Senhime (千姫)

Senhime (May 26, 1597 to March 11, 1666) was a woman of the Azuchi-Momoyama and Edo periods, who was the primary wife of Hideyori TOYOTOMI and later of Tadatoki HONDA. Her father was Hidetada TOKUGAWA and her mother was Oeyo no kata (Sugenin), Hidetada's primary wife. Senhime's Buddhist name was Tenjuin.

Biography

Senhime married Hideyori in 1603 and entered Osaka-jo Castle with her nurse Gyobukyo no Tsubone. Although she and Hideyori were cousins, they are reported to have been very happily married. During the Osaka War in 1615, she was rescued from the burning Osaka-jo Castle by the command of her grandfather, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA. When Naahime, Hideyori's daughter born of his concubine, was about to be executed, Senhime adopted Naahime as her daughter in order to save her life.

In 1616, Senhime married Tadatoki HONDA, the rightful heir to Tadamasa Honda, the lord of Kuwana Domain. A plot was discovered at the time of her marriage, in which Naomori SAKAZAKI, the lord of Tsuwano Domain, planned to attack Senhime's marriage procession to abduct her. As a result, Naomori committed suicide (or was killed by his retainers) and the Sakazaki clan was deprived of their samurai status along with their territory (Senhime incident). Some people believe that when Osaka-jo Castle was besieged, Naomori, taking Ieyasu at his word that he would allow anybody who rescued Senhime to marry her, saved her from the castle, suffering burns on his face. However, Senhime was reluctant to marry him because of his unattractive appearance, choosing Tadatoki HONDA as her marriage partner instead. Although Naomori has long been believed to have planned his attack as a result of his grievance against this incident, the story that he rescued Senhime from Osaka-jo Castle is today considered as being questionable. In all actuality, Senhime is most likely to have been escorted by a Toyotomi warrior named Ujihisa HORIUCHI to Naomori's camp and was then taken by Naomori to Hidetada TOKUGAWA. It is also likely that Naomori was requested by Ieyasu to look for an appropriate marriage partner for Senhime rather than being allowed to marry her.

Senhime arrived at Kuwana-jo Castle on September 26, 1616. She is believed to have been given a marriage allowance of 100,000 koku at the time of her arrival. In the following year (1617), when the Honda family was transferred to Himeji in Harima Province, she left Kuwana and moved to Himeji, where she came to be known as Queen Harima. She lived happily with her husband Tadatoki, bearing their eldest daughter Katsuhime (later Enseiin) in 1618 and eldest son Yukichiyo in 1619. However, after Yukichiyo died in 1621 at the age of three, she suffered repeated miscarriages, having difficulty in bearing a child (this was rumored to be the curse of Hideyori). In 1626, she lost her husband Tadatoki, mother-in-law Kumahime and mother Sugenin, one after another. After a series of these unfortunate events, she left the Honda family together with her daughter Katsuhime to go to Edo-jo Castle and later became a Buddhist priest, calling herself Tenjuin. After becoming a priest, she lived with her daughter in her residence in Takebashi. In 1628, Katsuhime married Mitsumasa IKEDA, leaving her mother to live alone. Anxious about her only daughter living with the Ikeda family, Senhime wrote many letters (known as 'Tenju-in-shojo') to her.

Senhime rebuilt the cathedral of Tokei-ji Temple in Kamakura in 1643. In 1644, she came to live with the third shogun Iemitsu TOKUGAWA's concubine, Onatsu no kata (later Junshoin), who left Edo-jo Castle to observe a taboo and ward off misfortune, and Iemitsu's second son Tsunashige TOKUGAWA, whom Onatsu no kata later gave birth to. Senhime is reported to have had considerable influence in the shogun's harem (Ooku) as a result. When her Takebashi residence burnt down during Meireki no Taika (the Great Fire of Meireki) in 1657, she took up temporary residence at the palace of the Kishu Tokugawa family. She died in Edo in 1666 at the age of 70.

There is a legend about Senhime, known as the 'Yoshida Palace Story,' one of the favorite themes of Nishikie (colored woodblock print) and Rokyoku (recitation of stories accompanied by samisen), which holds that she would lure men into her residence and kill them all.

Her graves are in Dentsu-in Temple in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo and in Tenju-in Gugyo-ji Temple in Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Character

Facts show that Senhime was a moderate person. For example, when her husband Hideyori TOYOTOMI's daughter borne of his concubine, Naahime, was on the verge of being executed, Senhime risked her own life in a plea to save Naahime. Senhime managed to secure her release. Naahime later became the chief priest of Tokei-ji Temple, which is well known as an Enkiri-dera (a safe haven for women seeking to flee their husbands).

Senhime is believed to have inherited her intelligence and beauty from her grandmother Oichi no kata and was reportedly a very beautiful princess. She also lived happily with her first husband, Hideyori. Hideyori was witnessed by his female servant to be performing a female hair-trimming ritual (known as 'Bigi-sogi').

At Senhime's death, her grand-daughter, Naahime (Katsuhime's daughter, not the same person as Hideyori's daughter mentioned above) transcribed the 'Jodo-Sanbu-kyo' (Three Pure Land Sutras, 4 volumes) in order to pray for her soul. The 'Jodo-Sanbu-kyo' transcribed by Naahime (written in gold letters on blue paper) is a cultural property designated by Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Senhime is believed to have been dearly cherished by her grandfather Ieyasu and her father Hidetada.