Princess Yoshiko (Arisugawa-no-miya)

Princess Yoshiko (吉子女王, 28 October 1804 – 27 January 1893) was the younger sister of Prince Tsunahito of the Arisugawa-no-miya cadet branch of the Imperial House of Japan. Yoshiko was married to Tokugawa Nariaki, and was mother to the 10th Lord Yoshiatsu, and the 15th and final Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu.

Princess Yoshiko
A portrait of Japanese noble lady Yoshiko Tokugawa in the late 19th century.
Yoshiko in later life
BornArisugawa-no-miya Tomi
(1804-10-28)October 28, 1804
Died27 January 1893(1893-01-27) (aged 88)
Zuiryuzan temple, Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture
SpouseTokugawa Nariaki
  • Yoshiatsu (ja) (her eldest son)
  • Yoshinobu (her third son)
Tokugawa Yoshiko
HouseChiefs of the Tokugawa shogunate as:
MotherAndo Kiyoko
OccupationImperial princess, the first wife of feudal lord Tokugawa Nariaki of Mito Domain

Personal history


Yoshiko, the twelfth and youngest daughter of Prince Taruhito of the Arisugawa-no-miya family, was born of the union of her father and the courtesan Ando Kiyoko. She was called Princess Tomi (登美宮, Tomi no miya) as a child. She later moved to Edo from Kyoto, where her husband renamed her Teihoin (貞芳院) in case she were to be widowed. Upon her death, she was given the posthumous name Madam Bummei (文明夫人, Bummei fujin). She died in 1893 at the age of 88 in Tokyo. Tokugawa Yoshiko rests at the Zuiryusan temple, the official Bodhi temple of the Mito clan in Ibaraki Prefecture.[1]

In 1830, at the age of 27, Yoshiko was engaged to Nariaki, who was 37 but had not yet had his first wife as he had become the head of his clan just the year before. Princess Takako was said to have arranged the marriage, and Emperor Ninkō was recorded as having issued an approving comment on the political and educational pedigrees of the Mito branch of the Tokugawa clan. The Mito branch was further renowned for having enthusiastically supported the imperial system for generations, and the emperor gladly approved of the marriage.[2]

When Yoshiko moved to Edo and started leading the life of a samurai wife, she kept the attire of the imperial household for weeks after her marriage. In a portrait she posed for at the time, she wore a kosode and hakama, in the style of centuries past. In a letterbox with that portrait, Nariaki called his wife Yoshiko, instead Princess Yoshiko or other names. Among Nariaki's 37 children with four wives, Yoshiko was the mother of his first son, Yoshiatsu, his seventh son, Yoshinobu, and finally a daughter. A fourth child, born before Yoshinobu, died prematurely.

Yoshiko was known to be fluent in the arts, particularly waka poems, as well as Japanese calligraphy and the Arisugawa family heritage. Embroidery and playing music on the koto and the hichiriki were among her hobbies.[a] After relocating to Mito from Edo, she learned to fish at the river by the castle.[4]

Being an imperial princess and a sister-in-law of the twelfth shogun, Ieyoshi, high-ranking officials including Ii Naosuke and his followers in the Edo government were said to surveil her in case she advised either the shogun or the emperor on political issues.[b] After Nariaki was charged during the Ansei Purge for taking part in anti-shogun movements and detained in Mito for life in 1859, it took her three months to obtain permission and move from Edo to Mito. Widowed the next year, Yoshiko followed samurai custom and cut her hair short and made a pabbajja, retiring from social activities, and was renamed as Teiho-in (貞芳院).

Later life

Kobuntei villa in Mito city

Between 1869 and 1873 (second and sixth years of Meiji), Yoshiko resided in the Kobuntei Villa in Kairaku-en garden, which her late husband opened. Her stepson Akitake invited Yoshiko to live in his mansion at Koume, Tokyo, which was the shimo-yashiki, or the second official residence of the Mito clan in Edo.[7] While the samurai custom prohibited Yoshiko from living with her only surviving natural son, Yoshinobu, they did exchange letters. Yoshinobu had been adopted to the Hitotsubashi family when he was eleven [8] to be entitled as an heir to the shogunate so that he was no longer regarded as Yoshiko's "direct family".[4]

It took years for Yoshiko to overcome the prejudice among Meiji politicians as being anti-government, and for being the mother of Yoshinobu who had opened fire against the government supporters in Kyoto. Additionally, the Mito clan was radically against opening the country to foreign relations and trades. As the emperor governed the Meiji government, Yoshiko had been distanced from her kin in Kyoto[c] before she regained family ties with her grand nephew Prince Taruhito of the Arisugawa family (ja) (1835 – 1895). After she moved to Tokyo, Prince Taruhito wrote in his diary that after January 1873, Yoshiko invited the Prince to her residence and sent gifts when she heard Taruhito was ill and also when the engagement of Prince Taruhito was publicized in June 1873.[10]

