Yodo-dono (淀殿)

Yodo-dono (c. 1569 – c. June 4, 1615) was a woman who lived from the Sengoku period (the end of Muromachi period) to the early Edo period, and a concubine of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI (Hideyoshi HASHIBA). Her rank was considered to be Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade, but various theories are known. Her real name was Chahcha AZAI or Kikuko AZAI.

She was a daughter of Nagamasa AZAI who was a warring lord of Omi Province. Her mother was Oichi-no-kata who was a daughter of Nobuhide ODA. She was a niece of Nobunaga ODA. Her younger maternal sisters were Joko-in (a lawful wife of Takatsugu KYOGOKU) and Sugen-in (a lawful wife of Hidetada TOKUGAWA), and her younger paternal brother and sister were Kusu AZAI who became a menoto (nursing mother) of Tatsuko KYOGOKU, and Iyori AZAI. Her sons were Sutemaru (Tsurumatsu TOYOTOMI, who prematurely died) and Hiroimaru (Hideyori TOYOTOMI), and her adopted daughter was Sadako TOYOTOMI.

It has become clear that Okurakyo-no-tsubone (mother of Harunaga ONO), Aeba-no-tsubone (the second daughter of her grandaunt, Kaitsu-dono), and Otsubone (a wife of Yoshiyuki SAWAKI and brother of Toshiie MAEDA) were menoto (nursing mothers).

Her name
The real name was Chacha (Ocha) or Kikuko. The former was used consistently throughout her life, and the latter was given by the Imperial Court when she was given the status Junior Rank, Lower Grade. However, "Kikuko" was another real name used only in the public scene, so it does not mean that her name was changed from "Chacha" to "Kikuko".

In her lifetime, she was called different names according to the changes of her living places, such as Yodo-no-kata, ("Yodo-no-ue-sama" (honorific title for emperors or shoguns), "Yodo-no-nyobo" (wife or court lady, etc.), Ninomaru-dono (second defensive), Nishi-no-maru-dono, and so on. There is a theory that she tonsured after Hideyoshi died, then called herself Daiko-in.

Neither the names Yodo-dono, which is currently generally used, or Yodo-gimi, which was used in the past, can be seen in any contemporary sources. Both names were referred to after the Edo period.

The naming of "Yodo-gimi" was widely spread and generally established after the putting on of the play "Kiri hitoha" by Shoyo TSUBOUCHI in the Meiji period. Tetsuo OWADA insisted that the naming of "Yodo-gimi" made a connection to the naming of prostitutes "Yu-kun" and "Tsuji-gimi" with an image of a villainess or a licentiousness, and Takako TANAKA (an expert on Japanese literature) continued this insistence, but as mentioned later, it was not accepted. Gradually, "Yodo-dono" became popular after the war.

The novel "Yodo-dono Diary" written by Yasushi INOUE and published in 1960 was one of the examples in early times which was influenced by the standardization. Taiga dramas (NHK historical dramas), which have a great influence on the public, have never used the name "Yodo-gimi" in the drama, since "Dokuganryu Masamune" (NHK Taiga drama) was broadcasted in 1987. However, in "Tokugawa Bakufu Genealogy" which was edited at the end of the Edo period, Asahihime who was the second wife of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA was called "Asahi-no-kimi", and Sugen-in who was the second wife of Hidetada was called "Oeyo-no-kimi", thus the theory insisting that "kimi" was a derogatory term was not accepted.

Chizuru FUKUDA concluded based on the result of the verification about her naming that it would be appropriate that her real name was "Chacha AZAI" and her common name was "Yodo". Additionally, there are no historical materials mentioning "Yodo-dono" in her life time but "Yodo-sama", therefore "Yodo-sama" might be the correct name in that period. Ton KOYANO insisted that "Chacha AZAI" would be suitable as "Masako HOJO".

The death of her parents
She was born in Odani, Omi Province (present-day Shiga Prefecture). In 1573, her father Nagamasa resisted her uncle Nobunaga and was attacked, and Odani-jo Castle fell to the enemy, so she left the castle with her mother. At that time her father as well as her grandfather (Hisamasa AZAI) committed suicide, and her elder brother Manpukumaru AZAI was captured and executed by Hideyoshi in accordance with Nobunaga's order. It is said that she was kept by her uncle Nobukane ODA and protected at Anotsu-jo Castle or Kiyosu-jo Castle.

In 1582 when Nobunaga was killed by his vassal Mitsuhide AKECHI in the Honno-ji Temple Incident, her mother Ichi remarried Katsuie SHIBATA, a vassal of the Oda clan, so Chacha moved to Fukui-jo Castle in Echizen Province (present-day Fukui City). After Nobunaga died, Hideyoshi and her foster father Katsuie confronted each other, and Katsuie lost at the Shizugatake War in 1583, then Ichi committed suicide with Katsuie. But Chacha and two other daughters were allowed to escape and were protected by Hideyoshi. It is generally considered that she lived in Azuchi-jo Castle under the patronage of her uncle Nagamasu ODA, and that she later lived in the Jurakudai residence in the custody of Tatsuko KYOGOKU with the support of her aunt Maria KYOGOKU.

