Nohime (濃姫)

Nohime (1535 - August 5, 1612), was the daughter of Dosan SAITO and lawful wife of Nobunaga ODA. According to "Mino no Kuni Shokyuki" (the Chronicles of Mino Province) which was compiled during the Edo period, and other sources, Kicho was apparently her posthumous name.

About her name

It is noted in "Mino no Kuni Shokyuki" that she was known as 'Sagiyama-dono,' but it is also possible to speculate that she was known as 'Iguchi-dono' or 'Kinka-dono,' because it is understood that she was born and raised in Gifu-jo Castle, which was also called 'Inabayama-jo Castle,' and had nicknames including 'Iguchi-jo Castle' and 'Kinkayama-jo Castle' at the time. But it is also possible that she moved into Sagiyama-jo Castle before her marriage in 1548 with her father Dosan SAITO who used the castle as his retreat for his old age, because it is also clear that Nohime and Magoshiro SAITO and Kiheiji SAITO, who are considered to be her younger brothers, lived at Inabayama-jo Castle at the time.
If that was the case, it is only appropriate for her to be called 'Sagiyama-dono.'
Another possible reason it would make sense for her to be called 'Sagiyama-dono' is that her marriage procession may have departed from Sagiyama-jo Castle where her parents lived even after she continued to live at Inabayama-jo Castle. In addition, there is a possibility that she was simply called 'Sagiyama-dono' after her father Dosan's castle.

Her common 'Nohime' means 'a woman of high class from Mino Province' and it is believed that she went by the common name after she married, but there is a theory that the name was given in later years.


Her father was Dosan SAITO and her mother was Ominokata, the daughter of Mitsutsugu AKECHI. There is a theory that she and Mitsuhide AKECHI were cousins to each other, but it cannot be determined because the first half of the life of Mitsuhide remains unknown.

In general, she is considered to be an intelligent and composed woman and to have served as a good wife for Nobunaga, but she was not necessarily an obedient one. This image of her apparently became widespread because of a novel by Sohachi YAMAOKA. In addition, Nobunaga highly appreciated his wife's supportive role at home as she reprimanded a vassal who lived apart from his wife and tried to mediate in an argument between Hideyoshi HASHIBA and his wife, but much of her real character remains obscure because there are hardly any records about Nohime as Nobunaga's wife.

She married Nobunaga as a matter of political strategy on March 23, 1549. It is commonly viewed that she bore him no children, but there is no way to confirm whether they really had none, because the biological mothers of many of Nobunaga's children were unknown. There are a genealogy that shows that they had a daughter and literature that she gave birth. But currently, these data are disregarded because they are not of primary sources.

Her character remains obscure as described earlier, and there are various theories about her life after she married into the Oda clan, with one theory saying she died young and another saying she divorced. There is even a theory that says she died during the Honno-ji Incident as she took up the naginata halberd and fought the enemy forces with her husband Nobunaga, but the theory that says that she died at Honno-ji Temple, the situation which has been used in historical novels and other forms of entertainment, has low credibility.

One theory says that "Tokitsugu Kyoki," which was compiled in 1569 when Nobunaga conquered Mino Province, could show that Nohime (Kicho) was alive, because there is an entry in the diary that says that she was 'the lawful wife of Nobunaga' of the Saito family. In addition, there is an entry in "Omi no Kuni Kochi-shi" that says that Nobunaga and his wife stayed at Jobodai-ji Temple, and this "wife" is believed to be Kicho, because it is also believed that the entry was written in 1568, the year before the above-mentioned entry from "Tokitsugu Kyoki." In addition, the applicable article mentions that Nobunaga's wife gave birth. And an entry and other information from "Seishu Gunki" say that Nobunaga's wife, who was the daughter of Dosan SAITO, bore him no children and that Nobutada ODA (his childhood name was Kimyo or Kimyomaru), who was born from one of Nobunaga's concubines, was adopted so that Nobunaga could make him the legitimate son. And in "Akechi Gunki" (biography of Mitsuhide AKECHI), there is an entry that says that Nobunaga's wife (Nohime, the lawful wife) treated his vassals with many avalons and other delicacies at a banquet held after the suppression of Owari Province to express gratitude for their support for the order of the suppression of Mino Province. Because "Akechi Gunki" was compiled by the Shogunate sometime between 1688 and 1703 (with the oldest original edition published in 1693), there are many entries that are different from historical facts and fabricated; however, it can be assumed that it had been generally understood, at least at the time when the biography was compiled, that Nohime remained Nobunaga's lawful wife after the suppression of Owari Province and that there were no facts that she died or she was divorced after Dosan died.

