Shelved Dolls: Lady Nijo – Pretty Much Every Character On Girls

lady nijo

Do you watch Girls? Do you become vaguely obsessed with how narcissistic and self involved every single character on that show is, except for Soshanna, and God knows why she is friends with those people?

Sure you do. And you’ve probably heard older people talk about how this show is indicative of how privileged young people are, and how they don’t have any work ethic (like in that moment when Thomas-John shrieks at Jessa that she’s a whore with no commitment). And often, this is said as though it is news – young people being awful.


No, it is not new.

Lady Nijo, the author of Confessions of Lady Nijo  was just so much worse than any entitled, bratty 20-something you will ever run into right now.

But, as is the case with many of the characters on Girls, I like her, in spite of myself. In part because I do think that it was somewhat harder for a woman to be a brat in 13th century Japan.

Although it probably helped that Lady Nijo came from a high ranking family. The Fujiwara Nijo family held powerful positions at the Emperor’s court, and were also known for their literary output. And Emperor Go-Fukakusa was in love with Nijo’s mother, Sukedai. It was unrequited, which honestly struck me as really surprising, because I keep forgetting that droit du seigneur was not dreamed up until centuries later. But, when Sukedai died, the Emperor asked if he could have her adolescent daughter as a concubine. That is a totally normal, reasonable reaction, because women are a lot like iguanas, and if you do not enjoy one of them, you can replace her almost instantly with another. If you go quickly back to the pet/woman store, no one will even know!


All iguanas look the same in essentially any light!

No, that is not actually how things work.

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    • Shizuka

      It’s true, not a lot of works have survived by lady writers of the Kamakura Period… but if their poetry were all as trite and uninspired as Nijo’s, we can exhale in relief. I have no evidence that she actually mentioned a robe of Cathay, but I wouldn’t put it past her. (Her sleeves were probably wet with dew, too, weren’t they? Go on, it’s all right, you can tell me.) I haven’t read her myself because there is better. There is much, much better.

      During the Heian Period (rather earlier than Nijo’s time) the imperial court was a hothouse of lady belletrists. All the educated gents of the period were still writing in Chinese, which was considered manlier; meanwhile, under their noses, Japanese literature was being invented almost entirely by ladies, some of whom are still recognised today as the greatest of the great. Poets like Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, diarists like Michitsuna’s Mother and her niece Lady Sarashina… Murasaki Shikibu, who did know Chinese (so intellectual! so unladylike!) and was engaged to teach it in secret to a young empress, while at the same time she was busy writing the first, best, and most important novel in the Japanese language… and I think you would find Sei Shonagon in particular a wittier and more interesting subject for one of your articles.

      Also, two words: onna bugeisha.

      • MR

        Written Japanese is a hybrid of written Chinese or I’m I mistaken When I traveled with her in Japan, my Lady could always read (interpret) Japanese.

      • Shizuka

        Written Japanese is a mixture of kana (two different phonetic syllabaries, hiragana and katakana, consisting of 48 simple characters each) and kanji (Han characters, much more complex). The same kanji or hanzi has the same meaning in Japan and in China, but the pronunciations and indeed the languages themselves are very different. The ladies I mentioned above wrote Japanese in hiragana (also called onnade, “women’s writing”), perhaps sprinkled with a few Chinese characters if they wished to show off their learning, at a time when educated Japanese men wrote strictly in Chinese characters (otokode, “men’s writing”). The initial development of a written equivalent of the spoken Japanese language was thus a task primarily in female hands.

      • MR

        Shizuka, thanks for all that clarification. I knew the language difference. Written Chinese unites the Chinese – people from each of its different regions can not communicate with each other speaking either.

      • MR

        I mean in their native tongues, not mandarin. My Lady hated speaking mandarin; yeah she was a rebel in school. Her family are business people and like the Japanese.

      • MR

        She’s Taiwanese.

      • AmbienceChaser

        Is this a dream? I thought I saw the moon through my tangled hair, but it was just a fucking deer. Now my sleeves are wet with tears — DEW! Dew. My sleeves are wet with dew. Tears are gauche. (PS – Kimiko is a total Monet.)

    • sbsn

      What was the point of this?