Princess Sen has been characterized in numerous Japanese dramas and movies as well as manga and anime. The historical Sen-hime was linked at birth or marriage to the most famous people of the Sengoku Era. Her maternal grandmother was Oichi, the sister of Oda Nobunaga. Her paternal grandfather was Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and her father and mother were Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada and Lady Oeyo.
In 1603, at six years old, her grandfather married her off to Toyotomi Hideyori (the son of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Yodo-gimi) and sent her to live at Osaka castle. Before Hideyoshi died in 1598, Ieyasu and other daimyo promised to protect Hideyori, but in 1614 and 1615, Ieyasu and Hidetada led two battles against Hideyori at Osaka castle. At the end of the second battle, before Hideyori and his mother committed suicide in the fire, Sen-hime (then 19 years old) and her stepdaughter Naa-hime (seven years old) were allowed to escape the castle. It was Sen-hime’s idea to ask her grandfather to save Naa-hime.
Next, Ieyasu arranged Sen-hime’s marriage to Honda Tadatoki, lord of Himeji castle, in 1616. They had two children, one of whom was named Katsuhime. When Honda died 10 years later, Sen-hime took vows as a nun with the name Tenjuin and lived near Takebashi in Edo until her death at the age of 70. Sen-hime did not stay cloistered as a nun. She had a connection with both Tokeiji and Mantokuji convents (the only two sanctuaries for women who were threatened or abused in Edo period Japan). Inspired by Tokeiji’s divorce system, Sen-hime established this system at Mantokuji, a Kamakura period temple founded by the Tokugawa Clan in Gunma-ken.
In 1642, Sen-hime was asked by Naa-hime, who had become Abbess Tenshu, to help save the Hori clan women who were given sanctuary because of a request from Hori Mondo (a retainer of the Daimyo Kato Akinari of Aizu castle). Once Kato had killed the men of the Hori clan, he sent an assassin to kill the women at Tokeiji in Kamakura. This episode has been sensationalized in the manga, The Yagyu Ninja Scrolls: the revenge of the Hori Clan by Futaro Yamada and Masaki Segawa, a part historical account, part fantasy of the Hori Incident.
- Martin, Theron. “The Yagyu Ninja Schools GN 1-2 – Revenge of the Hori Clan,” Retrieved at http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/the-yagyu-ninja-scrolls/gn-1.
- Morrell, Sachiko Kaneko and Robert E. Morrell. Zen Sanctuary of Purple Robes: Japan’s Tokeiji Convent Since 1285, NY: N.Y. State University Press, 2006.
- Plaques on-site at grave of Sen-hime at Dentsû-in, Bunkyô-ku, Tokyo.
- Sadler, A. L. The Life of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu: The Maker of Modern Japan, Rutland, Vermont: Charles Tuttle Co., 1986, p. 270.
- Turnbull, Stephen. Osaka 1615: The last battle of the samurai, Oxford UK: Osprey Publishing, 2006, p. 87.
- Wright, Diana, trans. The “Divorce Temple” Mantokuji Museum Brochure, Gunma-ken: Ojima-machi. 1994, pp, 3-4.
- Cecilia Segawa Seigle, “Tokugawa Tsunayoshi and the Formation of Edo Castle Rituals of Giving,” in Martha Chaiklin (ed.), Mediated by Gifts: Politics and Society in Japan 1350-1850, Brill (2017), 122.