Oichi no Kata (Lady Oichi) (お市の方)

Oichi no Kata (1547 ? - June 14, 1583) was a woman of the Sengoku period (Period of Warring States).

She was a wife of Nagamasa ASAI of Omi Province and later became a wife of Katsuie SHIBATA, a retainer of the Oda clan. Her father was Nobuhide ODA, a busho (Japanese military commander) of Owari Province, and her mother was Dota-gozen, a sokushitsu (concubine) or seishitsu (legal wife) (keishitsu (second wife)). She was a younger sister of Nobunaga ODA and she had many other brothers and sisters (various theories exist for each). Her children included Yodo-dono (concubine of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI = Yodo-dono), Joko-in (legal wife of Takatsugu KYOGOKU) and Sugen-in (legal wife of Hidetada TOKUGAWA). Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, the third Shogun of the Edo Bakufu (a Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and Hideyori TOYOTOMI were her grandchildren, and Emperor Meisho was her great-granddaughter. She was called Ichihime or Odani no Kata. Additionally, the name "Hideko" appears in the Oda family tree recorded in 'Koko Ruisan'.

Biography

In 1567, she was forced for political reasons to marry Nagamasa ASAI of Omi Province (present Shiga Prefecture) by the order of Nobunaga, her elder brother; the marriage concluded an alliance with the Asai family for the Oda family. Friendly relations between the Asai family and the Oda family were severed in 1570, due to Nobunaga's attack on Yoshikage ASAKURA (who was closely related to the Asai clan) in Echizen Province (present Fukui Prefecture). The marriage between Nagamasa and Ichi is said to have been a harmonious one, and the envy of all around them.

After Yoshikage's defeat in the Battle of Anegawa, Odani-jo Castle fell in 1573; Nagamasa and Hisamasa ASAI (Nagamasa's father) were defeated by Nobunaga and killed themselves. While Ichi and her daughters (Yodo-dono, Joko-in and Sugen-in) were taken in by the Oda family, her eldest son, Manpukumaru ASAI, was captured and killed and her second son, Manjumaru ASAI, was forced into the priesthood. After that, she is said to have lived in peace in Kiyosu-jo Castle with her three daughters for more than nine years, under the patronage of her older brother Nobunaga and Nobukane ODA. Nobunaga is said to have received Ichi and her children very warmly at the time, to have been concerned for Ichi and her three daughters, and to have let them live in luxury.
Nobukane ODA is also said to have personally protected Ichi and her three daughters and fostered his nieces, saying, 'It is unbearable to think of the extinction of the Asai family line.'

In 1582, after the death of Nobunaga, she married Katsuie SHIBATA. Although the remarriage was understood to have been mediated by Nobutaka ODA, a theory that it was through Hideyoshi HASHIBA has become influential in recent years, due to a letter suggesting it was through Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. Under the recommendation of Katsuie, Ichi held a Buddhist memorial service at Myoshin-ji Temple in Kyoto on the one hundredth day after Nobunaga's death in the same year.

In the following year, 1583, her husband Katsuie confronted Hideyoshi HASHIBA and was defeated in the Battle of Shizugatake; as a result, Ichi later killed herself with Katsuie in Kitanosho-jo Castle in Echizen Province. She died at the age of 37.

She composed a farewell poem, 'On a summer night such as this, when we are worn out and can't fight off drowsiness, even were we not ready to die, a little cuckoo is singing, as though urging us to part.'

Her grave is in Saiko-ji Temple in Fukui City, Fukui Prefecture. Her family temples: Jishoin Temple (Fukui City) in Fukui City, Fukui Prefecture. Bangaku-ji Temple in Takashima City, Shiga Prefecture. Her Kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist names): Higashi Zen temple, ____________ Daishi (a lady Buddhist).
(Another Kaimyo, Jishoin Temple, ___________ has also been handed down.)

The site of the Odani-jo Castle ruins: Located on top of Mt. Odani, which extends between Nagahama City (former Asai-cho) and Kohoku-cho, Shiga Prefecture.

Personal Profile

An Aizen Myoo (Ragaraja) which is said to have been a Nenjibutsu (a small statue of Buddha kept beside the person) belonging to Ichi remains in Odani-ji Temple. It is said that Ichi was the most beautiful woman in the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) and bright as well.

There remains a portrait of her (owned by Jimyo-in Temple on Mt. Koya) in which she wears a kimono in a peculiar fashion, without 'Ohashori' (tucking up the bottom of a kimono); however, in those days, kimono for women were designed to 'Tsuitake' (the length of one's body), which made it common not to have 'Ohashori'.

Nobunaga is even said to have mentioned that "If Ichi had been a man, she would have been a good Busho (Japanese military commander)." Furthermore, Ichi had an instinctive dislike of Hideyoshi; he urged Ichi to escape from the castle before Katsuie killed himself, but Ichi is said to have rejected this and shared Katsuie's fate. While she avoided Hideyoshi even at the risk of death, Hideyoshi is thought to have felt passionate affection for her; he tried to somehow save the lives of both mother and children during both the surrender of the Odani-jo Castle and the surrender of the castle in Shizugatake. Furthermore, Hideyoshi is said to have taken Chacha (Yodo-dono) as a concubine because, of her three sisters, Chacha most closely resembled Ichi.

It is known there is an anecdote about her having informed Nobunaga of a crisis (an attack from both sides) by giving him a 'bag of azuki beans' sealed on both sides; however, because it is well-known that she lived in harmony with her husband and was considered to have been completely on the side of the Asai family, as was the common practice in those day, this is strongly suspected of being an old wives' tale.

The Oda family was known for its good looks and the beauty of Ichi and her elder (or possibly younger) sister, Oinu no kata, was especially famous. Of her brothers, her elder brother Nobunaga is also said to have been handsome, and Hidetaka ODA, who is regarded as an brother with the same mother, of Nobunaga and Ichi, is said to have been more handsome still.

Anxious about the futures of her three daughters, Ichi wrote letters to Hideyoshi, their guardian; these and other actions show her deep affection as a mother for her daughters. In view of the fact that her elder brothers Nobunaga and Nobukane treated Ichi with much more warmth than they did other sisters, a recent viewpoint claims that she was a younger sister with the same mother, of Nobunaga and Nobukane, and that her mother was Dota-gozen. As this is the case, Nobunaga, Nobuyuki ODA, Nobukane and Hidetaka ODA are considered to have been her brothers with the same mother. She is also said to have been Nobunaga's favorite younger sister.

Incidentally, in most cases, Nobunaga used adopted daughters for political reasons, to marry into Daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) families: rather than bringing them up, he adopted girls in form only and gave these adopted daughters away in marriage. Of his real sisters and daughters, except for Ichi, only Tokuhime married into another province by marrying Nobuyasu MATSUDAIRA; all others married into the families of his retainers or Kuge (court nobles).

Yodo-dono, Ichi's eldest daughter, had portraits painted for Nagamasa, her father, on the 16th anniversary of his death and for Ichi, her mother, on the 6th anniversary of her death, to pray to Buddha for their happiness. The portrait of Ichi is well-known as the best Bijinga (Beautiful Woman Picture) of the Sengoku period.

At the time of the fall of the castle, Ichi is said to have advised her three daughters as follows:
"Do not let the Asai family line die out."

Current situation

In Nagahama City (former Asai-cho), Shiga Prefecture, Ichi has been designed into a city mascot which is quite popular.