Image of Kazunomiya, unknown date. Image Credit: Tokugawa Memorial Foundation.

By Johanna Strong

Princess Kazunomiya Chikako was born in Kyoto in 1846 as the eighth daughter of the Japanese Emperor Ninko and his concubine Hashimoto Tsuneko. She was the half-sister of the future Emperor Komei, who became Emperor after the death of their father Ninko shortly after Kazunomiya’s birth.

Kazunomiya married Tokugawa Iemochi, the fourteenth Tokugawa shogun, despite initial opposition to the match on her part and the part of her half-brother Emperor Komei. Initially proposed by Imperial chief minister Kujō Histada and presented to the Emperor on June 19, 1860, the marriage aimed to reconcile the Imperial Court and the shogunate. On September 29 of the same year, Kazunomiya set forth her list of preconditions for the match and on October 2 the Emperor formally sanctioned the marriage, with the match announced formally on November 30. On January 10, 1862, Kazunomiya moved into the Edo castle and finally married Iemochi on March 11, 1862. Though not a popular marriage politically, its aim of connecting Edo and Kyoto through political channels was successful, and the marriage was generally a happy one.

After Iemochi’s death, Kazunomiya became a nun and chose the name Seikan-in no Miya. She died in 1877 and was buried in the Zojo Temple, which continues to hold a memorial service for her annually on October 2.

Recommended Reading

Edwin B. Lee, “The Kazunomiya Marriage: Alliance Between the Court and the Bakufu,” Monumenta Nipponica 22. 3/4 (1967): 290-304

“Imperial Princess Chikako, Princess Kazu”, Minato City Library: Prominent People of Minato City, https://www.lib.city.minato.tokyo.jp/yukari/e/man-detail.cgi?id=114.

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