Karahashi (a maid housed in the inner rooms of the shoguns palace called O-oku) (唐橋 (大奥女中))

Karahashi (date of birth and death unknown) was a maid housed in O-oku (the inner rooms of the shogun's palace) of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). Her personal name is Haru. She was the eldest daughter of Kinsachi TAKAMATSU, who was Chunagon (middle counselor) assigned as gonkan (supernumerary position), whose rank was Shonii (Senior Second Rank), and her mother was a daughter of Fuyuyasu SHIGENOI.

In 1804, she was housed in O-oku of nishi no maru (a castle compound to the west of the main compound) as kojoro (certain daughters or granddaughters of daijin [the Ministers of State], nagon [the Counselors], and sangi [the Consultants] and other kugyo [senior nobles]) serving princess Takako, who had married into the Arisugawanomiya family as gorenju (title of honor for legal wife of aristocrat as daijin, cabinet minister and kugyo, court noble) of Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA, the heir of the Shogun family. After that, however, she became joro (the upper grade ladies-in-waiting) in the position of Otoshiyori (a lady who controls the servants in O-oku) to serve Kodaiin (Shigehime), who was midaidokoro (wife of a shogun or a highest-ranking nobleman) of Ienari TOKUGAWA, and acted as a close adviser of Shigehime.

Following the wish of Shigehime, she later became joro serving a daughter of Ienari TOKUGAWA, Minehime, who was engaged to marry Narinobu TOKUGAWA of Mito-Tokugawa family. Then, Karahashi entered the mansion of Mito-Tokugawa family following Minehime.

She was by pedigree a court noble of Kyoto. She was also known as a woman of great beauty. Therefore, as soon as she entered into the residence of the Mito domain, Nariaki TOKUGAWA, a younger brother of the lord of domain, made sexual approaches to her and she became pregnant, which made her return to Kyoto.

It is said that this incident caused O-oku to dislike Mito. It is also said that this was a reason for a son of Nariaki, Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA to fail to become the fourteenth Shogun later.

Other theories

Research done by Engyo MITAMURA has spread a theory that she was the same person as Hananoi, a sister of Anekoji, who is said to have wielded power over O-oku. However, judging from the fact that Karahashi is described as a daughter of Kinsachi TAKAMATSU in "Genealogical Table of the Takamatsu Family", and there is a description about Hananoi in "Genealogical Table of the Hashimoto Family", they were probably not the same person. There is another theory that Karahashi and Hananoi were female cousins but there is no solid foundation for this theory.

Karahashi described in fictions

In "Tenshoin Atsuhime (novel)" written by Tomiko MIYAO, she was described as a younger sister of Anekoji and a great personality of O-oku. However, this is the invention of the writer because Karahashi had already left O-oku in the era of Tenshoin and there is no historical material indicating the existence of another person with the same name at that time (although some books describe her as a real person).

On the other hand, in "Last Shogun" written by Ryotaro SHIBA, she was described as a senior lady-in-waiting (called Otoshiyori) serving Mikako ICHIJO, who was the lawful wife of Yoshinobu, at the time in the midst of a struggle for the succession of the fourteenth Shogun. It described that Karahashi was violated by Nariaki when she was sent to him as the bearer of a letter from Yoshinobu, who had intended to avoid giving the letter political coloring as much as possible by entrusting it to Karahashi, who was apolitical person.

[Original Japanese]