Imperial Princess Yasuiko (恬子内親王)

Imperial Princess Yasuiko (ca. 848 - July 29, 913) was the thirty-first Saigu (Imperial Princess appointed to serve the deities of the Ise-jingu Shrine) of Ise. Her father was Emperor Montoku and her mother was a Koi (Imperial consort as a lady-in waiting) called KI no Shizuko. Imperial Prince Koretaka was her maternal elder brother.

With the accession of Emperor Seiwa in 859, Imperial Princess Yasuiko was selected to be the Saigu by divination and travelled down to Ise in 861. According to "Sandai Jitsuroku" (the True History of the Three Reigns of Japan), the ceremony for her dispatch to Ise as a Saigu was conducted not by the Emperor himself, but by his deputy, FUJIWARA no Yoshimi (Yoshiau), who was Udaijin (Minister of the Right).

In February 866, the princess's mother the Koi Shizuko passed away, but she was not granted retirement, which did not materialize until Emperor Seiwa abdicated the throne to Emperor Yozei in 876.

In April 877, her younger sister Imperial Princess Chinshi (Yoshiko) died. Imperial Princess Yasuiko seems to have lived a relatively long life. After Emperor Yozei the emperor changed three times. She lived to see the reign of Emperor Daigo.

Some have suggested that the title of "the Tales of Ise," one of the classical works of Japan, was derived from the figure of Imperial Princess Yasuiko.

Imperial Princess Yasuiko in "the Tales of Ise"

The princess appears as 'a woman who was the saigu' in Section Sixty-Nine. In this episode, the woman (Imperial Princess Yasuiko) received a letter from her parent (who is generally assumed to have been KI no Shizuko). According to the letter, the Emperor would soon dispatch a hunting envoy to Ise, and she was told to give them a special reception (This hunting envoy is believed to have been ARIWARA no Narihira, her cousin's husband and Emperor Heizei's grandson). According to the letter, the Emperor would soon dispatch a hunting envoy to Ise, and she was told to give them a special reception.
(This hunting envoy is believed to have been ARIWARA no Narihira, her cousin's husband and Emperor Heizei's grandson.)
She received him respectfully and cordially as instructed by her parent. He fell in love with her, impressed by her hearty welcome.
And he said to her, 'I should like to see you in private.'
Apparently she was also attracted to him. Though she did not entertain the idea of 'refusing to see him,' she was kept from doing so as she was surrounded by many people. Apparently she was also attracted to him. Though she did not entertain the idea of 'refusing to see him,' she was kept from doing so as she was surrounded by many people. Yet around midnight when everyone was asleep, preceded by a little girl, she went to the chamber in which he was spending a sleepless night, thinking of her. He gladly invited her into his room. They were together till two or three o'clock in the morning without saying a word to each other (attaining their desire), until finally she left him. After that he was too sad to sleep. The next day he could not help thinking of her, but there was no way he could enquire for her. He felt forlorn waiting for her.
Thereupon he received the following verse from her:

"Did you come and see me last night? Or did I go and see you? Was our meeting a dream or reality?"

Reading this verse without the explanation, he cried bitterly and composed the following line:

"I have been tormented by my burning love for you. Let us see tonight if that was a dream or reality."

He sent it to her. He went out on a hunti, but he was absent-minded all day, impatiently waiting for the night to come. However, the governor of Ise who also acted as the Chief of the Office of the Consecrated Princess heard that the hunting envoy was in the country and invited the party for a feast that lasted all night. He could not see her again.

Imperial Princess Yasuiko after "the Tales of Ise"

In "the Tale of Ise," 'the hunting envoy' and 'the woman who was saigu' could not consummate their love. In another rendition however, they had an affair that night and the princess became pregnant. The Office of the Consecrated Princess, fearing the discovery of this unprecedented scandal, decided to make Shigenori TAKASHINA, the son of Mineo TAKASHINA, governor of Ise and the head of the Office and have him adopt the child when it was born. The child was named Moronao TAKASHINA. However, there is no historical document to attest to the fact that Narihira was dispatched as the hunting envoy to Ise. Though he was the handsome grandson of an emperor, he was senior to the princess's father, Emperor Montoku and inferior to her in rank. Whether the saigu, unmarried imperial princess, in fact fell in love with him may be disputable.