Shinanomiya Tsuneko was an Imperial princess, daughter of Emperor Go-Mizunoo and Shin-Kôgimon-in. She was a sister of Emperor Reigen, and half-sister to three other tennô, