Lifespan: 8/13 of Eiroku 12 (1569) to 10/17 of Keichō 7 (1602)
Father: Bekki Akitsura (Tachibana Dōsetsu)
Mother: Nishihime (daughter of the Monjūsho family)
Husband: Tachibana Muneshige (eldest son of Takahashi Jōun – an elder of Ōtomo Sōrin)
Tachibana Ginchiyo served as a bugeisha, or female martial artist, during the Sengoku period. Ginchiyo was the only daughter of Bekki Akitsura (later known as Tachibana Dōsetsu) who was a member of the kabanshū, a group of senior retainers of the Ōtomo clan. Her mother (Nishihime) originated from the Monjūsho family, kokujin, or provincial landowners, in Chikugo Province. Ginchiyo was born in Toimoto Castle in the Yamamoto District of Chikugo. She received her name from a monk named Zōgin from Hizen Province which included a character meaning to listen to the words of a discreet person.
Through connections of Dōsetsu’s second wife, Nishihime, Kido Tomomasa, a bushō and member of Dōsetsu’s security staff, served as Ginchiyo’s mentor.
On 5/28 of Tenshō 3 (1575), at the age of seven Ginchiyo inherited the role as steward of the castle, its fixtures, and the territory. Dōsetsu did not have a son to serve as an heir, so, to have his daughter succeed him as steward of the castle, he followed the same ordinary steps as for inheritance by a son, and, after receiving consent from his lords, the Ōtomo clan, his daughter succeeded him as the steward of Tachibana Castle and, on 6/28, received official recognition from Ōtomo Sōrin and Ōtomo Yoshimune (father and son) of her rights to the territory.
This succession was a rare event in the Sengoku period. In 1581, the eldest son of Takahashi Jōun (an elder of Ōtomo Sōrin) named Muneshige was welcomed as the adopted heir of Dōsetsu and, on 11/18 of 1582, in a ceremony held in the west citadel, he received the family flag and Tachibana surname, becoming Tachibana Muneshige.
When he earlier became the head of Tachibana Castle, Dōsetsu sought to utilize the Tachibana surname, but the main branch of the Ōtomo opposed the surname of Tachibana Akitoshi for abandoning the clan on two occasions, so Dōsetsu kept the Bekki surname throughout his life.
Thereafter, in the eleventh month of 1578, the main branch of the Ōtomo clan suffered a major defeat to the Shimazu at the Battle of Mimikawa along the Mimi River in Hyūga Province. On 9/11 of Tenshō 13 (1585), Ginchiyo’s father, Bekki Dōsetsu, died of illness during a deployment on Mount Kōra in the Mii District of Chikugo. On 7/27 of 1586, her father-in-law, Takahashi Jōun, was killed in the Battle of Iwaya Castle. After the Subjugation of Kyūshū, on 6/25 of 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi awarded Yanagawa in Chikugo to Ginchiyo’s husband, Tachibana Muneshige. As a result, his position changed from a former servant of the Ōtomo clan to a direct retainer of Hideyoshi.
On 6/11, orders were issued to convey the castle to Ono Izumi-no-kami. In the early dawn of 6/12, Ginchiyo arrived at Idebashi below the castle, and, on 6/13, the transfer of Yanagawa Castle was completed. On 6/15, Ginchiyo and other family members departed Tachibana Castle and, on 6/17, the group entered Yanagawa. Thereafter, however, Ginchiyo departed from the castle and established a residence at Miyanaga, whereupon she was called Lord Miyanaga. Ginchiyo was said to have had a falling out with her husband, and, after moving to Yanagawa, she resided in a separate residence (a de facto divorce), having no children with him.
At the Battle of Sekigahara, Muneshige participated in the attack against Kyōgoku Takatsugu who was holed-up in Ōtsu Castle in Ōmi Province. The offensive included a total of 15,000 soldiers led by Mōri Motoyasu, Mōri Hidekane, and Tsukushi Hirokado. Muneshige did not, however, join the main Battle of Sekigahara as Takatsugu surrendered on the same day. After learning of the defeat of the Western Army, he advised the commander-in-chief, Mōri Terumoto, to hole-up in Ōsaka Castle, but this was rejected and he returned by sea route to Kyūshū. Early in the tenth month, he entered Yanagawa Castle. Letters of commendation dated 10/10 were given to retainers for their contributions in the Battle of Ōtsu Castle. Ginchiyo led a group of family samurai and servants to meet him.
