Konoe Hiroko (近衛熙子)

Hiroko KONOE (April 30, 1666-April 13, 1741) was the lawful wife of Ienobu TOKUGAWA, the sixth Shogun of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). Her father was Motohiro KONOE and her mother was Imperial Princess Tsuneko (品宮) who was the princess of Emperor Gomizunoo. She tonsured after her husband's death and called herself Teneiin.

In 1679 she got married with Tsunatoyo TOKUGAWA (later the sixth Shogun Ienobu). It seems that this marriage was against her father Motohiro's will and Hiroko got married after she was adopted as a daughter of Tokitsune HIRAMATSU who was Monyo (blood line) of the Konoe family. However, this adoption was nothing but an insult to bakufu, so it was hidden from public.

She seemed to have had a good relationship with Tsunatoyo and delivered two children (a daughter Toyohime [the Tokugawa family] and a son Mugetsuin [夢月院]), but they died young. She mourned their death and any child was given Kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist names) by Josen-ji Temple of the Nichiren Sho Sect in addition to the names from the Tokugawa family. After 30 years, her husband Tsunatoyo became the sixth Shogun and she entered O-oku (the inner halls of Edo Castle where the wife of the Shogun and her servants reside) as Midaidokoro (shogun or minister's wife). This contributed recovery of the power of her father Motohiro who had been in charge of easy job in the Imperial Court in those days and his political power in the Imperial Court was strengthened.

However, it is said that unlike the days in Kofu, their conjugal life rapidly changed after she entered O-oku and that she spent a gloomy life. In addition, after Gekkoin became Tsunatoyo's concubine, their conjugal life became more estranged.

In 1712 her husband Ienobu died of desease and Hiroko became a prietess and used the Ingo(a title given to a Buddhist) of Teneiin. When Ietsugu TOKUGAWA, who was a natural son of Okiyo no Kata, was appointed as Shogun, she was given Junior First Rank and came to be called Ichii-sama.

It is said that she was on the outs with Gekkoin (Okiyo no Kata) who was a real mother of Shogun Ietsugu. At the Incident of Ejima Ikushima when Ejima, who was Otoshiyori (a lady who controled the servants in O-oku) and a trusted retainer of Gekkoin, delayed the curfew of O-oku, she is considered to have ploted the derogation of Gekkoin, sobayonin (lord chamberlain) Akifusa MANABE and Hakuseki ARAI together with roju (member of shogun's council of elders) and fudai (a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) class. However, it seems that their relationdship became better after that. It is said that when Ietsugu became critically ill, she cheered up Gekkoin who mourned.

It is said that she made efforts to make Yoshimune TOKUGAWA: the lord of the Kii domain, the eighth Shogun after the early death of Ietsugu. In addition, partly because Yoshimune did not have a lawful wife, it is said that she countinued to have power in O-oku and also great influence on bakufu.

In 1741 she died at the age of 76.
Her Kaimyo was '天英院殿従一位光誉和貞崇仁尊儀.'

She donated Sanmon gate of the the Head Temple of Nichirensho sect, Taiseki-ji Temple. Moreover, she donated Shoro (a bell tower) to Myokenzan Yuten-ji Temple of Jodo sect.

Her appearance and keepsakes
Hiroko was buried at Zojo-ji Temple like her husband. In accordance with the sellout of the cemetary after the war, her glave was excavated to research in 1959. A stone octagonal tower was built on her glave. In fact, the style of the glaves of Shogun's lawful wives had been various before and it is thought that it was defined after the funeral of Teneiin.

Judging from the fact that no tooth was discovered and the form of her jaw, it is guessed that she lost all her teeth in her later years and had white hair. The conditions of keepsakes other than her body were not good, but a small Juichimen Kannon-zo (the statue of Eleven-faced Kannon) made of Koboku (fragrant wood) attracted attention. On the back of this statue, an insciption '奉刻 辛卯 男子 祈祷 梅窓院住 唯然' was carved.

In addition, Hiroko's gorinto (a gravestone composed of five pieces piled up one upon another) was also built on the side of the five-storied pagoda of Taiseki-ji Temple.

Appintment of the eighth Shogun
Some people say that it was she who appointed Yoshimune as the eighth Shogun. It is because the way of thinking of Yoshimune was the nearest to that of Ienobu. Hiroko was the person in paramount authority in Edo Castle in those days, but the cabinet officials of the Shogunate and fudai were very surprised at her appointment of Yoshimune. It was because there was no woman in O-oku who had appointed Shogun before and it was hard to imagine that a woman could interfere in politics. Therefore, at first, everybody had reservations about it.
However, it is said that Hiroko took full advantage of the position as Midaidokoro and strongly required to assign Yoshimune to the next Shogun by saying, 'This is the real thought of the former Shogun Ienobu.'
It is said that this made it possible for bakufu to avoid unusual danger of the absence of the Shogun.

Against this theory, other people say that it was her rival Gekkoin who recommended Yoshimune and that Hiroko recommended Tsugutomo TOKUGAWA of the Owari Tokugawa family or Kiyotake MATSUDAIRA, a real younger brother of Ienobu, as the next Shogun. Incidentally, it should be paid attention that the Owari family and the Konoe family were relatives in those days.

[Original Japanese]