Saionji Kintsune (西園寺公経)

Kintsune SAIONJI (1171 -October 2, 1244) was a Kamakura-period court noble and poet. His father was FUJIWARA no Sanemune. His mother was the daughter of Motoie JIMYOIN. Kintsune was the progenitor of the Saionji family.

He was on intimate terms with the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), as evidenced by his marriage to Masako, daughter of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo's younger sister's husband, Yoshiyasu ICHIJO, and after the third Shogun, MINAMOTO no Sanetomo--who was also Yoritomo's own child--was assassinated, Kintsune's grandchild by his daughter, FUJIWARA no Yoritsune, was made Shogunal successor. He was held in confinement by Retired Emperor Gotoba during the Jokyu War, but managed to alert the bakufu of what was happening in advance, and thereby contributed to the bakufu's eventual victory. After the war, his bond with the bakufu became stronger than ever, so that in 1222 he was promoted to High Chancellor and raised to Juichii (Junior First Rank) the following year in 1223, until he, along with his adopted son-in-law, Michiie KUJO, controlled all the real power at the imperial court. He also worked as Kanto Moshitsugi, or Shogunal Liaison at Court, exerting himself to mediate between bakufu and court. When Emperor Shijo, Michiie's grandson through his daughter, passed away, Kintsune's granddaughter Kitsushi became Emperor Gosaga's Empress, whereby Kintsune became maternal relatives with Imperial Prince Hisahito (who later became Emperor Gofukakusa). With this, the Saionji family established their precedent of producing Empresses, and in addition, used this as the impetus to forge close ties between the Jimyoin imperial lineage (the genealogy beginning with Emperor Gofukakusa) and the bakufu. In his final years, discord arose between him and Michiie regarding government policies and over plans for court appointments, and then Kanetsune KONOE, who became Sekkan (Regent) after Michiie, married Michiie's daughter, but thereafter Kintsune saw to it that Yoshizane KUJO (whom Kintsune had raised), who got along even worse with Michiie despite being Michiie's second son, was installed as Sekkan, insuring he could continue to manipulate court appointments as he saw fit. Kintsune had the rare honor of being the grandfather of the Shogun, the Emperor, the Empress, and the Sekkan. TAIRA no Tsunetaka, who was at Kintsune's death, called Kintsune 'the world's most cunning, wicked minister' in his writings.

The family name Saionji comes from the fact that Kintsune had a temple called Saionji built in the vicinity of the modern-day Kinkaku-ji Temple (or more properly, Rokuon-ji Temple) in Kyoto. Starting with Kintsune, the Saionji family became hereditary holders of the Kanto Moshitsugi (shogunal liaison to court) position for the rest of the Kamakura period. He had four children, each of whom became the founder of a separate branch of the family: the Saionji, the Shimizudani, the Toin, and the Yotsutsuji families, respectively.