Konoe Motohiro

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Konoe Motohiro was a court noble and antiquarian, the head of the Konoe family. He was a son-in-law of Emperor Go-Mizunoo and father-in-law of Shogun Tokugawa Ienobu. Konoe was named Minister of the Left in 1677, Kampaku in 1690, and Dajô daijin in 1709.

Motohiro lost his father and adoptive mother at a young age; his grandfather had been a younger brother of Go-Mizunoo who had been adopted into the Konoe family.

He married the 22-year-old Shinanomiya Tsuneko, daughter of Emperor Go-Mizunoo in 1664, when he was 16. Initially, rather than move into his wife's mansion with her, he spent much of his time at the Konoe family residence, eventually arranging for a new home which he would share with the princess two years after their marriage. He had three children with her: their daughter Hiroko (b. 1666/3/26), married the sixth shogun, Tokugawa Ienobu, while their eldest son Iehiro (b. 1667/6/4) married the eldest daughter of Emperor Reigen, and went on to hold a number of the highest-ranking court posts; their third child, Nobuna (1669/4/27-1684/10/27), was sickly throughout his life and died at the young age of 15.

As the head of the Konoe family, he was obliged to serve a pseudo-priestly role in performing various rituals at or for the Fujiwara clan family shrine, Kasuga Shrine. As a result, he often had obligations to observe certain taboos at certain times, shying from for example meat or sex on certain days, and on occasion went away on spiritual retreats for more than a week at a time. Though he spent much time away from the house, whether as cause or effect of Shinanomiya spending so much time at the Imperial Palace, Motohiro also spent time quite frequently at Court. He is said to have been quite well-liked by Emperor Go-Mizunoo, Shinanomiya's mother Shin-Kôgimon-in, Go-Mizunoo's consort Tôfukumon-in, and others, though all in this circle, Motohiro included, did not get along well with Emperor Reigen.

The position of kanpaku (imperial regent) rotated among the gosekke (the five top noble houses), and in 1682, when kanpaku Takatsukasa Fusasuke resigned, Motohiro was the obvious candidate to succeed him, according to the rotation; however, he was passed over in favor of Minister of the Right Ichijô Fuyutsune, whether because of Reigen's attitudes towards Motohiro, or for some other reason. He finally was appointed kanpaku, however, in 1690, and he and his family began to assume a somewhat more extravagant quality of life, attending fewer events sponsored by the Imperial Court, and instead sponsoring more events themselves. These events included performances of Noh, kyôgen, Tale of the Heike chanting, and other forms of music and dance, and Motohiro permitted not only elites, but also his own household staff, servants of other households, and even other commoners, to attend. By virtue of his upbringing and life as a court noble, Motohiro was skilled in a number of the classical arts, as was his wife; he is said to have been particularly proficient in playing the koto.

His diary survives in a manuscript copy in the Konoe family archives, the Yômei bunko, in Kyoto, and in a copy of that manuscript known as Motohirokô ki and held at the Shiryôhensanjo at the University of Tokyo.


  • Arai Hakuseki, Joyce Ackroyd (trans.), Told Round a Brushwood Fire, University of Tokyo Press (1979), 313n57.
  • Cecilia Segawa Seigle, "Shinanomiya Tsuneko: Portrait of a Court Lady," in Anne Walthall (ed.), The Human Tradition in Modern Japan, Scholarly Resources, Inc. (2002), 3-24.