Inokuma Incident (猪熊事件)

The Inokuma Incident was a big scandal involving high-ranking officers of the Imperial Court in 1609 the early Edo period. The incident not only disclosed the wild license of court nobles but even triggered tightened control of the Imperial Court by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a Shogun) and abdication of Emperor Goyozei.

Unparalleled handsome man
Sakone no shosho (officer of the Imperial guard department) Noritoshi INOKUMA, a court noble in Kyoto, was renowned for his allegedly 'unparalleled' handsomeness, likened to Hikaru Genji, hero of the Tale of Genji, or ARIWARA no Narihira whose love affairs were well known in the Heian period. His hair style and way of tying the sash, which embodied the then fashionable 'kabukimono' (dandy) spirit were called Inokuma-yo (Inokuma style) and are said to have led the mode in Kyoto.
However, he had also been notorious for his itch for women; having intrigues even with married women and ladies serving in the Imperial Court; he was alleged to be the 'No. 1 rake among court nobles.'

In February and March 1607, his adultery with a court lady was revealed, and the infuriated Emperor Goyozei punished him by chokkan (expulsion from around the Emperor). Inokuma was expelled and once disappeared from Kyoto, but he is said to have returned to the capital unnoticed by others. He never improved in conduct, and invited noble colleagues to repeated adultery with court ladies.

Unveiling of depravity of court nobles
Sakone gon no shosho (temporary officer of the Imperial guard department) Tadanaga KAZANIN fell in love with Hirohashi no tsubone (a daughter of buke tenso (liaison officer between the Imperial Court and the Bakufu) and Dainagon (chief councilor of state) Kanekatsu HIROHASHI)) who was in an emperor's favor. Then he asked dentist Bingo KANEYASU (whose younger sister Sanuki was serving in the court as a myobu (high-ranking court lady)), who had been allowed admission to the inner quarters of the Court, to go between in the exchange of letters between the lovers, who then began direct meetings with each other. Hearing a rumor of this affair, Inokuma was keenly interested and glibly tempted other court nobles and ladies including his close friend Masakata ASUKAI, and they repeated promiscuous sexual relations in various places.

However, it was impossible to keep such sexual relations secret among so many persons, and in July and August 1609 information on the fact reached the ears of Emperor Goyozei to his vehement wrath. Shrewd in his sense of timing, Inokuma fled straight to Kyushu as soon as he knew its disclosure. His plan is said to have been an escape to Korea of the Rhee Dynasty.

Intervention by Kyoto Shoshidai (Shogunate's military governor in Kyoto)
An infuriated Emperor Goyozei demanded all the participants in the promiscuous relations be sentenced to death, but no traditional law governing court nobles provided for capital punishment. Moreover, the power of the Edo bakufu had been penetrating its control over court nobles, and even the authority of criminal investigation also rested with the Bakufu. Hearing of the scandal, retired Shogun Ieyasu TOKUGAWA ordered Kyoto Shoshidai Katsushige ITAKURA and his third son Shigemasa ITAKURA to investigate into the matter.

Along with the progress of investigation, it turned out that an unexpectedly large number of persons were involved, and this gave rise to a fear that condemning all of them to death penalty might invite chaos. Also, the Empress Dowager (real mother of Emperor Goyozei) Haruko KAJUJI's petition for a lenient disposition reached Shoshidai. In view of these circumstances, Ieyasu in Sunpu and Katsushige in Kyoto, keeping close contact with each other, worked out their proposal for the punishment of the court nobles.

In September and October, Noritoshi INOKUMA hiding in Hyuga Province was caught and taken under guard to Kyoto.

Punishment of court nobles
On October 20, Shoshidai Katsushige ITAKURA back from Sunpu announced the following proposal for the punishment of eight court nobles, five court ladies and one jige (lower class noble) involved in the scandal.

