As part of its 50th birthday celebrations, Japanese major Toei is set to produce a Y1bn ($9.3m) adaptation of The Tale Of Genji, a classic of world literature written by Murasaki Shikibu.

The script, by Akira Hayakawa, does not focus on the novel, but the writer, a courtier who began to write her most famous work following the death of her husband in 1003.

Ageless superstar Sayuri Yoshinaga has signed to play Shikibu, while Yuki Amami will portray the writer's most famous character, the playboy aristocrat Hikaru Genji.

Amami, a popular tateyaku, or performer of male roles in the all-woman Takarazuka theatre troupe until her retirement five years ago, will reportedly play several steamy bed scenes with as-yet-unnamed female co-stars. A director has not yet been selected, but Toei has already pencilled in a May 2001 release.

Although a widely read classic of Japanese literature for centuries, The Tale Of Genji recently became a bestseller again thanks to a translation by Buddhist nun Jakucho Setouchi that uses colloquial modern Japanese. Setouchi's translation, which gives full play to the novel's racier scenes, has so far sold two million copies in Japan.