Tametoki

Tametoki (945-1020) is Murasaki's father. He was a Fujiwara, but his branch of the family had been coming down in the world for several generations while Michinaga's line rose to supreme power. Tametoki was a decidedly minor figure in court society, primarily known for his erudition in Chinese poetry. He would barely be remembered today were it not for the fame of his daughter.

   Tametoki's early court career seemed on track when he entered service in 986 under Emperor Kazan. Three months later, when Kazan was tricked into abdicating, all his proteges, including Murasaki's father, were forced to retire. Thus Tametoki was without court position from the early years of Murasaki's adolescence. His first wife, Murasaki's mother, also died around this time. It seems to have been his prowess as a serious scholar of Chinese that carried him through this dark time, for he enjoyed the support of the scholarly community, including Kintô. Where did Murasaki gain her knowledge and love of the Chinese classics? One can easily imagine that it came through her father, and that Tametoki, when first widowed and jobless, may well have had an especially close relationship with his brilliant and devoted daughter. In 996, when Michinaga had just come into power, Tametoki hoped his fortunes would revive. Instead, he received a poor posting as governor of Awaji Island. Bitterly disappointed, he composed a Chinese quatrain lamenting his fate. Several days later, his posting was changed to that of governor of Echizen. The conventional story is that young Emperor Ichijô was so moved by Tametoki's lament that he changed the appointment. It seems to me more likely that Michinaga suddenly saw a use for Tametoki's language skills in dealing with a recent group of shipwrecked Chinese awaiting repatriation in Echizen.

   The preface to one of Tametoki's poems states that he met with some of the seventy Chinese refugees who had landed on the coast the previous year, and that he exchanged a poem with one of them, a man named Jyo Shichang. Just before the court declared war on China and Korea, Tametoki escorted the group to the outpost of Dazaifu, from where they sailed back to China.

   Murasaki back to the capital in order to marry his old friend and mentor Nobutaka, Tametoki stayed on as governor until 1001, returning when Nobutaka died in a smallpox epidemic. Back in Miyako, Tametoki garnered higher rank and esteem as an expert in Chinese literature. Although he was without an official post for the next nine years, records show he was involved in numerous poetry competitions.

   In 1009, he was appointed the governor of Echigo. His son Nobunori accompanied him, only to die there in the first year. After five years, Tametoki abruptly returned to Miyako, and then in 1016 retired to the temple Miidera where his third son, Jôsen, was a priest. Some people speculate that the reason for his return to the capital may have been the death of his daughter Murasaki—an assumption I used in my story. At this point Tametoki would have been in his mid-seventies, and have outlived all three of his first set of children.