Akikonomu Chugu (秋好中宮)

Akikonomu Chugu is a fictional character who appears in Murasaki Shikibu's novel "Genji Monogatari" (The Tale of Genji). In the story, she is called saigu no nyogo (a high-ranking lady in the court (a consort of an emperor))because she was a former saigu (Imperial Princess appointed to serve the deities of the Ise-jingu Shrine) or umetsubo no tsubone because she used Gyokasha (one of the shichiden gosha (literally, seven palaces and five houses) which was also called Umetsubo) as her living quarters.

She is the only daughter of Rokujo no Miyasudokoro and Zenbo (the younger brother of Emperor Kiritsubo; crown prince before the first imperial prince of Emperor Kiritsubo (later, Emperor Suzaku), was crown prince; he does not appear in the story). She is a cousin of Hikaru Genji. After her father, Zenbo, died, she left the court with her mother and was brought up in a mansion in Rokujo.

When she was around twelve years old, Emperor Kiritsubo abdicated the throne to the Emperor Suzaku and she was chosen to be the new saigu of the Ise-jingu Shrine. Her mother, Miyasudokoro, whose love affair with Hikaru Genji had ended,, went to Ise together. Emperor Suzaku met the saigu at the court ceremony fpr departing to Ise and fell in love at first sight because of her beauty and could not forget her after that. Later, Emperor Suzaku wanted to marry the saigu after his abdication, but her mother, Miyasudokoro opposed this and, even after her death, Genji prevented this from happening ('Aoi (Genji Monogatari),' 'Sakaki').

She was 21 to 22 years old when Emperor Suzaku abdicated and with the completion of her term, the saigu left Ise, and returned to Kyoto together with her mother. Her mother, Miyasudokoro, was ill in bed at that time and died after requesting that Genji become guardian of the Saigu ('Miotsukushi').

Genji was back in power and promoted to naidaijin (minister of the interior), adopted the saigu and took part in politics via the Emperor's inner court and supported her entry into court as nyogo (emperor's consort) to the eleven-year-old Emperor Reizei, who was his biological son. However, Genji was strong;y interested in the nyogo ('Eawase'), but since the nyogo did not want Genji, who was her mother's lover, to come close to her and Genji himself was strongly constrained by the late Miyasudokoro's will, he played the role of guardian while being attached to her to some extent. On the other hand, the nyogo had a close friendship with Genji's wife, Murasaki no Ue and after they began to live in a same mansion, continued to have a close friendship.

Her name 'Akikonomu Chugu' was given by readers of later ages and was derived from the episode when Genji asked her 'Which do you like spring or autumn?' when making advances to her ('Usugumo'), and she answered 'I am attracted to autumn because my mother, Miyasudokoro, passed away.'
Genji got an idea from this and constructed a large mansion consisting of four sections(Rokujoin) and prepared a home residence (residence used when she returned to her family) for Akikonomu by arranging natural autumnal features in the southwest section, which was previously the location of the residence of late Miyasudokoro. On the other hand, Murasaki no Ue, who liked spring, lived in the spring section and Murasaki no Ue and Akikonomu as the master of the spring and autumn of Rokujoin, respectively, conducted an elegant competition betweenspring and autumn ('Otome' (Genji Monogatari), 'Kocho' (Genji Monogatari).

Partly because of strong support Genji, she was elected to chugu (emperor's second consort) ('Otome') and greatly contributed to Genji's further prosperity. She served as koshimusubiyaku (person with role of tying an obi or belt) ('Umegae') in the mogi (the coming-of-age ceremony for girls) for Genji's only daughter, Akashi no Himegimi and she arranged a splendid celebration ('Wakana' (Genji Monogatari) for Genji's fortieth birthday ceremony.

Her husband, Emperor Reizei, for whom she entered court as his guardian instead of mother, was younger than her by nine years and they had no child between them, but she was loved by him through their common hobby of painting and they kept a good relationship as a married couple even after the addiction of Emperor Reizei. She loved Genji's son, Kaoru, together with the Retired Emperor Reizei and since she did not have any sons herself, relied on him as a guardian ('Nioumiya') after Genji's death.

[Original Japanese]