Imagawa Clan

Sengoku Woman

Suruga Province

Lifespan:  14xx to 5/26 of Kyōroku 2 (1529)

Other Names:  Tōgenin-dono

Clan:  Ise → Imagawa

Father:  Ise Morisada

Mother:  Daughter of Ise Sadakuni

Siblings:  Kitagawa-dono, Ise Sōzui (Ise Moritoki → Hōjō Sōun), Ise Yajirō

Husband:  Imagawa Yoshitada

Children:  Ujichika, Eiho (wife of Ōgimachi Sanjō Sanemochi)

Kitagawa-dono was a woman living in Japan during the Sengoku period.  She was the formal wife of Imagawa Yoshitada, the eighth head of the Imagawa family and military governor of Suruga Province.  She was the mother of Imagawa Ujichika and the grandmother of Imagawa Yoshimoto.

Regarding her origins, there are various theories concerning Kitagawa-dono and her younger brother, Ise Sōzui (later known as Ise (Shinkurō) Moritoki and Hōjō Sōun).  Her father was Ise Morisada and mother was the daughter of Ise Sadakuni.  She was previously considered to have been Yoshitada’s consort from around the time that Shinkurō was a lowly rōnin, or wandering samurai.  Based on more recent research, Shinkurō is understood to be Ise Moritoki, a retainer of the shōgun from the Bitchū-Ise clan who were members of the prominent Ise clan (who, in turn, served as directors of the mandokoro, the organ with authority to adjudicate claims over land or finances for the Muromachi bakufu).  While visiting Kyōto, Yoshitada frequently visited Ise Sadachika  while Kitagawa-dono’s father, Ise Morisada, served as a member of the mōshitsugishū serving as intermediaries for communications between the shōgun and the Imagawa family.  Through this connection, Kitagawa-dono wed Yoshitada around 1467.  Moreover, owing to the social status of the Kitagawa family, she is regarded to have been his formal wife.  In 1473, Kitagawa-dono bore a lineal heir, Tatsuōmaru (later known as Imagawa Ujichika) at the Imagawa mansion in Sunpu.

In the fourth month of 1476, her husband, Yoshitada, attacked kunishū, or provincial landowners, in Tōtōmi Province including Yokochi Shirōbei at Yokochi Castle and Katsumata Suri-no-suke at Katsumata Castle.  While returning to Suruga, at the Battle of Shiokaizaka, Yoshitada was attacked and killed by remnants of these clans.  At this time, Tatsuōmaru (Ujichika’s childhood name) was still only six years old so retainers including the Miura and Asahina clans backed Oshika Norimitsu (the son of Oshika Noriyori, a cousin of Yoshitada), triggering a succession struggle.  The faction supporting Tatsuōmaru engaged in a series of battles against the faction backing Norimitsu.  Meanwhile, the Yokochi and Katsumata clans who were responsible for the death in battle of Yoshitada colluded with the Shiba clan and served Shiba Yoshisuke (later known as Shiba Yoshihiro) the military governor of Tōtōmi formally appointed by the bakufu.  By obstructing them, Yoshitada was viewed as a rebel toward the bakufu so rather than have his orphan, Tatsuōmaru, succeed to the headship of the clan, there was a possibility that he would be eliminated as a family member of a rebel.  Consequently, Kitagawa-dono took Tatsuōmaru and fled for the protection of Hasegawa Masanobu, a wealthy landowner serving as the lord of Kogawa Castle.

Ashikaga Masatomo, the Horigoe kubō, and Uesugi Masanori, the deputy shōgun of the Kantō supporting him, became involved in the succession struggle, taking steps to back Oshika Norimitsu.  Kitagawa-dono then turned to her younger brother, Ise Moritoki (Sōzui) who at the time was serving as a member of the mōshitsugishū for Ashikaga Yoshihisa, the ninth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.  Upon orders of the bakufu, Moritoki mediated a solution whereby Norimitsu would serve in the role of a proxy as head of the clan at the Sunpu mansion until Tatsuōmaru became an adult.  Following this decision, Kitagawa-dono and Tatsuōmaru moved to the residence of the Saitō clan at Mariko Castle in Suruga.

In 1479, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the prior shōgun, authorized succession by Tatsuōmaru to the headship of the Imagawa clan but Norimitsu was unwilling to step back from his role as the proxy head of the clan.  In 1487, when Tatsuōmaru demonstrated his independence by issuing assorted licenses, Kitagawa-dono appealed again to Moritoki who then eviscerated Norimitsu at the Sunpu mansion.  Tatsuōmaru (Ujichika) then returned to the mansion and assumed the role as the legitimate head of the clan.  Kitagawa-dono returned with Tatsuōmaru and had constructed a cottage alongside the Kitagawa tributary to the Abe River near the Sunpu mansion.  She moved to this location so was called Kitagawa-dono.  After her death, the vestiges of this residence became the Zentoku Temple and, later, the Rinzai Temple.  According to a donation record from around 1501, she was referred to as Ōkami-sama.

Her intervention in the succession by Sōzui to the headship of the Imagawa family was connected to the subsequent advance by Sōzui into Izu and Sagami provinces.  During the Chōkyō era (1487 to 1489), her eldest daughter, Eiho, wed Ōgimachi Sanjō Sanemochi and, in 1505, the lineal heir, Ujichika, received as his formal wife Jukeini, the daughter of Naka-no-mikado Nobutane, the Provisional Chief Councilor of State of the Senior Second Rank from the prominent Urin family.  Owing to the origins of Kitagawa-dono in proximity to the bakufu in Kyōto in addition to support by Hosokawa Masamoto for Ashikaga Seikō (later Ashikaga Yoshizumi, the eleventh shōgun) who was raised in the Imagawa family, the Imagawa formed close bonds with the society of nobles in the capital.  Kitagawa-dono, together with Ujichika and Sōzui, cultivated friendly relations with renga masters including Sōchō and Reizei Tamekazu as described in the diary of Sōchō.

On 6/23 of Daiei 6 (1526), Ujichika preceded Kitagawa-dono in death while she died approximately three years later on 5/26 of Kyōroku 2 (1529).  The Tokugan Temple in Suruga served as the family temple until the Edo period followed by the Tōgen Temple.

Theories of Kitagawa-dono’s status

Kitagawa-dono’s older brother, Ise Sōzui (later known as Hōjō Sōun) lived a long life.  Under traditional views, he was a lowly rōnin, or wandering samurai, in Ise Province and through the phenomenon of gekokujō, usurped his superiors to attain the status of a sengoku daimyō later in life while Kitagawa-dono became a consort of Imagawa Yoshitada.  Based on current research, she originated from the Ise clan who served as members of the mōshitsugishū (intermediators) and hōkōshū (military organ) of the Muromachi bakufu.  The Imagawa clan was of comparable social status to the Ise clan, making a suitable family for marriage.  Moreover, there are no records of another woman as the formal wife of Yoshitada so Kitagawa-dono is regarded as his formal wife.  Finally, rather than 1432, the theory that Sōzui was born in 1456 is the current prevailing view so that Kitagawa-dono appears to have been his older sister.