is the minister of the Right, who manages to have Genji temporarily exiled. The two geographically aligned factions primarily serve the interests of their aristocratic members and do not reflect differing political views.
*Suma. Desolate stretch of coastline west of Kyōto, ringed by mountains to the north and facing Japan’s Inland Sea. (Suma is now part of the city of Kobe.) The bleakness of Suma derived from its geographical distance to Kyōto, the absence of societal entertainments, and the acrid smoke from the fires of saltmakers on the shore. Historically, it was a place for exiles who ran afoul of the court, and once Genji has to follow this pattern. After a horrific storm typical of the location, Genji dreams that his dead father wants him to leave the dreadful place, and he gladly acts on this.
*Akashi. City five miles west of Suma, and with similar geographical features, that lies outside the emperor’s home provinces and is therefore in a different political world. Genji’s spirits revive at Akashi, and he falls in love with a woman who bears him a daughter after he is allowed back to Kyōto.
Rokujo. Fictional mansion of Genji’s estate, finished during his thirty-fifth year. It is symbolic of Genji’s return to good fortune and high social esteem. The elaborately described compound on the sixth street of Kyōto has always fascinated Japanese readers as the perfect example of a nobleman’s appropriate dwelling place. More beautiful and aesthetically balanced than any real surviving medieval mansion, Rokujo consists of a tastefully built and decorated main house, in two wings of which Genji puts up his primary lovers in grand style, and an exquisite garden. The garden has a fishing pavilion, artificial lake, and a brook–all inviting guests and inhabitants to dwell on the splendid yet transitory beauty of nature and human life, a topic essential to medieval Japanese literature.
*Uji. Typical Japanese provincial town, located south of Kyōto, from which it is reached by a bridge over the Uji River. Provincial towns such as Uji always appear somewhat forlorn and isolated in the intensely metropolitan The Tale of Genji, where any place beyond a day trip from Kyōto inspires feelings of loneliness. The fact that the primary romantic activities of Genji’s son Niou and his rival Kaoru revolve around three sisters in this town, rather than taking place in the capital, indicates how mundane the world has become with the passing of Genji’s generation.