Yoshiko recovered her social status when late Nariaki was honored with the rank of Sho-ni-i (ja) or the Second Rank of Honor, posthumously in 1873 and commemorated the occasion by giving Prince Taruhito a handcrafted stationery.[11] When Prince Taruhito lost his first wife Sadako to illness in 1872, Yoshiko mourned the death of her stepdaughter. She offered condolences, arranging an extended family reunion of the children of Nariaki for the deceased, with Prince Taruhito as the guest of honor. The eldest surviving son, Ikeda Yoshinori (ja), who was the lord of Tottori domain, offered his residence, inviting Akitake (Sadako's natural brother), Atsuyoshi (Yoshiatsu's son), Matsudaira Tadakazu (Shimabara domain), Tsuchiya Tsugunao (Tsuchiura domain) among others.[12] Princess Ei, the wife of Akitake, who was Taruhito's pupil of calligraphy, joined them.[d]

Madam Bummei, her posthumous name, was given by her husband Nariaki before his death.

See also



  1. ^ As Yoshiko's marriage to a feudal lord was to join a lower social rank compared to the imperial household, it meant she would never come back to Kyoto, and visited the palace to bid farewell to her relatives and left a waka poem.[3]

    While the cherry blossoms will be at the peak in the remote place, / let the sweet smell reach above the clouds to the palace. (天ざかるひなにはあれど櫻花/雲の上まで咲き匂はなん
    , Amazakaru hina niwa aredo sakurabana / kumo no ue made saki niowanan)

  2. ^ In July, 1858 (Ansei 5th), the ko-metsuke (junior censor or intelligent survey officer) wrote the following statement to "Tairo" (ja) and Rōjū, the top rank officials.

    "Because for the temperament of Lady Behind the Screen (= Tomi-no-miya Yoshiko),[5] she often writes to those she cares about on various topics, and that extends naturally to the housemaids or homemakers under her supervision, but even concerning controversial political topics related to home affairs or the maritime defenses. While the recent policy of the government was quite reasonable, it is said that she was quite upset with that arrangement.[6] As she is a relative to Prince Nikko the Monk, it seems that both share the same sentiment. It is rumored that she wrote a letter to Kyoto (Imperial court)."

    This letter would be the evidence that not only in homemaking of a feudal household Yoshiko was deeply involved in politics as well as interested in national defense matters.
  3. ^ In February 1869, her great-niece Yoshiko (28 March 1851 – 4 January 1895) by her brother's son Prince Arisugawa Takahito was married with Ii Naonori (22 May 1848 – 9 January 1904). Naonori's father was Ii Naosuke, who ordered Nariaki's detainment in Mito.[9]
  4. ^ Princess Ei was born to aristocrat Nakanoin Michitoyo (ja) and raised in Kyoto like Yoshiko was. They shared the aristocratic culture of Kyoto.


  1. ^ Akimoto 2008, p. 162.
  2. ^ Takamatsu-no-miyake 1938.
  3. ^ Anthology 1939, p. 18.
  4. ^ a b Shiba 1998, pp. 129–152.
  5. ^ "Lady Behind the Screen (御簾中, Go-renchū)" was an honorific originally attached to those of imperial household during Heian period (794 – 1185). As it had propagated among samurai leaders, the Edo government restricted the use under the feudal ranking system, and only the first wives of Shoguns and those of the lords of prominent Three Families or Gosanke were known by that name. Later, the closest Shōgun family household was extended to include Gosankyo, first wives of those lords were also called gorenjū: they were married to the heirs in line of Tokugawa Yoshimune's three sons, who had resided at Shimizu, Tayasu, and Hitotsubashi quarters inside the Edo castle properties.
  6. ^ The "recent policy" an intelligent survey officer mentioned in his letter implied to the Treaty of Amity and Commerce signed with the US the month that letter was sent.
  7. ^ Tokugawa Residents 2011, pp. 71–77.
  8. ^ Kirino, Sakujin (1998). "§5 Taikun to ason no hazama de [Being a Taikun and an Ason]". Kokō no shōgun tokugawa yoshinobu: Mito no ko arisugawanomiya no mago ni umarete [Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the solitary Shogun : Born to Mito domain, a grandson of Arisugawa Prince] (in Japanese). OCLC 675593854.ISBN 4087811573, 9784087811575
  9. ^ Haga, Noboru; Ichibangase, Yasuko; Nakajima, Kuni; Soda, Koichi (1993). Nihon josei jinmei jiten [Japan Women's Who's Who]. Nihon Tosho Center.NCID BN09249637
  10. ^ Prince Taruhito diary 1935, pp. 7, 11, 27, 45, 83, 202.
  11. ^ Prince Taruhito diary 1935, p. 213.
  12. ^ Prince Taruhito diary 1935, pp. 221–222.


