Ohime (A Daughter of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo) (大姫 (源頼朝の娘))

Ohime (1178-August 28, 1197) was a woman who lived from the end of the Heian period to the beginning of the Kamakura period. She was the eldest daughter of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo who founded Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). Her mother was his lawful wife, Masako HOJO. The name Ohime was a commonly used name which meant 'the eldest daughter' and her real name was unknown.

She was born while Yoritomo was an exile in Izu Province. When she was six years old, she got engaged with MINAMOTO no Yoshitaka (Shimizu no Kanja), a legitimate son of MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka in order to make a peace with Yoshinaka who was opposed with Yoritomo. However, after Yoshitaka was executed in accordance with Yoshinaka's defeat, she became a disease of the mind by its shock and lived a dusky life. She continued to reject other matches later and died young at the age of twenty in spite of the plan of judai (an Imperial Consort's bridal entry into court).

The engagement with Yoshitaka

In Spring of 1183, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka who was opposed with Yoritomo made a peace with Yoritomo by sending MINAMOTO no Yoshitaka (Shimizu no Kanja), who was his eldest son and 11 years old at that time, to Kamakura as a hostage and making him a husband of Ohime who was 6 years old (in the age by the traditional Japanese system). However, the relationship between Yoritomo and Yoshinaka was broken, and in January of the following year, 1184, Yoshinaga was killed in the battle by Yoritomo's troops in a suburb of Kyoto.

On April 21, 1184, Yoritomo decided to kill Yoshitaka in order to eradicate the root of future trouble. Ohime was noticed by waiting women who overeheard it and had Yoshitaka escape from Kamakura by changing his clothes to those of nyobo (a court lady), having waiting women surround him and bring out of the residence, and preparing a horse whose hoofs were rolled up with cotton. She made Yukiuji UNNO, who was a close retainer and in the same age of Yoshitaka, a substitute for Yoshitaka, and Yukiuji took out tabusa (hair in a bundle) from Yoshitaka's bed and played sugoroku (Japanese backgammon) at the place where Yoshitaka often played with Yukiuji. In the meantime, people in the residence thought that Yoshitaka was seated as usual, but the truth came out at night.

Yoritomo got mad, captured Yukiuji and ordered to kill Yoshitaka by dispatching armies such as Chikaie HORI to various places. Ohime was panicked and shocked so strongly as losing her soul. On April 26, Mitsuzumi TONAI, roto (retainer) of Chikaie, came back to Kamakura and reported that he had killed Yoshitaka around the Iruma-gawa River (Saitama Prefecture). Although this was kept secret, Ohime heard it and was so deeply grieved at his death that she couldn't drink even water. On June 27, Masako got angry and strongly insisted to Yoritomo that Ohime became sick and was continuously wearing out because Yoshitaka was killed with no mercy, and as a result, Mitsuzumi TONAI was killed with his head on public display.

Ohime, who was seven years old at that time, was deeply hurt mentally and continued to be filled with love for him and be sick for more than ten years. Every possible mean such as a religious service for the repose of Yoshitaka's soul, sutra chanting and prays in various temples were done, but they were not effective.

The problem of judai

On August 1194, Takayoshi ICHIJO, who was Yoritomo's nephew and a noble in Kyoto at the age of 18, came down to Kamakura. When Ohime who was at the age of 17 became a temporary lull, Yoritomo and Masako recommended her to get married with Takayoshi. However, Ohime said, 'I will drown myself into a deep river if I have to get married,' and rejected it. Yoritomo gave up promoting the engagement.

Yoritomo began to prepare for going up to the capital (Kyoto) since October of that year, and went up to Heiankyo with Masako and his children such as Ohime and MINAMOTO no Yoriie on March 1195. That nominal reason was rakkei hoyo (a memorial service to celebrate the construction of a temple) of Todai-ji Temple, but he maneuvered to make Ohime an empress of Emperor Gotoba in Kyoto. Yoritomo made a contact aggressively with MINAMOTO no Michichika and TAKASHINA no Eishi who had power in the Imperial Court. On March 29, he invited Tango no tsubone to meet Ohime and gave her many gorgeous presents such as 300 ryo (currency unit) of gold dust in a silver makie (Japanese lacquer sprinkled with gold or silver powder) box and 30 rolls of white brocade as well as sending gifts even to her retainers.

He met his sworn ally, Kanezane KUJO, with whom he had had an open dialogue when he had gone up to Kyoto last time, only once, talked only daily affairs except politics and presented only two horses. Kanazane's daughter had already been chugu (the second consort of an emperor) of Emperor Gotoba and Michichika TSUCHIMIKADO and Tango no tsubone were his political enemy. Yoritomo suddenly cancelled the schedule of worship with Yoshiyasu ICHIJO who was his younger sister's husband and was taken into his confidence, and went out with Tango no tsubone. Michichika and Tango no tsubone, who were In no Kinshin (the retired Emperor's courtiers), tried to deprive kokugaryo (territories governed by provincial government office) without permission to be used for the retired Emperor's shoen (manor in medieval Japan) just before the death of Emperor Goshirakawa; however, Yoritomo took back the vast shoen with stern measures together with Kanezane and returned it to kokugaryo. After making a contact with Tango no tsubone, Yoritomo suddenly cancelled this Kanezane's decision. In the following year, Kanezane was overthrown with his family.

Yoritomo planned Ohime's judai with paying great sacrifices, but Ohime did not recover and died at the age of 20 on July 14, 1197. There remain a mound which is said to be Ohime's grave at Joraku-ji Temple (Kamakura City) and Jizo-do Hall (Iwafune Jizo-do Hall) which enshrines Jizo (guardian deity of children) that was a guardian deity of Ohime at Ogigayatsu.

The plan of Ohime's judai by Yoritomo was utilized by Michichika and Tango no Tsubone and resulted in serious situations such as the emergence of anti-bakufu group and the fall of pro-bakufu group in the Imperial Court. It can be said that this biggest failure of Yoritomo, who had always been a severe politician, was caused by his feeling as a father or showed his limit that he could not put away a hope to become a maternal relative by making his daughter an empress as a descendant of nobles living in the capital.