Because there is an entry in "ODA Nobukatsu Bungencho" (registers of vassals of Nobukatsu ODA) that says that a woman called 'Azuchi-dono' was given chigyo fief worth 600 kanmon, that she was listed third in the order of female vassals following Nobukatsu's lawful wife and Tokuhime, that she was listed prior to 'Okatadono-sama,' who is believed to be Dota-gozen, and that her name included 'Azuchi' from Azuchi-jo Castle, it can be assumed that she retained a prominent position in the Oda family and she could be the lawful wife of Nobunaga, the deceased father of Nobukatsu ODA.

Because the word 'tsubone' means 'a space where a wife and her children live,' it can be assumed that the lawful life was called 'Mitsubone' reflecting her status as the most authoritative person in the inner hall of a castle, and that the 'Mitsubone' who was given more chigyo fief than anyone else among those listed in "ODA Nobukatsu Bungencho" was Nohime.

In addition, it would be premature to conclude that the 'Okatadono-sama' was actually 'Dota-gozen,' due to the fact that Nohime herself was regarded as 'Okatadono-sama' because she was the lawful wife of Nobukatsu's father Nobunaga, and that there are no historical materials that can prove Nohime was not 'Okatadono-sama.'

In "Ujisato-ki," "Sokenin-dono Tsuizen-ki" and other materials, there are entries that the 'Midaidokoro,' or the Shogun's wife, and 'Kitanokata' were included in those who fled the Azuchi-jo Castle following the Honnoji Incident with Nobunaga's wife and children, so it can be assumed that Nohime was the same person as Azuchi-dono (or Mitsubone). If 'Midaidokoro' and 'Kitanokata' were Nohime, it would be physically impossible for her to be present at Honno-ji Temple at the time of the Honnoji Incident, given the fact that she fled Azuchi-jo Castle the day after the incident.

Because she did not earn her place in history after she married, it has often been considered she was poor in health or divorced, or even incapable of managing concubines and other female attendants of the castle; in fact, it can be assumed that she was indeed an able woman who could manage the O-oku system at the time, in which a shogun had one lawful wife and many other concubines and lovers, because Nobunaga's scandals related to his bedrooms never came out and were well managed.

It can also be assumed that Nobunaga could never divorce Nohime due to a dispute with the Saito clan led by Dosan's opposing older brother Yoshitatsu SAITO, because it was essential for Nobunaga to keep Nohime as his lawful wife, for he received the letter from Dosan in which Dosan appointed his son-in-law Nobunaga as successor of Mino Province, and in addition, it can be understood that Nohime did not die of sickness or some other reasons before the Capture of Mino Province, in view of the fact that Nohime encouraged the attack on Mino Province for she was the daughter of Dosan and was linked by blood to the Akechi clan, a branch of the Toki clan (however, she wouldn't be linked by blood to the Toki clan if Yoshitatsu was actually the son of Dosan), which could give her husband Nobunaga a good reason to be the legitimate successor of Mino Province, and also that the high-ranking officials of Mino Province were treated the same way as those of Owari Province.

Nohime adopted Nobunaga's legitimate son Nobutada, and it is believed that Nohime went ahead to adopt Nobutada because if the child of Nohime, who was linked by blood to the Saito and Toki clans, was the legitimate son of Nobunaga, Mino Province could have been ruled more smoothly and the authenticity of the heir could be emphasized on top of the letter from Dosan which named Nobunaga as successor of Mino Province. In fact, Nobunaga transfered responsibility for the family to Nobutada, and left the rule of Mino and Owari to Nobutada.

In "Myoshinji-shi," or the chronicle of Myoshin-ji Temple, there is an entry that says that the wife of Nobunaga organized the first year anniversary of Nobunaga's death on July 20, 1583, so it is highly possible that this was 'Azuchi-dono (or Mitsubone)' because it was a Buddhist mass not hosted by Hideyoshi and that the "wife" here would not refer to Kyounin (Onabe no kata).
And if 'Azuchi-dono (or Mitsubone)' were Nohime, it would mean that she died on July 26, 1612, at age of 78 and was buried at Soken-in Temple, which stands in the compound of Daitoku-ji Temple, under the Buddhist posthumous name of 'Yokainden Yoshinmyo Daishi.'

[Original Japanese]