Portrait of Senhime
Lifespan: 4/11 of Keichō 2 (1597) to 2/6 of Kanbun 6 (1666)
Other Names: Tenjuin
Residences: Fushimi Castle → Ōsaka Castle → Kuwana Castle → Himeji Castle → Edo Castle
Father: Tokugawa Hidetada
Mother: Gō (a consort)
Siblings: [Younger siblings] Tamehime, Katsuhime (Tensūin), Hatsuhime, Tokugawa Iemitsu, Tokugawa Tadanaga, Tokugawa Masako; [Older sister of a different father] Toyotomi Sadako; [Younger brothers of a different mother] Tokugawa Chōmaru, Hoshina Masayuki
Husband: Toyotomi Hideyori → Honda Tadatoki
Children: Katsuhime, Kōchiyo
Adopted Children: Tenshūni, Tokugawa Tsunashige
Senhime was a woman in Japan during the Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo periods. She was the formal wife of Toyotomi Hideyori and, later, Honda Tadatoki.
On 4/11 of Keichō 2 (1597), Senhime was born as the eldest daughter of Tokugawa Hidetada and a consort named Gō. She was born in the Tokugawa residence in Fushimi Castle in Yamashiro Province. In 1603, she wed Hideyori at the age of seven and, together with her nursing mother named Gyōbukyō-no-tsubone (a daughter of Azai Nagamasa), entered Ōsaka Castle. In 1615, during the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka, upon orders of her grandfather, Tokugawa Ieyasu, she was rescued from Ōsaka Castle before its fall. Thereafter, when the daughter (Tenshūni) of Hideyori and a consort was on the verge of being executed, Senhime adopted her as her own to save her life following pleas by Hideyori and Yododono to spare her that were unheeded.
In 1616, Senhime wed Honda Tadatoki, the eldest son and designated heir of Honda Tadamasa, the lord of the Kuwana domain. At this time, a plot was discovered by which Sakazaki Naomori, the lord of Tsuwano domain, planned to launch an attack against her bridal procession to abduct Senhime. Naomori was killed by his retainers who attempted to make it appear that Naomori took his own life, but the Sakazaki family was removed from their position as the lords of the domain. This event is known as the Senhime Incident.
On 9/26, she arrived at Kuwana Castle whereupon she received a dowry in the amount of 10,000 koku. In 1617, the Honda family moved to Himeji in Harima Province. On 8/28, Senhime departed Kuwana and moved to Himeji Castle and was called Harima-himekun, or the Princess of Harima. In 1618, she bore her eldest daughter, Fujihime (the formal wife of Ikeda Mitsumasa and natural mother of Ikeda Tsunamasa). In 1619, she bore her eldest son, Kōchiyo. In 1621, however, Kōchiyo died at the age of three. In 1626, Senhime endured misfortune when her husband (Tadatoki), her mother-in-law (Yūhime (Myōkōin)), and her mother (Gō) died one after another. Senhime and her daughter, Katsuhime, then left the Honda family. She went to Edo Castle, entered the priesthood, and adopted the nun’s name of Tenjuin. Subsequently, Tenjuin and her daughter resided in the Takebashi residence. In 1628, Katsuhime, as the adopted daughter of Hidetada, was sent to wed Ikeda Mitsumasa, after which Senhime lived alone. She wrote letters expressing her concerns as to the welfare of her daughter as a member of the Ikeda family. In 1632, her father, Hidetada, died. In 1639, Katsuhime and Mitsumasa had their first child, Ikeda Tsunamasa (Senhime’s grandchild from a daughter married into another family).
In 1643, she rebuilt the monastery at the Tōkei Temple in Kamakura. In 1644, to avoid an unlucky year (based on traditional beliefs) of Tokugawa Iemitsu (Senhime’s younger brother), his consort named Natsu (later known as Junshōin) and later born third son of Iemitsu (Tokugawa Tsunashige) moved from Edo Castle to live with Senhime. The adoption of Tsunashige gave Senhime an influential voice in the ōoku, the quarters in which the wives and daughters of the shōgun resided at Edo Castle. Even in the era of Tokugawa Ietsuna, the fourth shōgun of the Edo bakufu, Senhime wielded the most consultative authority in the ōoku. In 1655, Senhime intervened with the bakufu upon request of Katsuhime (Tensūin) of the Echigo-Takada domain (Senhime’s younger sister, the mother of Matsudaira Mitsunaga, the lord of the Echigo-Takada domain) in regard to a proposed marriage into the Echizen-Matsudaira family (Matsudaira Mitsumichi, the lord of the Fukui domain). In 1657, after the Takebashi residence burned down during the Great Fire of Meireki, she moved temporarily to the residence of her uncle, Tokugawa Yorinobu, the lord of the Kishū domain. On 2/6 of Kanbun 6 (1666), she died in Edo at the age of seventy.
The night of her demise, she was laid to rest in the Dentsū Temple in Koishikawa (the family temple of her great-grandmother, Odai-no-kata, and a memorial service was held with Chikan (the thirty-seventh head of the Chion Temple). Her graves are at the Dentsū Temple and the Tenjuin-Gugyō Temple in the city of Jōsō in Ibaraki Prefecture. According to tradition, some of her ashes were placed in a memorial at the Chion Temple (affiliated with the Jōdo sect) on Mount Sōhon in Kyōto with which the Tokugawa (Matsudaira) family had connections dating back to the period when the family was based in Mikawa Province. Later, Chikan founded the Jakushō Temple in Ise Province to enshrine Senhime with a mortuary tablet and relics.
Senhime had a harmonious relationship with her first husband, Toyotomi Hideyori, a cousin. When she was sixteen, servants saw Hideyori participating in a ritual for the cutting of sidelocks at her coming-of-age ceremony.
While she was said to be of a gentle nature, when it appeared that the daughter (Tenshūni) of Hideyori and a consort would be executed, Senhime vigorously plead for Tenshūni’s life to be spared. Later, Tenshūni became the abbot at the well-known Tōkei nunnery – a temple in which women seeking release from marriage could take refuge.
Senhime inherited the sagacity and beauty of her great grandfather, Oda Nobuhide, and grandmother, Oichi-no-kata, and was said to be like a princess. Her second husband, Honda Tadatoki (whose mother, Yūhime, was a granddaughter of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga and aunt of Senhime) was handsome and got along well with Senhime making an attractive couple.
In the wake of her death, Senhime’s granddaughter (Naahime, the eldest daughter of Katsuhime), transcribed scriptures from the Jōdo sect to wish for the peace of her grandmother’s soul, and offered these writings to the Gugyō Temple. These are kept as a designated cultural asset by the city of Jōsō in Ibaraki Prefecture.
Senhime was cherished by her grandfather, Ieyasu, and father, Hidetada. She also got along well with her younger brother, Iemitsu. Owing to her background, several generations of bakufu leaders paid special attention to her treatment.
There is a legend from the Edo period by which, night after night, Senhime solicited handsome men and had them murdered. This was depicted in multi-colored wood block prints and theatrical narratives accompanied by the music of a shamisen. In the Shōwa period, this legend was the basis of widely known movies and television dramas, but is not based on factual events. It was born from sympathy toward the Toyotomi family and Sakazaki Naomori in connection with the Senhime Incident.