  • Taruhito of Takamatu-no-miya (1935). Taruhito Shinnō nikki [Prince Taruhito Diary]. Vol. 2. Takamatu-no-miya Household. pp. 7, 11, 27, 45, 83, 202, 213, 221–222. Retrieved 2019-06-09. Between Keio 4th and Meiji 14th (1868–1881) Taruhito Shinnō nikki (熾仁親王日記)
  • Akimoto, Shigeharu (2008). "Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the 15th shogun : natural mother Yoshiko". Tokugawa shōgun-ke bohi sōran [Headstones of the Tokugawa Shogun family]. Osaka: Parēdo. p. 162. OCLC 675728533.ISBN 9784434114885, 4434114883
  • 茨城県教育会 (1939). Ibaraki Board of Education (ed.). Aishō-shū engi [My Favorite Waka Poems Anthology]. Mito: Ibaraki Board of Education. p. 18. doi:10.11501/1437963. OCLC 673118728. JPNO 44042091. Aishō-shu engi (愛誦集衍義) Japanese binding
  • Taruhito shinnō gyōjitsu. Tokyo: Takamatsu-no-miya household. 1938. OCLC 682955379.
  • Takase, Shinkei (1905). "Toyama Kyoshu-ou monogatari narabini Teihoin dai-fujin no gosho". Mito shidan: Koro jitsureki fu kino no yume [Kyoshu Toyama Story and the Calligraphy of Great Madam Teihoin]. Chugai Toshokyoku. OCLC 672446921.
  • Nishimura, Bunsoku (1944). "Rekkō fujin Teihō-in". Mitogaku zuihitsu [Madam Teihō-in, the Widow of the late Lord Rekkō: Essays of Mito Philosophy]. Tokyo: Shōwa Kankōkai. pp. 128–138. doi:10.11501/1038547. OCLC 39919766. JPNO 46001378.
  • Shiba, Katsurako (September 1998). "Tokugawa Yoshinobu no haha Teiho-in Yoshiko to oku-jochu Nishimiya Hide" [Thoughts about women in Edo era]. Edo-ki Onna Kou (9). Katsura bunko: 129–152. doi:10.11501/1835480. ISSN 1343-6821. OCLC 5174478406. JPNO 00081734. Shogun mother Teiho-in Yoshiko and lady servant Hide Nishimiya (徳川慶喜の母貞芳院吉子と奥女中西宮秀)
  • Hirota, Yoshitaka (2012-03-30). "(Kenkyu nōto) Meiji zenki no "Kishin no cha no yu": "Taruhito Shinnō Nikki" oyobi "Higashikuze Michitomi Nikki" ni miru kissa bunka no jōkyō" [Aristocratic Tea ceremony in the Early Meiji Era : Tea Culture in the "Diary of Prince Arisugawa-no-miya Takahito" and the "Diariy of Higashikuze Michitomi"]. Nihon Kenkyu. 45: 185–236. doi:10.15055/00000465. OCLC 998016213. Retrieved 2019-07-05.
  • Matsudoshi Tojō Rekishikan, ed. (2011). Tokugawa akitake no yashiki Yoshinobu no sumai: Matsudoshi Tojō Rekishikan kikakuten. Akitake Tokugawa, Yoshinobu Tokugawa (contributors). Matsudo: Matsudoshi Tojō History Museum. pp. 71–77. OCLC 796783371. - Special exhibition on the residences of Akitake and Yoshinobu.

Further reading


Exhibition catalogs

  • Tokugawa, Yoshinobu - exhibition booklet (1998)
  • Tojō Rekishikan 1992. Shōgun no fotogurafī. FREE (ed), Matsudo : Tojo Rekishikan Museum. OCLC 675182337 An exhibition catalog.
  • Saigo no shōgun Tokugawa Yoshinobu: Matsudo shisei shikō 55-shūnen, Meiji 130-shūnen kinen. Matsudo-shi Tojō Rekishikan, Matsudo-shi (Japan), Matsudo-shi Kyōiku Iinkai, and JAC Project (eds.). 1998. Matsudo: Matsudo-shi Tojō Rekishikan. OCLC 42073815 - A catalog for the special exhibition : the reconstructed Messengers' Room and Attendants' Room in the Tojō-tei mansion. Sponsored by Matsudo City and Matsudo Board of Education, held at Matsudo-shi Tojō Rekishikan, 28 April- 21 June 1998.
  • The special exhibition commemorating the 200th birthday anniversary of Kichizaemon : Ukai Kichizaemon Kōkichi to bakumatsu. (1998) Bisai : Museum of History and Anthropology (aka Bisaishi Rekishi Minzoku Shiryōkan) (ed). - Exhibition catalog no.51. OCLC 675921057
  • Bakumatsu Nihon to Tokugawa Nariaki: Heisei 20-nendo tokubetsuten. (2008) Ibaraki Kenritsu Rekishikan (ed). Mito, Ibaraki: Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History. OCLC 727610501