Imperial Princess Teruko (光子内親王)

Imperial Princess Akenomiya Teruko (July 25, 1634 - November 18, 1727) was a member of the Imperial Family in the early Edo period. She was the eighth Princess of Emperor Gomizuno. She founded Rinkyu-ji Temple. Her ingo (a title of respect given to a close female relative of the Emperor or a woman of comparable standing) was Shozan Genyo. She was also noted as Genyo Naishinno (Imperial Princess Genyo) or Rinkyu-ji no Miya (Imperial Princess of Rinkyu-ji Temple).

A Brief Biography

Imperial Princess Teruko was born as the Imperial Princess of Emperor Gomizuno and his court lady Takako KUSHIGE; she was originally called Akenomiya but was later renamed Imperial Princess Teruko. She was raised in the imperial reign of Emperor Meisho, her half-sister by the different mother. She was a member of a large family comprised of seven uterine siblings, including Emperor Gosai, and 23 agnate siblings, including three emperors: Meisho, Gokomyo and Reigen.

Because her birth mother was a court lady, under normal circumstances, Akenomiya should have lived her life at an imperial palace for bikuni (female Buddhist disciples) like many other princesses born to court ladies without receiving the proclamation of the title as Imperial Princess. However, in 1638, Akenomiya was adopted by Kazuko TOKUGAWA (Tofukumonin), Chugu (the second consort of an emperor) (at that time Nyoin (a close female relative of the Emperor of comparable standing)) of her father and was proclaimed Imperial Princess with the given name of Imperial Princess Teruko.

Though the precise date is not known, it was said that Akenomiya had an offer of marriage to Ietsuna TOKUGAWA, the fourth Tokugawa shogun, on the recommendation of her adoptive mother, Tofukumonin. This marriage was not realized because her father, Emperor Gomizuno, was opposed to it, since he frowned on any marriage or adoption between kuge (court nobles) and buke (samurai families). The Imperial Princess had no subsequent marriage offer, so she remained single throughout her life.

Many princes and princesses were born between Emperor Gomizuno and his court ladies, but Tofukumonin got along with them well, and the relationships among those born from different mothers were good. Including Gomizuoin and Tofukumonin, their children, their brothers and sisters, their well-acquainted court nobles, court ladies and others gathered together frequently to deepen their relationships. Imperial Princess Akenomiya also joined such gatherings to enjoy arts, literature and various plays. Among her many brothers and sisters, Akenomiya had been so bright and intellectual since childhood that her father, the Emperor, particularly favored her, as well as her half-sister by different mother, Imperial Princess Tsuneko. Additionally, Tsunamune DATE, the third lord of the Sendai domain, was her cousin on her mother's side.

Entering the Priesthood

Since her father, Emperor Gomizuno, had endeavored to give sanctuary to the Obaku sect, since her childhood the Imperial Princess experienced a deepened sense of belonging to Buddhism as she listened to the preaching of high priests. In 1665, she received Bosatsu-shiki (literally, ceremony of Bodhisattva) from Ryukei Shosen of the Obaku sect, and the dogo (pseudonym as a priest) of Shozan and hoi (given name to a Buddhist priest) of Genyo.

In 1680, upon the passing of her father, Emperor Gomizuno, she was bequeathed 300 koku (approximately 83.4 cubic meters) according to his will. Two months later, she entered Daikaku-ji Temple as a priest to be tonsured by Tengai, a monk of Tenryu-ji temple, and sequestered herself from the world to live in a hermitage in Saga called Itto-an (literally, a hermitage of one lamp). Two years later, in 1682, she built Rinkyu-ji Temple in Shugakuin Village and became the founder. When her father, Emperor Gomizuno, was alive, she was given a separate palace, called Rakushiken, within the premises of Shugakuin Rikyu (Shugakuin Imperial Villa). This palace was so called Akenomiya Gosho or Otowa Gosho (Palace of Akenomiya or Otowa), which was later rebuilt into a temple and called Rinkyu-ji Temple. Its reception hall was originally the old palace of her adoptive mother Tofukumonin, which had been moved to its present place.

Subsequent to the death of her real mother, Takako KUSHIGE, Imperial Princess Teruko remained in the temple, where she read aloud and copied sutras. Also, she is said to have nurtured abondoned children. In 1707, Kamenomiya (later Princess Genshu), who was a daughter of Emperor Reigen, Akinomiya's half-brother from a different mother, entered Rinkyu-ji Temple as a priest when Akinomiya retired and called herself Fumonin. In 1727, Imperial Princess Teruko died at an advanced age of 94. It was the reign of Emperor Nakamikado, the sixth Emperor during her lifetime.


With her father Emperor Gomizuno, who was the premier cultural figure of the day, and her adopted mother Tofukumonin, who was a patron of contemporary arts and culture, Imperial Princess Teruko was raised in the age of flourished culture of Kanei period and became one of the greatest talents of Japanese poetry, calligraphy and painting.

Particularly, she left a great number of paintings, having learned the basics of painting from Yasunobu KANO and Doko TAKUO (卓峯道香), a priest of the Obaku sect who mastered the painting style of the Kano school. She left two portraits of herself and her father Emperor Gomizuno, as well as kacho-zu (paintings of flowers and birds), but many others are portraits of Kannon (Deity of Mercy), which she painted in her course of discipline. She is said to have painted more than 1,000 Kannon figures and more than 3,000 Shikimiba Kannon (images of Kannon made of powdered leaves of Japanese star anise), which had all been solicited by parishioners and other temples. She also compiled two volumes of "San Kannon Daishi kada shu" (a compilation of poems regarding Kannon (Deity of Mercy) sponsored by the Imperial Princess Teruko).

[Original Japanese]