Jokoin (常高院)

Jokoin (1570 ? - September 30, 1633) was a woman in the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) (Japan) to the early Edo period. She was a legal wife of Takatsugu KYOGOKU, the head of Kyogoku family which was descended from Omi-Genji (Minamoto clan) and thrived in the Muromachi period as a military governor and one of the Four major feudal lords who worked for Muromachi Shogunate Government. Her real name was Hatsu AZAI and she was commonly known as "Hatsu."

Her father was Nagamasa AZAI, the lord of Odani-jo castle in the north Omi Province, and her mother was Oichi no kata, a daughter of Nobunaga ODA (Nobunaga's youngest daughter). Her elder sister was Chacha (Yodo-dono), the concubine of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and her younger sister was Go (Sugenin), the legal wife (second wife) of Hidetada TOKUGAWA. She had an elder brother Manpukumaru AZAI, and a younger moternal-half brother Mangikumaru.

Although we tend to think that she married into the lowest-ranked family among the three sisters, we might say that she married into the highest-ranked family, because the Kyogoku family was, compared with newly-risen Toyotomi family and Tokugawa family, the distinguished feudal lord family which governed several provinces and counted as one of Shishiki in the Muromachi period. Further, the Kyogoku family was the direct master of her parents' family, the Azai family.

Though she had no children with Takatsugu, she adopted Hatsuhime (Koanin), the fourth daughter of the couple of a daughter of her younger sister Go and the second shogun Hidetada TOKUGAWA, and Kona (her mother was Takatsugu's younger sister), a daughter of Yukihiro UJIIE. She also actively reared concubines' children Tadataka KYOGOKU (his mother was from the Yamada clan), the successor of the family head, and Takamasa (his mother was from the Ogura clan), as well as children of relatives and vassals including one adopted child whose identity is unknown. Later, she married her adopted daughter Hatsuhime to Tadataka but they had no children, either. Some people say that she changed her name to 'Fuji' when she adopted Hatsuhime, because her name was also Hatsu. Due to the above, some records described her as 'Fujiko FUJIWARA' instead of Hatsu.


She was born circa 1570 in the Odani-jo castle in Omi Province (present Kohoku-cho, Shiga Prefecture).

In 1573, her father Nagamasa fought her uncle Nobunaga, and the Odani-jo castle fell and her father Nagamasa and her grandfather Hidemasa committed suicide. Since then, her mother Ichi and the three sisters were in the custody of Oda family.

Since Nobunaga was killed by his vassal Mitsuhide AKECHI in the Honno-ji Incident occurred on July 1, 1582, the Kiyosu conference was held on July 26 in order to decide the successor of the Oda family. According to the decision made at the above-mentioned conference, her mother Ichi remarried Katsuie SHIBATA, a vassal of the Oda family, and moved to the Kitanosho-jo castle in Echizen Province.

In 1583, Katsuie, who was in confrontation with Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI in the wake of the Kiyosu conference, was defeated by Hideyoshi in the battle of Shizugatake and Ichi committed suicide together with Katsuie when the Kitanosho-jo castle fell. The three sisters were protected by their enemy Hideyoshi.

In 1587, she married her cousin Takatsugu KYOGOKU through the good offices of Hidetoshi.

After Hideyoshi died in 1600, Mitsunari ISHIDA, one of the five major magistrates, was in confrontation with Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, the head of the council of five elders. When Mitsunari ISHIDA and those in the West squad raised an army, Kyogoku forces once sided with Mitsunari, but in the Battle of Sekigahara, they belonged to the East squad while being confined in the Otsu-jo castle (the battle at besieged Otsu-jo castle). It is said that the Otsu-jo castle might have fallen, if the battle had continued for one more day. The Kyogoku family was given the land of Wakasa Obama of 85,000 koku crop yields as the award for hindering the advance of the West squad.

In 1609, Hatsu entered the Buddhist priesthood with the Buddhist name Jokoin after the death of her husband Takatsugu. From around that time, a confrontation between her nephew Hideyori TOYOTOMI (it is said that her elder sister Chacha (Yodo-dono) seized real power in the Toyotomi family) and Ieyasu TOKUGAWA (her sister GO's father-in-law) became known and Jokoin strived for mediation as the messenger of the Toyotomi side.

In the Winter Siege of Osaka occurred in 1614, she, along with the Tokugawa side messenger Unkoin, strived for peace negotiations between the two families.

It is said that she asked Ieyasu to save the life of Nakahime, a daughter of Hideyori (later, Tenshuni), when the Toyotomi family fell in the Summer siege of Osaka occurred in 1615. She often saw her younger sister Sugenin since then. Jokoin saw Sugenin in Edo and had a conversation shortly before the death of Sugenin.

In 1633, she died at the Edo residence of Tadataka KYOGOKU at the age of 64.

Her grave is located at Joko-ji Temple in Obama City, Fukui Prefecture. In the graveyard, gravestones of nuns who served her are situated with the gravestone of Jokoin Eishoniko in the center. The portrait of Jokoin is also kept in the temple. Jokoin left a will stating 'even if the Kyogoku family is transferred to another place in future, please keep at least Joko-ji Temple in Wakasa. In fact, when the Kyogoku family was transferred to the Izumo Matsue domain in 1634 after Jokoin's death, Joko-ji Temple remained in Wakasa.

Hatsu was a slim and beautiful woman, and all of three sisters had a reputation as beautiful women who inherited the beauty of their mother Ichi. Since childhood, she had a good relationship with both of her elder sister Chacha (Yodo-dono) and her younger sister Go (Sugenin). She lived the longest among the three sisters.

[Original Japanese]