Saionji Kitsushi (西園寺きつ子)

Kitsushi SAIONJI (1225 - October 20, 1292) was the Chugu (Empress) to Emperor Gosaga, and later became Empress Dowager. She was the first daughter of Saneuji SAIONJI, and her mother was Sadako SHIJO (Kitayama Jugo - daughter of Takahira SHIJO). The birth mother (Nyoin) of both Emperor Gofukakusa and the Emperor Kameyama. Her Ingo (a title of respect given to close female relatives of the Emperor, or a woman of comparable standing) was Omiyain. Her posthumous Buddhist name was Henchikaku.

Came to the throne of Emperor Gosaga on January 1242, she was appointed to his Nyogo (imperial consort) on very short notice as an 18 year old, and was promoted to Chugu two months later. Four years later, due to Emperor Gosaga passing the throne to Emperor Gofukakusa (who Kitsushi gave birth to), she received the imperial proclamation for Ingo and was given the title 'Omiyain' in June 1246.

She got on very well with the Retired Emperor Gosaga (he later became the Cloistered Emperor), and gave birth to six children. However, she became a Buddhist nun when her husband passed away in 1272. According to his imperial will, she and the Priestly Imperial Prince Enjo (Emperor Gosaga's illegitimate first son) should inherit the Cloistered Emperor's property divided between her and his children. However, the Toba-dono (Toba detached palace) and Rokusho-ji Temples (Six Temples) were only mentioned in his will by 'give to the next Chiten no Kimi (the next head of the imperial family),' so the actual nomination was left up to the Kamakura Bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a Shogun). The confused Bakufu decided to inquire to Kitsushi as to the true will of the Emperor Gosaga. Kitsushi answered; 'willing to recommend the Retired Emperor Kameyama' for this enquiry, so the Bakufu followed that advice and requested the Retired Emperor Kameyama to nominate the next Chiten no Kimi. Kitsushi responded by indicating that Emperor Gouda was the real child of the Retired Emperor Kameyama, and hence, it was correct for his father, the Retired Emperor Kameyama, to rule the cloistered government as Chiten no Kimi. Since Chiten no Kimi had the discretion of imperial succession, and as one the Retired Emperor Kameyama's descendants he was ensured of being enthroned. This made the Retired Emperor Gofukakusa, brother of the Retired Emperor Kameyama, quite upset. He suspected contrivance between the Retired Emperor Kameyama and the Priestly Imperial Prince Enjo, and so requested the Kamakura Bakufu to give the imperial succession to his own children. This greatly perplexed the Bakufu and they decided to select Imperial Prince Hirohito (later Emperor Fushimi), the son of the retired Emperor Gofukakusa, to be the Crown Prince. This was the start to the Ryoto-testuritsu (alternative succession) of the imperial throne.

With only a side glance at the trouble around her, Kitsushi, who became the empress dowager for two generations, gained reverence both internally and externally, also due to the support from her own birth family, the Saionji family. The lavish ceremony she threw in 1285 for the ninetieth birthday celebration of her mother Sadako (Jugo - an honorary rank next to the Empress) is described in "Musukagami" (The Clear Mirror).

In 1929, she passed away at the age of 68 years, and was buried at Awatasanryo (Sakyo Ward, Kyoto-city). Her ashes had been separated, however, and some of them were buried at Eifuku-ji Temple (Taishi-cho, Osaka Prefecture), where Prince Shotoku was also buried, and a Hokyoin-to pagoda (known as Bunkotsu-to, meaning "the pagoda of the separated ashes") was built there.

[Original Japanese]