:: e-Art | Illustrated Handscrolls

  • Of the original Genji Monogatari Emaki (illustrated handscrolls), only 15 illustrations and 28 kotobagaki (explanatory comments in calligraphy on sumptuously decorated paper) from the Tokugawa Art Museum and 4 illustrations and 9 kotobagaki from the Gotoh Museum exist today in Japan. They are believed to be less than half of what were originally created as Genji Monogatari Emaki by multiple court painters and celebrated calligraphers in the first half of the 12th century during the Heian period (794-1185CE). In 1932, to prevent further deterioration, all illustrations and kotobagaki were separated piece by piece for flat-sheet preservation. Consequently, the “Genji Monogatari Emaki” in the form of the original handscroll does not exist any longer.

    From a purely scholastic viewpoint, artistic and historical studies of each illustration and kotobagaki can be made in the present flat format as they are preserved in the two museums. However, to fully appreciate the essence of how scrolls ultimately harmonize combinations of illustrations and calligraphies, to appreciate the wonder of image sequences, and to experience the satisfaction of viewing the artwork and reading the calligraphy, the scroll format is essential.


  • To enjoy the flow and elegance of the scroll format, e.g,., of Onna-e (women’s painting), one must not only see the art on the scroll. One must also touch it and feel it in the original form of a handscroll that rolls open forward, or rolls back to reverse the images and text for review. One relives the thrill that a 12th Century Japanese must have felt in seeing a dynamic art form that fully involves the viewer’s participation. By using one hand to unroll and the other hand to take up the scroll, and by allowing the eyes to scan across the images and text, one fully experiences the exquisite Japanese paintings together with its style and techniques. Japanese art techniques, such as, fukinuki yatai (literally “blown-off roof”), kôkaku zuhô (wide-angle perspective) and ijidôzuhô (depiction of different times in a single illustration) are best experienced and viewed in a scroll format--when about 80 centimeters of the scroll is left flat and visible. Those are the reasons for publishing the reproductions in the original scroll format. Furthermore, the scroll format is convenient, portable, easy to use, and enjoyable for the scholar or for the casual viewer. As a boxed set, the Emaki scrolls are easily stored or displayed.



  • All the existing illustrations and kotobagaki of “Genji Monogatari Emaki,” which were designated as National Treasures of Japan in 1952, are housed in the repositories of the Tokugawa and Gotoh museums and exhibited only for very special occasions. There have been continuous and intensive research and studies of the scrolls by curators, art historians, engineers, painters and others using state-of-the art digital imaging systems and related equipment. They have made many new discoveries about the “Genji Monogatari Emaki” and evoked much interest and study not only among academics and professionals but also among the general public.

    The magnificent “Genji Monogatari Emaki” or The Tale of Genji Illustrated Handscroll was created about 100 years after Lady Murasaki wrote the now world-renowned novel “The Tale of Genji” in the 12th century. Celebrated court painters and calligraphers worked on the scrolls. They are now the oldest existing examples of illustrated narrative handscrolls. The complete and superbly faithful reproductions of the 20 existing illustrations--including detached fragments--and 26 explanatory comments (kotobagaki) are now being made available for exclusive sale in North America and Europe.

    The reproductions are made in Japan by digital art print system, with traditional handicrafts and materials to replicate the original. Each set of the boxed scrolls will be made as orders are confirmed and payments for them are received. No bookstore will carry it. Reproductions of the Genji Monogatari handscrolls will be distributed through direct sale between the publisher and the customer.