Satogozen (郷御前)

Satogozen (1168 - June 15, 1189) was a woman, who lived from the late Heian Period to the early Kamakura period. She was the daughter of a local ruling family of Musashi Province, Shigeyori KAWAGOE. She was the lawful wife of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune. Her mother was the second daughter of Hikinoama, who was MINAMOTO no Yoritomo's menoto (a woman providing breast-feed to a highborn baby). According to an oral tradition, she was called Satogozen. Her real name is unknown.

It is said that she was the woman who was married to Yoshitsune, following the order of Yoritomo, and even after Yoshitsune antagonized Yoritomo, she accompanied Yoshitsune's escape journey all through the time and died with him.

In her home town, Kawagoe (present Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture), as she moved to Kyoto for marriage, she was called 'Kyohime' (Princess of Kyoto) while in Hiraizumi-cho (Iwate Prefecture), she was called 'Kitanokata' (the woman living in the north of the house; wife) which was the title of a nobleman's wife.


The following descriptions are based on the historical document, "Azumakagami" (The Mirror of the East). (*According to the custom at that time, a woman's imina (personal name) was not stated in Japan, therefore, in the documents, her name was recorded as 'Shigeyori KAWAGOE's daughter,' or 'Yoshitsune's wife').

Going to Kyoto

On October 27, 1184, by the order of Yoritomo, Shigeyori KAWAGOE's daughter went up to the capital and married to Yoshitsune, who was staying there as Yoritomo's daikan (local governor). Shigeyori's two followers and more than 30 retainers accompanied her. This marriage was carried out soon after the incident, in which Yoshitsune provoked Yoritomo's outrage because he accepted the appointment of official court rank without Yoritomo's prior consent and as a consequence, he was excluded from the operation to hunt down and kill the Heishi (Taira clan). Therefore, there is a theory that this marriage was planned in order to control the movements of Yoshitsune, however, according to the Azumakagami, 'the engagement has been already accepted in advance,' and this fact shows that the marriage itself had been fixed previously. Yoshitsune's half brother by different mother, MINAMOTO no Noriyori also took Hikinoama's granddaughter, who was in the same family relationship as Sato (Satogozen), to wife. Sato's father Shigeyori KAWAGOE, and his brother Shigefusa KAWAGOE followed the army to hunt down and kill MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka, which was the first battle for Yoshitsune, and they also visited the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa's palace with Yoshitsune. In addition, their uncle, Shigetsune MOROOKA, accompanied Yoshitune, when he was appointed as Kebiishi (an official with judicial and police powers), and from these facts, it seems that the Kawagoe family served Yoshitsune as a kind of maternal relative even before the time of Sato's going to Kyoto.

Five month after the marriage of Sato and Yoshitsune, on March 26, 1185, Yoshitsune went to the front to take part in the Battle of Yashima. In the following Battle of Dannoura, Yoshitsune achieved distinguished service defeating the Heishi (Taira clan), and he returned to Kyoto as a hero who hunted down and killed the Heishi.
However, in June, Yoritomo renounced Yoshitsune for his assumption of official court title without Yoritomo's permission and bold behaviors
Yoshitsune hastened to Kamakura to justify his situation, accompanying the captives in the Battle of Dannoura, but he was detained at Koshigoe, and although he begged for meeting with Yoritomo, he was not allowed even to enter into Kamakura and was obliged to return to Kyoto. Yoshitsune got indignant with this treatment by Yoritomo, and inJuly on the way back to the capital, he declared to break the relation with Yoritomo.

Yoshitsune's downfall

On November 9, 1185, four months later since Yoshitsune's return to the capital, Yoritomo set out the punitive expedition, sending Shoshin TOSANOBO to kill Yoshitsune. Yoshitune, who killed Shoshin TOSANOBO in return, went up to the Cloister Emperor Goshirakawa's palace with his uncle MINAMOTO no Yukiie and asked for the cloister government's decree to hunt down and kill Yoritomo. On November 18, the imperial decree to hunt down and kill Yoritomo was issued. On November 23, 1185, Shigefusa KAWAGOE was excluded from the members of zuihyo (accompanied soldiers) to attend the memorial service to celebrate the construction of Shochoju-in Temple, for the reason that he was Yoshitsune's relative. On November 29, 1185, Yoritomo left Kamakura for the capital to defeat Yoshitsune, while on December 3, 1185, Yoshitsune left Kyoto, leading 200 horse soldiers. On December 12, 1185, Shigeyori KAWAGOE was forfeited for the reason that he was Yoshitsune's relative, and later, Shigetomo as well as Shigefusa were killed as criminals. This happened only one year after Sato's marriage with Yoshitsune.

Sato's movements during this period is not documented, but from the fact that her daughter was born in 1186 when Yoshitsune was in hiding in the vicinity of Kyoto, it is presumed that she got pregnant during her stay in Kyoto and delivered the daughter secretly in somewhere around the capital. On March 28, 1187 he left for Oshu (Mutsu Province) with his lawful wife and children, seeking refuge with FUJIWARA no Hidehira in Mutsu Province. They traveled wearing the disguises of mountain priests and chigo (children of festivity).

On June 15, 1189, under the order from Yoritomo, FUJIWARA no Yasuhira attacked Koromogawa no Tachi (residence of the Oshu Fujiwara clan), where Yoshitsune was staying protected by his several hundreds horse soldiers. Yoshitsune stepped into the Jibutsu-do hall (the nobility's private Buddha statue hall), and after killing his 22-year-old wife and 4-year-old daughter, he killed himself.

In the foot of the Mt. Kinkei in Hiraizumi-cho (Iwate Prefecture), there are graves of Yoshitsune's wife and daughter on the premises of Senju-do Buddhist Hall. Unsai-ji Temple in Koromogawa Ward, Oshu City, is said to have been restored by Yoshitsune's lawful wife (Kitanokata), and in the temple a statue of Fudo Myoo (Acla, one of the Five Wisdom Kings), which was said to have been the guardian principle image of Kitanokata, and Yoshitsune and his wife's ihai (tablets with their posthumous names on them) had been enshrined, however, they were destroyed in the fire that broke out on August 6, 2008 in the temple.

The ownership of the Kawagoe Clan's territory was recognized and guaranteed for Sato's mother (Hikinoama's daughter) by the Shogunate, and after her death, it took 20 years before the Azumakagami touched the movements of Sato's surviving brothers for the first time since their father, Shigeyori, was killed.

Yoshitsune's lawful wife described in classical works.

Period of Northern and Southern Courts
According to "Gikeiki" (a military epic about the life of Yoshitsune), which is said to have been written in the early Muromachi Period, Yoshitsune's Kitanokata (wife) was a princess of the Kuga family, the family controlling Todo-za (the traditional guild for the blind), to which the blind biwa-playing minstrels were belonging, during that period. In 1747 when Bunraku (Japanese puppet theater) "Yoshitsune Senbonzakura" (later the story was made into Kabuki) was performed, Yoshitsune's lawful wife was plot to be TAIRA no Tokitada's adoptive daughter and Taro KAWAGOE's real daughter called 'Kyo no kimi' (Lady of Lord). She killed herself at Horikawa Palace to rescue Yoshitsune from a difficult situation.