She became a concubine of Hideyoshi around 1588. Hideyoshi might have been longing for Chacha's mother Ichi. However, Ichi committed suicide with her husband Katsuie. Hideyoshi protected their three daughters who escaped from the castle. He intended to have Chacha as his concubine because she inherited the looks of her mother most among the three daughters.

She gave birth to Sutemaru (Tsurumatsu) in 1589. Hideyoshi was happy about her pregnancy and gave her Yodoko-jo Castle in Yamashiro Province, so she was called "Yodo-no-kata" thereafter. Tsurumatsu died in 1591, but after her giving birth to Hiroimaru (Hideyori) in 1593, she gave the important posts, guardians of Hideyori, to Okurakyo-no-tsubone and Aeba-no-tsubone after Hideyoshi's death, and she held the real power of the domestic economy of the Toyotomi clan.

When she gave birth to Tsurumatsu, she contributed a portrait of her parents to Jimyo-in Temple at Koya-san Mountain, and when Hideyori was born she erected Yogen-in Temple (Yogen-in was Ingo [a title given to a Buddhist] for Nagamasa AZAI, and Kaiki (founder) was Seihaku, a monk from the Toyotomi family) to mourn for the bodies of her parents and other relatives. After Hideyoshi died, she contributed to the restoration of temples in Koya-san Mountain and others.

Confrontation against Ieyasu TOKUGAWA and the Siege of Osaka
At the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 in which Gobugyo (five magistrates) member Mitsunari ISHIDA raised his army against Gotairo (Council of Five Elders) member Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, the direct control territory of the Toyotomi family was drastically reduced, though she was not related to the battle publicly.

After the Battle of Sekigahara, she confronted Ieyasu who started to construct a military government in Edo, and refused his requirement for Hideyori to show his vassalage and go to the capital, Kyoto City. Toyotomi was completely defeated by the Tokugawa force at the Siege of Osaka in 1614 and in 1615, and in the same year, she was considered to have committed suicide with Hideyori and Harunaga ONO when Osaka-jo Castle fell.

Graveyards of Chacha are in Yogen-in Temple in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City and in Taiyu-ji Temple in Kita Ward, Osaka City.
Her Kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist name) was 大虞院英厳大禅定尼、大虞院花顔妙香、大広院殿英嵓

However, nobody witnessed the last moments of Chacha or could confirm her corpse, thus another theory exists that she as well as Hideyori escaped and survived. Satsuma Province and Kozuke Province are known as the destinations of their escape, but whether they escaped or not has not been confirmed.


There are records showing that Yodo-dono and Harunaga ONO were foster brothers, and that their adultery was rumored. And thus, a theory has since been rumored that Hideyori was not Hideyoshi's own son but a son between Harunaga and Yodo-dono.

It is known that Yodo-dono invited her cousin Nobuo ODA, who was wandering around Kyoto City, to Osaka-jo Castle to allow him to live there, and when her younger sister Go remarried Hidetada TOKUGAWA, Yodo-dono adopted Sadako TOYOTOMI, a daughter between Go and her former husband Hidekatsu TOYOTOMI, and brought her up as her own child. She married Sadako off to Tadahide KUJO as her adopted child.

Her attitude at the Siege of Osaka that she did not let Hideyori go to the castle and she herself controlled and urged the soldiers to fight more vigorously frequently became a target of criticism, but it was not rare for women to go to the battle field during that era (however, it might have been a problem that the supreme commander never stood at the front of the battle). During the Siege of Osaka both in winter and summer, only Oda family, Katsumoto KATAGIRI and several others ran away as a result of opinion conflict, so Chacha considered to have had control of Osaka-jo Castle.

After Yodo-dono died, her waiting maids got together in front of her graveyard every year on the anniversary of her death and held secret memorial services. This custom was taken over by her descendants and still continues today.

The reason why Chacha banished Katsumoto KATAGIRI and Urakusai ODA who struggled to avoid a war as they knew the fight against Tokugawa meant the fall of the Toyotomi family, and furthermore refused the reconciliation scheme proposed by the Tokugawa side, has been attributed to her pride and obstinacy, but nowadays, we see such an explanation that although Yodo-dono accepted to become a hostage, the supreme commander Hideyori hated and denied the offer.

Three Waka that she composed at a cherry blossom viewing party at Daigo remain.

Cherry blossoms started to bloom for you, and I will also enjoy the most wonderful spring season in the world. Pine trees and cherry blossoms will stay proudly and bloom beautifully forever from today, as you are here. The cherry blossoms in full bloom are too beautiful to go back with you, I am looking at them musing about the future. When the Siege of Osaka occurred, she supported her daughter-in-law, Senhime, her younger sister, Joko-in, and many of her own waiting maids to escape from the castle.

From when the Siege of Osaka occurred, she was ill with depression caused by stress, and was suffering from headaches and strong pain in her breasts.

She had very good relationships with her younger sisters Hatsu and Go since their childhood. After the death of her mother Ichi, Chacha chided her two younger sisters, saying "You are princesses of the noble Azai family of Omi Province, so you should not behave in a graceless way."

Her mother Ichi was praised as the most beautiful woman in the Sengoku period. The eldest daughter Yodo-dono was said to have inherited her mother's looks and that she was a beautiful woman.

[Original Japanese]