Tokiwa Gozen (Lady Tokiwa) (常盤御前)

Lady Tokiwa (1138 - date of death unknown) was a woman during the late Heian period, who was MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo's favorite concubine. She was the mother of Zenjo ANO, Gien (a Buddhist monk) and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune (called respectively Imawaka, Otowaka, and Ushiwaka, when they were children). Her name is written either 常盤 or 常葉 in Japanese.


Tokiwa Gozen served as a maid for Empress Kujoin (or FUJIWARA no Teishi (or Shimeko). According to "Heiji Monogatari" (The Tale of Heiji), she was one of the ten most beautiful women chosen as the empress' maids from among 1,000 women of Kyoto. Tokiwa was the most beautiful of these ten women.

Tokiwa later became MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo's concubine and gave birth to Zenjo ANO, Gien, and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune. She became a widow at the age of twenty-three, when Yoshitomo was killed in the battle with TAIRA no Kiyomori during the Heiji War. When her husband was killed, she fled into the mountains of Yamato Province with her children, but upon being informed that her mother was captured by the enemy, she reported herself to Kiyomori in order to ask to spare the lives of her mother and children. Deeply impressed by the beauty of Tokiwa, Kiyomori spared the lives of her children, Imawaka, Otowaka, and Ushiwaka. She became Kiyomori's concubine at his request and gave birth to a girl (Lady Ro; a member of the Taira family) (the story of Tokiwa becoming Kiyomori's concubine is taken from "Heiji Monogatari" and "Heike Monogatari" (The Tale of Heike), which are both war stories; see below).

Tokiwa subsequently married Naganari ICHIJO and gave birth to Yoshinari ICHIJO and several daughters.

On July 1, 1186, after Yoshitsune, who came into conflict with his older paternal half-brother, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, fled from Kyoto, Tokiwa was captured by Kamakura soldiers along with Yoshitsune's sister near Ichijo Kawasaki Kannondo Temple in Kyoto (Kano-ji Temple located on the west shore of the Kamo-gawa River (part of the Yodo-gawa river system) in the North-eastern part of Kyoto). According to "Gyokuyo" (Diary of Kanezane KUJO), Tokiwa told Kamakura samurai that Yoshitsune was in Iwakura, Kyoto, but by the time they conducted a search, Yoshitsune had fled from Kyoto, leaving Buddhist monks behind to be captured by his enemies. On June 13, it is written in "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East) that Kamakura samurai inquired whether or not to send Tokiwa and Yoshitsune's sister to Kamakura. However, since there is nothing written to show that they were subsequently sent to Kamakura, they were most likely to have been released. There are no further records left about Tokiwa.

Nothing is clear about Tokiwa's later life. According to some legends, she went after Yoshitsune along with her maids, and there are tombstones believed to be her grave remaining in Sekigahara Town of Gifu Prefecture, Maebashi City of Gunma Prefecture, Koriyama Town (currently, Kagoshima City) of Kagoshima Prefecture and Hanno City of Saitama Prefecture.

Regarding Kiyomori's decision to spare the lives of Tokiwa's children

According to genealogy in "Sonpi Bunmyaku" (Collection of Family Genealogies), Ro no onkata is described as Kiyomori's eighth daughter born by Tokiwa. However, some people argue that the editor who compiled "Sonpi Bunmyaku," created Lady Ro from war history books.

It is generally believed that Tokiwa had a sexual relationship with Kiyomori in order to save her children's lives.

However, it is difficult to regard this as fact for the following reasons.

According to "Yoshitsune Ki" (Biography of Yoshitsune), which was written during the Muromachi period, Tokiwa agreed to become Kiyomori's concubine on condition that he spare the lives of her children. Meanwhile, although there are different versions of "Heiji Monogatari," written during the Kamakura period, indicating that Tokiwa and Kiyomori had a sexual relationship, giving birth to a daughter, there is no record that Tokiwa's children were spared their lives because she agreed to become Kiyomori's concubine. In "Heiji Monogatari", it is written that Tokiwa and Kiyomori came to have a sexual relationship after he decided to spare her children's lives.

Considering that a decision had been made to spare the life of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, Yoshitomo's legitimate heir, who fought battles during the Heiji War, recent studies have brought changes in the evaluation of the Heiji War, making it difficult to regard this war simply as a war between the Minamoto clan and the Taira clan, and that Yoshitomo lagged far behind Kiyomori in terms of military capacity, official status and economic power in Kyoto, it is unlikely that the sexual relationship between Tokiwa and Kiyomori greatly affected the latter's decision to save Tokiwa's three children.