Princess Yoshiko (宣子女王)

Princess Yoshiko (October 28, 1804 - January 27, 1893), who was from the Imperial family, lived from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period. She was the ninth daughter of Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Orihito. Her real mother was Kiyoko ANDO who was a nobleman's concubine. She became the lawful wife of Nariaki TOKUGAWA who was the lord of the Mito Domain, and Gorenju (title of honor for lawful wife of an aristocrat as daijin, cabinet minister and kugyo, court noble). Her childhood name was Tomi no Miya. Her ingo (the title of respect given to close female relatives of the Emperor or a woman of comparable standing) was Teihoin. In accordance with the tradition of Confucianism of the Mito Domain, she was called Bunmei Fujin (the lady of civilization) after her death.

When she was 27 years old, although it was beyond the marriageable age at that time, she was able to get engaged to Nariaki TOKUGAWA; She went to Edo for Koka (marriage of an Imperial princess to a subject). It is said that this marriage was arranged because her older sister, Princess Sazanomiya Takako, had greatly supported her to settle the arrangement. When the Emperor Ninko gave permission for the marriage, he was satisfied with it, saying as following: "Because the Mito Domain have been dedicated to both religions and politics since the period of their predecessors, and have been highly loyal to the emperors for generations, this marriage should be good for the Princess.

She had some children of Nariaki, such as the first son, Yoshiatsu TOKUGAWA and the seventh son, Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA. She also had another son and one daughter; However, they died young. As she was tolerant with her husband who had affairs and she even looked after education of his illegitimate children, she was well reputed to be a wise wife.

In 1860, once her husband, Nariaki died under confinement, she became a Buddhist nun and called herself as "Teihoin." Nevertheless, it is believed that Naosuke II and other leaders of the Nanki group (the group supporting Yoshitomi from the Kisyu-Tokugawa family) were fearful of her actions, because she was the younger sister of the lawful wife of the twelfth shogun, Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA and besides she was from the Imperial family. It is said that she was in charge of being a guardian of her first son, Yoshiatsu who seemed in poor health; She made great efforts to help Yoshinobu to become Shogun, which was also her husband's will. Nevertheless, while Yoshiatsu died young due to worries over political chaos inside the domain, ironically Yoshinobu became the last Shogun; However, Yoshinobu ended up being hunted down by Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Orihito who was a member of his own family.

After the Meiji Restoration, she was taken care of by Akitake TOKUGAWA who took over Yoshiatsu's position after he had died young; she spent the rest of her life at Akitake's. Because of the customs of the samurai society at that time, she was not allowed to live with her child, Yoshinobu who had been adopted by a different family; However, the remaining letters show that she and Youshinobu closely corresponded and frequently communicated.

She lived long and passed away in 1893. She died at the age of 90. Her tomb is located at Mt. Zuiryu in the Mito Domain (the present Ibaraki Prefecture).

She seemed proud of her Imperial background; Even after her marriage, she persisted in being dressed in the Kuge-fu style (the noble court-style) which coordinated osuberakashi (the traditional coiffure), kosode (the kimono with short sleeves), and hakama (the formal divided skirt) for a while; Some of her portraits show how she wore in her daily life. Furthermore, she ordered her maids to call her "Miya-sama" (your Imperial Highness) and called herself as "Tomi" which was her childhood name. According to the letters from Nariaki which were attached to her portraits, he seemed to call her "Yoshiko."

Her father was Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Orihito. Her older brothers were Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Tsunahito, Cloistered Imperial Prince Kajiinomiya 承眞, priestly Imperial Prince Rinojinomiya Shunnin, priestly Imperial Prince Chioninnomiya Soncho. Her older sister was Princess Takako who was the lawful wife of Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA, the twelfth Shogun of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and who was called Midaidokoro (the wife of Shogun). Her husband was Nariaki TOKUGAWA, who was the lord of the Mito Domain. One of her sons was Yoshiatsu TOKUGAWA, who was the tenth lord of the Mito Domain. Her another son was Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, who was the head of the Hitotsubashi family and became the fifteenth Shogun of the Edo bakufu.

[Original Japanese]