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In 1285, Kakusan Shido established Tokeiji as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist convent in Kamakura after the death of her husband, Hojo Tokimune, the 8th Regent of the Kamakura Shogunate. Her birth name was Horiuchi and she belonged to the Adachi clan. Abbess Kakusan knew first hand that women were often pawns of revenge killings and wars; therefore, she had the desire to establish the first convent used to shelter women.

Yodo-ni (1318-96), a daughter of Emperor Go-Daigo, found sanctuary at Tokeiji after the death of her brother, Prince Morinaga in Kamakura. Naa-hime (1609-44) the daughter of Toyotomi Hideyori and granddaughter of Hideyoshi was brought to Tokeiji in 1615 after she was rescued from Osaka castle with her step-mother Sen-hime by the order of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Sen-hime’s grandfather. Tokeiji was then given extraterritorial rights by the Tokugawa Shogunate.

In the late Edo Period (1603-1868), Tokeiji was widely known as the “Divorce Temple” by sheltering runaway wives for 2 or 3 years to protect them by the authority of the shogunate, provide counseling and give them the choice of a legal divorce. Most of the women later returned to their parents’ home and some were reunited with their husbands. In the museum at Tokeiji there are many short poems written by the runaway women. These poems are senryu, similar to haiku, but with an ironic or bitter twist. In 1901, Tokeiji’s history as a convent and sanctuary ended when it became a monastery. It lost its extraterritorial rights when the Edo Period ended and the Meiji government set up courts for divorce. Kakusan Shido’s vision for Tokeiji lasted over 600 years.


  • Bernstein, Gail Lee. Recreating Japanese Women, 1600-1945, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, pp. 100-1.
  • Kondo, Tadahiro’s website: A New Guide to Kamakura. Retrieved from


  • Morrell, Sachiko Kaneko and Robert E. Morrell. Zen Sanctuary of Purple Robes: Japan’s Tokeiji Convent Since 1285, N.Y.: State University Press, 2006.
  • Rozmus, Lidia and Carmen Sterba, ed. The Moss at Tokeiji: A Sanctuary at Tokeiji that Saved Women’s Lives (1285-1902), Santa Fe: Deep North Press, 2010.
  • Tonomura, Hitomi. “Re-envisioning Women,” The Origins of Japan’s Medieval World: Courtiers, Clerics, Warriors, and Peasants in the Fourteenth Century, ed. Jeffrey P. Mass, Oxford and N.Y: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 138-169
  • Ueda, Makoto. ”The Battle Between the Sexes,” Light Verse from the Floating World: An Anthology of Premodern Japanese Senryu, 1999, pp. 136-145.