Death sentence
Sakone no shosho Noritoshi INOKUMA
Dentist Bingo KANEYASU

Banishment
Sakone gon no chujo (temporary officer of the Imperial guard department) Yorikuni OINOMIKADO to be banished to Io-jima Island (Kagoshima Prefecture)
Sakone gon no shosho (temporary officer of the Imperial guard department) Tadanaga KAZANIN to be banished to Matsumae Domain in Ezo
Sakone gon no shosho Masakata ASUKAI to be banished to Oki Province
Sakone gon no shosho Munekatsu NANBA to be banished to Izu Province
Ukone gon no shosho (temporary officer of the Imperial guard department) Munenobu NAKAMIKADO to be banished to Io-jima Island
Hirohashi no Tsubone in Shindai naishi no tsukasa (new and superior officer of the Imperial guard department) to be banished to Nii-jima Island of Izu
Gon tenshi (temporary maid of honor) Nakanoin no Tsubone to be banished to Nii-jima Island of Izu
Minase in Naishi no tsukasa (Emperor's secretary section) to be banished to Nii-jima Island of Izu
Tenshi (maid of honor) Karahashi no Tsubone to be banished to Nii-jima Island of Izu
Myobu (lower class court lady) Sanuki to be banished to Nii-jima Island of Izu

Pardon
Sangi (councilor) Mitsuhiro KARASUMARU
Ukone gon no shosho Sanehisa TOKUDAIJI

Although Emperor Goyozei was very much dissatisfied with this proposal, court nobles and other influential members of the Imperial Court including Shinjotomon-in approved of it, and the penal sentence was finalized. On November 13, Inokuma and Kaneyasu were beheaded at the Jozen-ji Temple and on the bank of the Kamo-gawa River, respectively.

Consequences of the affair
Emperor Goyozei, persuaded by his aides into accepting the Bakufu's lukewarm proposal against his demand for capital punishment of all the persons involved, despaired at the circumstances which were out of his control and began to speak of abdication quite often.

The Emperor had wished to abdicate his throne in favor of his younger brother Imperial Prince Toshihito HACHIJONOMIYA, but the Bakufu, the arch enemy of the Toyotomi family, was against his wish, as the Prince had been once a yushi (an adopted son in an old Japanese way) of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and it also was the intention of Ieyasu who wanted judai (entering the Imperial Palace after an official ceremony) of Kazuko TOKUGAWA, a daughter of Hidetada TOKUGAWA, as a consort of Emperor Gomizunoo, a son of Emperor Goyozei, with the consequence that the Emperor was not free even to abdicate. Eventually, the Emperor's abdication in favor of Imperial Prince Kotohito was postponed until 1611.

Meanwhile the Bakufu, worried by the lax morals of court nobles, realized the importance of controlling them more strictly, resulting in the institution of Kugeshu hatto (the regulatory law for court nobles) in 1613 and further leading to that of Kinchu narabini kuge shohatto (the regulatory laws for the Emperor and court nobles) in 1615.

Literary works taking themes from Inokuma Incident
"Aoi Tokugawa Sandai" (Three Generations of Tokugawa Having Hollyhock as Family Crest), Episode 23 Kyuchu Judai Jiken (Some Serious Affair in the Imperial Court) and Episode 24 Yabo no Wa (A Circle of Ambitions)
The TV-adapted story differs from historical facts in that, in the TV play, even the name of Noritoshi INOKUMA is not mentioned, Karahashi no Tsubone is a naishi no jo (a woman officer who carries the Emperor's sword when accompanying him out of the Palace), Bingo KANEYASU is a watchdog at the Okunomon (Inside Gate), the destination of banishment of Tadanaga KAZANIN is Tsugaru, the punishment of court nobles was intended by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA to expel pro-Toyotomi nobles from the Imperial Court, and Ieyasu TOKUGAWA disagreed to Emperor Goyozei's proposal only to restrain the behaviors of Hirohashi no Tsubone and other court ladies and instead ordered them to be banished (this means that Emperor Goyozei's proposal for punishment had been more lenient).