Sugen-in (崇源院)

Sugen-in (1573 - November 3, 1626) was a woman who lived from the Tensho period to the early Edo period. Her imina (personal name) is considered Go, Ogo, or Eyo, however, she could have changed her name at the time of her second marriage, thus which name was true has not been determined. When she received the Ikai (Court rank) of Juichii (Junior First Rank), she was given imina 'Satoko' from the Imperial Court. Regarding her year of birth, there are different opinions.

She was the third daughter of Nagamasa AZAI. Her mother was Oichi no kata, a daughter of Nobuhide ODA (a younger sister of Nobunaga ODA). Her eldest sister Yodo-dono (Chacha) was a concubine of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and her second eldest sister Joko-in (Hatsu) was a lawful wife of Takatsugu KYOGOKU.

Sugen-in's first marriage partner was Kazunari SAJI, but later she was divorced. Her second marriage partner was Hidekatsu TOYOTOMI, but later she was widowed. The third time, she got married to Hidetada TOKUGAWA, the second shogun of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), and became a seishitsu (legal wife) (keishitsu [second wife]) of Hidetada.

In addition, she was the maternal grandmother of the Emperor Meisho, the 109th.


In 1573, Sugen-in was born in Odani, Omi Province (Kohoku-cho, Shiga Prefecture) as the third daughter of Nagamasa AZAI. Her mother was Oichi no kata, a daughter of Nobuhide ODA.

On September 26, 1573, her father Nagamasa had a conflict with Nobunaga ODA, his wife Ichi's elder brother, and Odani-jo Castle was captured by Nobunaga. When her father Nagamasa and her grandfather Hisamasa AZAI killed themselves, Sugen-in escaped from the castle together with her mother Ichi, elder sisters Yodo-dono and Joko-in, and they were protected by Nobunaga. At that time, her elder brother Manpukumaru was killed by the order of Nobunaga.

In 1582, her uncle Nobunaga was killed by his vassal Mitsuhide AKECHI in the Honnoji Incident on June 2, and in the Kiyosu conference for deciding Nobunaga's successor on June 27, her mother Ichi got remarried to Katsuie SHIBATA, the vassal of Nobunaga, and moved to the castle in Kitanosho of Echizen Province.

In 1583, the Kitanosho-jo Castle fell to the enemy in the Battle of Shizugatake, and Sugen-in was protected under Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI after the suicide of Katsuie and Ichi.

In 1584, Sugen-in got married to Kazunari SAJI, a child of her mother's elder sister (Nobunaga ODA's younger sister Oinu no kata), by the order of Hideyoshi. However, in Battle of Komaki and Nagakute, Kazunari took the side of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA supporting Nobukatsu ODA (the second son of Nobunaga ODA), who was a nephew of his mother and in discord with Hideyoshi due to the successor to his uncle Nobunaga, so that Kazunari who angered Hideyoshi had his territory confiscated and was cut off from Sugen-in.

In 1592, Sugen-in got married to Hideyoshi's nephew Hidekatsu TOYOTOMI (Kokichi Hidekatsu, younger brother of Chancellor Hidetsugu) by the order of Hideyoshi again, and in the same year, she bore Sadako TOYOTOMI (wife of Yukiie KUJO), but Hidekatsu died in the Bunroku-Keicho War.

September 17, 1595, Sugen-in got married to Hidetada, the third son of Ieyasu (third marriage). Sadako, a child by her former husband Hidekatsu, was fostered by her eldest sister Chacha (Yodo-dono) as an adopted child.

On May 26, 1597, Sugen-in bore Senhime (wife of Hideyori TOYOTOMI, later, wife of Tadatoki HONDA) in the residence of Tokugawa in Fushimi-jo Castle in Kyoto. Hideyori's mother was her eldest sister Chacha, who was the concubine of Hideyoshi. Further, the mother of Tadatoki HONDA, Senhime's remarriage partner, was a daughter of Nobuyasu MATSUDAIRA, who was the first son of Sugen-in's father-in-law Ieyasu and the eldest brother of Hidetada, and Tokuhime, the first daughter of Nobunaga.

In 1599, Sugen-in bore Tamahime (wife of Toshitsune MAEDA, and mother of Mitsutaka MAEDA) in Edo-jo Castle.

