Ichijo Mikako (一条美賀子)

Mikako ICHIJO (Mikako TOKUGAWA, from 1835 to July 9, 1894) was a court noble woman during the time from the end of Edo period to the Meiji period as well as the lawful wife of Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA. Her natural father was Kinhisa IMADEGAWA, and her adopted father was Tadaka ICHIJO. Empress Dowager Shoken was her sister-in-law. Her childhood name was Nobukimi and her initial imina (personal name) was Shoko.

Brief Personal History
At first, Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA got engaged to Chiyogimi (Teruhime), a daughter of Kanpaku (Chancellor) Tadaka ICHIJO, but she was affected with smallpox just before the wedding. Therefore, Nobukimi was chosen as a replacement. Nobukimi was adopted by Tadaka and changed her name to "Shokimi". After the engagement was fixed on June 24, 1853, she went down to Edo. The engagement ceremony was held on December 23, 1855 and then she got married on January 10, 1856.

She gave birth to a daughter of Yoshinobu on August 24, 1858 but the daughter died young on August 28. After that, she started living apart from her husband because he became Shogun-kokenshoku (one of three major posts of Edo bakufu) and accompanied Shogun Iemochi TOKUGAWA to Kyoto. Yoshinobu became Shogun in 1866, but he was still in Kyoto and Shoko did not enter the inner palace of the Edo Castle at that time.

Yoshinobu was back to Edo around January or February 1868 at last after he gave up the shogunate. Shoko could not see him because Yoshinobu was confined to the Ueno Kanei-ji Temple, and then to the Sunpu Hodai-in Temple, soon after his return. Even after the Meiji Restoration, the separation continued - Yoshinbu lived in Shizuoka while Shoko lived in the Hitotsubashi residence in Tokyo. Around that time, she changed her name from 'Shoko' to 'Mikako'.

Mikako left for Shizuoka two months after Yoshinobu was released from the confinement in September, 1869, and then lived together for the first time in ten years. After that Yoshinobu had concubines named Nobu SHINMURA and Sachi NAKANE, but all of Yoshinobu's children born of those concubines were raised as Mikako's children.

She developed breast cancer in 1894. She moved to the residence of the Tokugawa families in Tokyo for medication in May because conditions after surgery were not good, but she died without recovery on July 9. She was 60 years old then. Her ingo (a posthumous title given to a Buddhist) is 'Teishukuin' and her grave is in Yanaka Cemetery.

The waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables) sent to Yoshinobu who saw her off in Shizuoka (often introduced as Mikako's farewell poem composed on the eve of her death) says:

I have to say farewell to you who are on the street in such a way, the sorrow of parting does not disappear like snow on the mountain top.'

Personal Profile
It is said that she had a very lonely newly-married life because Yoshinobu was very intimate with Tsuneko TOMENOMIYA, a widow of Yoshihisa TOKUGAWA, and also because her engagement to Yoshinobu had been determined as a replacement on very short notice. Furthermore, the tragically early death of her daughter, whom she finally had three years after the marriage, made her more depressed. Finally, after Yoshinobu was released from the confinement, she went to Shizuoka and lived together with him through the mediation of Yoshinobu's mother, Princess Tomi no miya Yoshiko. After that, the marriage seemed to get relatively well. However, Mikako never had a child because she had poor health.

In fact, Yoshonobu did not have a good relation with Mikako, but he got along with her parents and relied on the Kikutei (Imadegawa) family when he was the Shogun-kokenshoku.

Although Mikako was the Shogun's lawful wife, she never entered the Edo Castle because Yoshinobu didn't when he was Shogun.

[Original Japanese]