Eishoin (December 17, 1578 - September 17, 1642) was Ieyasu TOKUGAWA's concubine. It is believed that his father was Yasusuke OTA who was the Satomi clan's old retainer and was a grandson of Dokan OTA; and his father was Naokage TOYAMA (the Left Gate Watch, the son of Masakage TOYAMA,) the keeper of Edo-jo Castle. There is another belief that Yasusuke OTA adopted a daughter of Shigemichi EDO, the territorial lord in the Warring States period in Hitachi Province, who lost his territories in control because of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and was staying with the Yuki clan.
Shigemasa OTA was one of her elder brothers, who is included in the Toyama clan's family trees (refer to the Musashi-Toyama clan in "Record of Family Trees") and may have been raised on the mother side of his family (the Toyama clan) with Eishoin after his father's death like as if the both had been a brother and sister. Shigemasa's mother was Hosshoin (a wife of Yasusuke OTA), a daughter of Tsunakage TOYAMA. The time when Eishoin identified herself as Shigemasa's younger sister was not so much early. In any case her origin are not considered to be certain due to the multiple theories are being around as mentioned above. Her name during childhood may have been 'Ohatsu'.
Afterward, she was called 'Okaru' and 'Sho', and after took the tonsure and enter the priesthood, she identified herself as 'Eishoin.'
Ieyasu TOKUGAWA was transferred to Edo by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and was proactively engaged in recruiting the descendants of old reputable families in Kanto.
The Toyama clan (according to another belief, it was the Ota clan who was connected with Dokan), who was the keeper of Edo-jo Castle, was included in the descendants, and she is thought to have served for Ieyasu at her young age (around thirteen) (based on her age, it is pure supposition that she would have served Ieyasu as his concubine from the beginning.)
(It is certain she was not at least a female office concubine).
Some people say that her serving for Ieyasu was recommended by Toshikage TOYAMA (the Akechi-Toyama) who was from the same Toyama clan (the Musashi-Toyama clan was originally the Akechi-Toyama clan; refer to "Naokage TOYAMA") and was a hereditary direct vassal to the Tokugawa shogunate, or by Tenkai who was assumed to be her older brother (he used the same family crest as that used by the Toyama clan). She was called 'Okaru (Hatsu),' and her intelligence won Ieyasu's affection. Although she was married to Masatsuna MATSUDAIRA for a while, she was soon taken back to Ieyasu. It is thought that the reason was because she was found to be pregnant with Ieyasu's child, but this is pure supposition.
She gave birth to the sixth and the last daughter of Ieyasu, Ichihime in January 1607, at the age of thirty. Ichihime was engaged with Toragikumaru (later, Tadamune DATE), a son of Masamune DATE, but she died very young at the age of four. Ieyasu felt sorry for Okaru and arranged her to adopt Yorifusa TOKUGAWA who was born from Yojuin (also known as Man), Tadamasa MATSUDAIRA, the second son of Hideyasu YUKI and Furihime (a daughter of Terumasa IKEDA) who was a grandchild from a daughter married into another family.
After Ieyasu's death, she entered into priesthood and was called 'Eishoin,' and lived in the female Buddhist disciple residence in Edo Tayasu. She received a piece of land located in Ogigayatsu, Kamakura, Sagami Province (Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture) from Iemitsu TOKUGAWA in 1634, that was Dokan OTA's old territory where his house existed before, and built Eisho-ji Temple there as a family temple and became the chief priest. She died at the age of 65.
Her Buddhist name was Eishoinden Choyo Seishun Daizenjoni (英勝院殿長誉清春大禅定尼). Her graveyard is at Eisho-ji Temple.
There are a lot of episodes which reminisce on her intelligence. Some episodes were created and exaggerated in later years, and others were mixed up with episodes related to other concubines, but they are all thought to prove how much Ieyasu loved her.
What Tastes Good Is Salt but What Tastes Bad Is Salt.
When Ieyasu abruptly asked his retainers at a party 'What is the most delicious food?,' each of the retainers answered; then, Ieyasu also asked Okaru who was attending by Ieyasu, she answered, 'It's salt.'
As she said 'It is impossible to adjust the taste without salt,' everyone was impressed by her unique explanation. As he asked Okaru, 'What is the worst food?,' without hesitation, she said 'It's also salt.
However delicious the food is, it is not good for eating with too much salt in it.'
Accompanying Ieyasu during wartime
Okaru in a male outfit went on horseback to accompany Ieyasu at the time the Battle of Sekigahara and the Siege of Osaka broke out.
After his victory at the Battle of Sekigahara, Ieyasu even made her change her name to 'Sho (literally, victory).'
There is an episode that when Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI was alive, Okaru who was held hostage in Osaka-jo Castle got out of the castle without other people's support and went back to Ieyasu on horseback, but obviously, this will be a fiction.
One of the reasons why Okaru received Ieyasu's affection was her economical lifestyle. A kimono with short sleeves she used to wear was repeatedly washed and cleaned, and she would hardly have put on a new one. She regularly insisted that to save wealth was very important because it should be distributed to the people of the country, and that this would prevent a country's wealth from running short through the generations of their offspring. According to episodses, Ieyasu entrusted her with the management of most of the inner affairs of Sunpu-jo Castle, even leaving her a cashbox key.
Relation with Kasuga no Tsubone
Regarding her relations with Kasuga no Tsubone, an episode states that Eishoin set up an occasion for Kasuga no Tsubone to meet Ieyasu who was staying in Sunpu to assist her in Iemitsu becoming a successor of Hidetada. After Ieyasu's death, Eishoin reached the highest post of a female officer as well as Kasuga no Tsubone. In the wedding ceremony, the basket which carried Eishoin was ahead of Kasuga no Tsubone's basket, which tells how politely and importantly Eishoin was treated in the Tokugawa family.
Originator of the Restoration of the Ota Clan
Okaru adopted Sukemune OTA, a son of Shigemasa, who was believed to be her older brother, and arranged him to serve for Hidetada TOKUGAWA as in the rank of a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family. Sukemune who had been favorably promoted and favored by Iemitsu TOKUGAWA was assigned for a managerial position in Edo bakufu initially called 'Rokuninshu' later called 'Wakadoshiyori,' and became a lord of the Yamakawa Domain, Shimotsuke Province which yielded 15,600 koku in rice. After Sukemune continued to take the posts including an official in charge of ceremonies, he finally rose to the lord of the Hamamatsu Domain, Totoumi Province which yielded 35,000 koku in rice, and his offspring continued to take important posts in the bakufu such as a member of shogun's council of elders and became a viscount after the Meiji Restoration. It can be said that thanks to Eishoin, the Ota clan which was about to fall, survived through the Meiji period, being the early modern feudal lord.
Eisho-ji Temple is a Jodo sect temple in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture and its title prefixed to the temple name is Mt. Tokozan. It is still the only nunnery temple in Kamakura.
The temple, which had been under the aegis of Yorifusa TOKUGAWA and Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, and founded with Gyokuho Seiin (Sarahime, a daughter of Yorifusa TOKUGAWA) in the post of the chief priest, continued to invite daughters from Mito Tokugawa family for the chief priest post, which seemed to be why it called 'Mito Goten Palace' or 'nunnery temple of Mito.'
The family crest of Hollyhock is seen on the Buddhist sanctum, the hall dedicated to the souls of ancestors, the Chinese-style gate and the bell tower, all of which are Prefecture designated important cultural properties for Kanagawa Prefecture.