Isn't this a beautiful garden? The heron certainly seems to be enjoying it. Back in the eleventh century, the Shinsen-en Garden was part of the Heian Imperial Palace in Kyoto, Japan.
What has this got to do with anything? Well, the world's first true novel was written by a lady of the Heian court. She was known as Murasaki Shikibu, and the novel she wrote is known as The Tale of the Genji. There is a wonderful website dedicated to giving all of us a better understanding of the book, and one of the ways this is done is by photographing many of the sites in Japan that are mentioned in the book.
I haven't read The Tale of the Genji lately, but I do have an ulterior motive for talking about it right now. Murasaki Shikibu wrote her novel in the eleventh century, which is the same time frame as the book I'm about to review.
Like many others at the time, I became fascinated with Japanese history when I read James Clavell's Shōgun. The mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain only served to fan the flames of my interest. When I read I.J. Parker's excellent The Dragon Scroll, I could picture many things very clearly, but it was still nice to know in scrolling through the pages of the Genji website that my mind was fairly accurate after thirty years.
If visiting eleventh-century Japan from your chair intrigues you, take a look at the photos on the Genji site, read my review of The Dragon Scroll, and locate copies of I.J. Parker's books. You'll be glad you did!