In the wake of the Battle of Sekigahara, members of the victorious Eastern Army including the Nabeshima clan led a large contingent to attack the rival Tachibana clan who had supported the Western Army. After returning to Yanagawa, Muneshige had a senior retainer of the Tachibana named Ono Shigeykui lead a smaller army to intercept them at Egami-Hachiin. After violent clashes, a surprise attack launched by a detached unit under Tachibana Nariie caused the Nabeshima forces to flee in disarray in an event known as the Battle of Egami-Hachiin that occurred in the Mizuma District of Chikugo Province. On 10/22, forces led by Kuroda Josui which had prevailed in conflict against the Ōtomo army arrived in Sakemi in the Mizuma District. That same day, Dan Hanzaemon-no-jō (who had remained in the Kyōto area to attend to affairs after the Battle of Sekigahara) hand-delivered a license to give official recognition of their rights to their landholdings, and after arriving in Mizuta in the Shimotsuma District, whereupon the conflict moved in the direction of a settlement. Muneshige dispatched Komono Masutoki to meet Katō Kiyomasa at his encampment in Hisasue in the Yamato District and, on 10/25, Yanagawa Castle was turned over.
Following the removal of Muneshige from his position as the lord of Yanagawa Castle, Ginchiyo resided in the Ichizō home in the village of Haraka in the Tamana District of Higo Province. Just after Muneshige departed Takase, Kiyomasa gave a letter to Ono Shigeyuki that expressed his goodwill toward Ginchiyo including the sending of provisions. Approximately two years later, beginning around the seventh month of 1602, she fell ill and, despite prayers for his recovery by Kongōin Mitchū, she died on 10/17 of Keichō 7 (1602) at the age of thirty-four. Her death marked the end of the bloodline of her father, Tachibana Dōsetsu. Ginchiyo’s mother, Nishihime (Hōjuin) resided in the Ichizō home with Ginchiyo. After Ginchiyo’s death, a discussion ensued among relatives whereby Nishihime was then taken to be cared for in a home in Tanba and, on 5/28 of Genna 2 (1616), she died in Higo Province. On the day of mourning for Ginchiyo, invitees including members of the Monjūsho, the Netabi, and the Yasutake (the first family where she went for marriage), the Kido (the go-between for Dōsetsu), the Kongōin (the family for faith in Inari (god of harvest)), the Uda (descendants of the Ichizō in the village of Haraka where Ginchiyo resided and caretakers of her grave).
Ginchiyo’s grave was located at the Ryōsei Temple. Tachibana Muneshige invited Ōyo to inaugurate the temple. Ōyo was a monk from the Raikō Temple in the Setaka upper manor, a fourth generation head of the temple and grandson of Kamachi Akimori, the lord of Yanagawa Castle in the Sengoku period.
There are many stories concerning the daughter trained in the military arts who inherited her father’s position.
In the Ōtomo family chronicles, one account notes that when a senior retainer of Ōtomo Sōrin named Bekki Hōki-no-kami suffered from a leg injury caused by an arrow, Ginchiyo trained fifty female servants in the castle and, from the onset of battle, overwhelmed the enemy by raining fire upon them.
When Muneshige was absent owing to a deployment for the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign, Hideyoshi sought to lure Ginchiyo to Nagoya Castle to accost her, but Ginchiyo suspected a plot so she equipped the women accompanying her with arquebuses for protection while she herself dressed in military attire so this caused Hideyoshi to refrain from taking any action against her. This story, however, is not supported by authenticated sources.
While Muneshige was away, Ginchiyo (his formal wife) was delegated to defend the castle. Consequently, she joined other bugeisha by arming themselves and preparing for an attack by enemy forces.
During the Battle of Sekigahara, she departed her residence in battle armor and, at the ferry entrance on the west bank of the Yana River, prepared a unit of arquebusiers to hold at bay the Nabeshima naval forces of the rival Eastern Army.
After subduing Konishi Yukinaga at the Battle of Sekigahara, Katō Kiyomasu and his army marched toward Yanagawa in an effort to convince Muneshige to turn-over his castle. At this time, he was warned that if he proceeded on this route, his army would pass-through the village of Miyanaga, which was the residence of the wife of the daimyō, Tachibana Muneshige (referring to Ginchiyo). He was further warned that the residents of Yanagawa were very loyal to the Tachibana family, so if the military forces approached near her residence, all of the residents would arm themselves and come and attack. Kiyomasa heeded this warning by having his forces circumvent the village of Miyanaga to avoid a confrontation with the local residents.