Hashimoto Tsuneko (橋本経子)

Tsuneko HASHIMOTO or Kangyoin (December 24, 1826 to September 28, 1865) was a court lady in Japan during the end of the shogunate period. She was one of empresses of the 120th generation Emperor Ninko, and was the real mother of Imperial Princess Kazunomiya Chikako. Her common name was Osume. Her government post was Naishi no suke (a court lady of the first rank).

Joro Otoshiyori (high rank senior maid) Anekoji, the senior maid Hananoi of the Mito clan, who enjoyed extreme reins of power in the O-oku (inner palace) during the period of the 12th generation shogun Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA, was Keishi's aunt.


Tsuneko was born in 1826 (her elder brother was Saneakira HASHIMOTO) as Sanehisa HASHIMOTO's daughter in the Urin family. Her childhood name was "Osume". In 1839, she went up to the empress's residence of the Imperial Palace, and received the rank of Naishi no suke (a court lady of the first rank) with an official name of Shin-Naishi no suke. The emperor at that time was Emperor Ninko.

Tsuneko was deeply loved by Emperor Ninko, gave birth to one son and one daughter; Prince and Tanenomiya (premature death) and Imperial Princess Kazunomiya Chikako. However, Emperor Ninko passed away before Kazunomiya was born. In accordance with the practice of the Imperial Court that the court lady having a sexual relationship with the meperor had to get her head shaved at the same time as emperor passed away, Keishi shaved her head and became a Buddhist priest titled Kangyoin. As a result, Keishi left the empress's residence and brought up Princess Kazunomiya in her parental home, the house of the Hashimoto family.

However, life was difficult in the Imperial Court and for Court nobles in those days. It was decided 50 Koku of Koryokumai (rice given to help the poor) and 20 pieces of silvers as the upbringing fee were given from the court. However, it was not enough for maintaining the lifestyle of a princess that, most of Princess Kazunomiya's clothes in his childhood had to be tailored at times.

However, in December, 1854, the next year of Princess Kazunomiya's thread fixing ceremony, the Tokugawa Shogunate permitted the increase of ten Koku of crop yield a year as the covering fee presented to Kangyoin. Moreover, in September, 1856, preparation fee for marriage into the Arisugawanomiya family was granted.

Kangyoin frequently experienced moving with Princess Kazunomiya. On April 6, 1854, she moved to Shoren-in Temple with the blazing up of Imperial Palace (she returned to Hashimoto's residence on the 18th). On January 28, 1857, she moved to Hokyo-ji Temple with the death of her father Sanehisa. Thereafter she returned to Hashimoto's residence again on May 24, but then on on February 23, 1860, she moved into the Katsura Imperial Palace and headed towards Edo with Princess Kazunomiya's marriage.

On August 8, 1851, Princess Kazunomiya, who was then 6 years old, was engaged with Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito under the approval by Emperor Komei, who was her elder brother by a different mother. However, because of arrival of the Black Ships two years later, national opinions were divided into expulsion of foreigners and opening the country to the world, and Edo Shogunate, which was aiming at a continuous policy of reconciliation between the imperial court and the shogunate, brought up the marriage policy of Princess Kazunomiya with the 14th generation General Iemochi TOKUGAWA. This marriage proposal was strongly opposed by not only Kangyoin, but Emperor Komei and Princess Kazunomiya herself. However, Princess Kazunomiya finally gave in to the frequent requests from the shogunate and the party of advocating Kobu-Gattai which unites the court and the shogunate, and canceled her engagement with the Prince Taruhito.

When the engagement with Iemochi TOKUGAWA was prepared, she departed for Edo on October 20, 1861. Worrying about Princess Kazunomiya, Emperor Komei made her real mother Kangyoin, her menoto Fujiko TSUCHIMIKADO and the court lady Tsuguko NIWATA (a court lady of the first rank to Emperor Ninko), Katsuko ICHO go with her in order to lessen her mental uneasiness, and several doctors of Bureau of Medicine (one of the doctors also resided in Edo after her down-ranking marriage) so that she could receive the same treatment as in the capital in case she might get sick in Kanto area by any chance.

Princess Kazunomiya with her unprecedentedly big parade of people heading toward Edo passed through the Nakasen-do Road and headed for the Edo Castle. On March 12, 1862, Kangyoin and Princess Kazunomiya arrived at the inner palace of Edo Castle and met Tenshoin (the mother-in-law of the 14th generation General Iemochi), Jitsujoin (the real mother of Iemochi), and Honjuin (the real mother of the 13th generation General Iesada). There, Princess Kazunomiya was told to "get used to the life of Edo style from the Kyoto style as soon" by Tenshoin, Jitsujoin, Honjuinto and others. Princess Kazunomiya, Kangyoin, and the court ladies Fujiko TSUCHIMIKADO, Tsuguko NIWATA, and Noto, who had been being told that the life of the imperial palace style would be guaranteed, were confused. The shogunate's promise to the court made in Kyoto was not transmitted to the inner halls of a palace at all.

Kangyoin and her people disregarded the intention of Tenshoin, valued the life of Princess Kazunomiya's imperial palace style, and made no attempt to become accustomed to the life of the Edo style. Therefore, the troubles with the maids in the inner halls of the palace and Tenshoin were not uncommon. The confrontation with maids from the inner halls of the palace led by Tenshoin and Takiyama was intensified. Even severer than Princess Kazunomiya, Kangyoin was confronting with the Edo maids centering on Tenshoin about the lifestyle in the inner halls of a palace.

On the other hand, as Princess Kazunomiya's mother and late emperor's court lady of the first rank, Kangyoin was awarded in the inner halls of palace the rank of joro kamiza (high rank maid in the Imperial Court with honorable seat).

Even in the foreign land after going away from Kyoto, Kangyoin kept supporting Princess Kazunomiya. However, her health broke down around the autumn of 1864. According to the condition certificate that the doctors of the Bureau of Medicine residing in Edo and the interior doctors of the shogunate prescribed, symptoms that seemed to be beriberi such as 'iresomeness and rough blood flow', 'heartache', 'urinary incompetence', 'moisture' and 'hands and feet paralysis' were recorded. Though she recovered once at the end of the year, her condition deteriorated again when the new year 1865 began. She weakened as the heat of summer deprived of her physical strength. Despite that Princess Kazunomiya visited her on July 26, 28 and 29 continuously, her illness deteriorated in August as autumn deepened and her condition finally became critical suddenly on the eighth. She died in the Edo Castle on the next day, August 9. She passed away at the age of 40.

Kangyoin's death, told only to few people including Tsuguko NIWATA, was kept confidential even to Princess Kazunomiya until it was announced officially on the 14th. It is said that, Princess Kazunomiya, who didsn't know anything, continued praying for her recovery and did 100-prayer ritual even after Kangyoin's death, and Tsuguko, who could not bear it, stopped her from doing.

Her posthumous buddhist name was Kangyoin Koyo Shingetsu Kakugei Daishi (a lady Buddhist). Her dead body received the same treatment as that of a shogun's concubine, and was buried with a coffin in Gakurensha of Zojo-ji Temple which was the superintendent graveyard of the TOKUGAWA family. Moreover, in view of her distinguished services of bringing up Princess Kazunomiya, she was awarded Senior Fifth Rank by the Imperial Court after her death.

The graveyard of Kangyoin was excavated in 1952 when the playground of Shiba Gakuen was extended. Her dead body was cremated in Kirigaya-saijyou Funeral Hall, and was buried at a newly relocated shared grave.

[Original Japanese]