On June 12, 1601, she bore Katsuhime (Tensu-in, wife of Tadanao MATSUDAIRA) in Edo-jo Castle. Tadanao MATSUDAIRA was the first son of Hideyasu YUKI (Hideyasu MATSUDAIRA), who was the second son of her father-in-law Ieyasu and the second eldest brother of Hidetada.

On August 25, 1602, she bore Hatsuhime (wife of Tadataka KYOGOKU) in Fushimi-jo Castle (Edo-jo Castle, according to one estimate.)
The Kyogoku family was the family of the husband of her second eldest sister Hatsu (Joko-in). However, Tadataka was not Joko-in's biological child but a child of a concubine.

On August 12, 1604, Sugen-in bore Iemitsu TOKUGAWA in Edo-jo Castle.

In 1606, she bore Tadanaga TOKUGAWA in Edo-jo Castle.

On November 23, 1607, she bore Masako TOKUGAWA (wife of Emperor Gomizunoo and mother of Emperor Meisho) in Edo-jo Castle.

She died on September 15, 1626, at age 54 in nishi no maru (a castle compound to the west of the main compound) of Edo-jo Castle.
Her homyo (a Buddhist name given to a person who has died or has entered the priesthood) is '崇源院昌誉和興仁清.'
When she died, Hidetada, Iemitsu and Tadanaga were visiting to Kyoto.

On November 28, 1626, Sugen-in was given Juichii (Junior First Rank) after her death.

She was the first and the last Tokugawa Shogun Midaidokoro (wife of a shogun) (seishitsu [legal wife]) who became a real mother of shogun. Unlike the first half of her life, which was involved in deaths of family, the game of politics, and succession conflict in her parents' home, the second half of life as a shogun's wife and a real mother of shogun was stable.

After her death, Go was buried by the second son Iemitsu in Zojo-ji Temple (Minato Ward, Tokyo [Tokyo.])

When the excavation and research of graveyards of the Tokugawa family in Zojo-ji Temple, which was led by Hisashi SUZUKI, was conducted after the war, Sugen-in's grave was also excavated and her remains were researched. According to the research, she was cremated, and it seems that Sugen-in in life was a fairly small and slightly built, beautiful woman. In fact, in the Shogun family who were buried in Zojo-ji Temple, only Sugen-in was cremated.


Yodo-dono (Chacha), Joko-in (Hatsu) and Sugen-in (Go), so-called 'the three sisters of AZAI' were known as 'sisters who followed the strangest fate in the warlike period.'
It is said that they were all beautiful women inheriting their mother Ichi's beauty and they were very close with each other from their childhood.

In fact, however, even though Sugen-in was a historically important person in a high position, there are few creditable historical materials which report her personality including her looks and character. In novels and dramas, she is often depicted as a woman of beauty and great pride but hysterical and jealous character by analogy with the above-mentioned reputation and the relation between her husband Hidetada. However, a novelist Michiko NAGAI made a completely different explanation that Sugen-in was not so beautiful as her mother and sisters and not quick-witted, but she could calmly take any fate in stride and added charms to herself each time she got over it.

After marriage to Go, her husband Hidetada had affairs but did not have any formal concubines. It is said that since she was older than Hidetada and jealous, Hidetada, who was dutiful by character, could not say no to his wife, however, it could be said she was such an appealing woman.

Further, because of confrontation with Kasuga no tsubone, Sugen-in has a strong image of a wicked woman who doted on her third son Tadanaga that 'she brought up by herself (it was impossible, in fact, Tadanaga was also raised by a nanny)', disfavored her second son Iemitu and plotted to disinherit him.

It is also said that she loved her third son Tadanaga more than her second son Iemitu because Tadanaga looked like his mother Go's uncle Nobunaga ODA. Tadanaga's wife was a granddaughter of Nobukatsu ODA, the second son of Nobunaga ODA, and it is evident that his mother Go valued the genealogy with the ODA family. Since Iemitsu was attached to Kasuga no tsubone rather than his real mother, it can be thought that Sugen-in treated Tadanaga preferentially to prevent Kasuga no tsubone from enlarging her power, thus, it is not necessarily appropriate to criticize Go. Further, the above-mentioned novelist NAGAI interpreted that Go rather had a sense of affinity to Iemitsu who had a similar character to hers.

[Original Japanese]