Kikunomae (菊の前)

Kikunomae (year of birth unknown - April 24, 1585) was the lawful wife of Tokinari YAMADA, the lord of Yamada-jo Castle. She was also called Okikugozen.

Summary

Background of Kikunomae including her origin and achievements during her lifetime is unknown except that she was the lawful wife of Tokinari YAMADA.

In the Battle of Usubagahara, which was the all-out war between the Utsunomiya clan and the Nasu clan broke out on April 24, 1585, her husband Tokinari YAMADA died in the battlefield and Yamada-jo Castle where she and her husband lived was defeated by the army of the Nasu clan. Kikunomae fled the castle accompanied by the chief retainer Shinzaemon YAMADA who was killed when he defended her front, and hid in the mountain called Hanamidoya. As the pursuers approached, Kikunomae and her eleven lady attendants leaped from the bluff called Taikoiwa into the Hokigawa River on the north of the mountain to death.

Yamada Kanoraiki (a historical record on the area of Yamada) describes as follows:

The place called Juni Gozen is the site of the Battle of Usubagahara where Kikunomae, the lawful wife of Chikugo no kami Tokinari YAMADA, the lord of Yamada-jo Castle, and her lady attendants escaped from the pursuers and got stuck at the bluff and leaped hand in hand into the depth of Hoki-gawa River on the 15th day (error for 25th) of the 3rd month of the 13th year of the Tensho era (corresponds to April 24, 1585).

The site of the tragedy of 12 ladies is now called 'Juni Gozen.'

Sequel

After the Battle, the villagers of Sekine-mura, a village at the foot of the mountain (present Koaza Sekine, Oaza Yamada, Yaita City, Tochigi Prefecture), held a memorial service for Kikunomae and her lady attendants. According to a legend that the night Kikunomae killed herself was the 12th night on a lunar calendar, the villagers called the day 'Juniya Gozen' (literary, the lady of 12th night) and build a shrine with straw and humbly gave offerings including rice on 12th day of January among other months in those days; Yamada Kanoraiki wrote that there were formerly seven to eight houses in the village, but in the latter half of the Edo period when the document was written, only two houses were left; and now, as the Sekine-mura village has been defunct, the memorial service is no longer carried out, and the tragedy and the site called 'Juni Gozen' have been mostly forgotten.

In Yamada area, there is a site of temple which used to be a big temple but now ruined and only used as a graveyard with oval tombstones that are supposedly the graves of the chief priests of the temple and gravestones composed of five pieces piled up one upon another that are supposedly the graves of the Yamada clan standing in the center--one of the graves might have been built for Kikunomae, but it is uncertain.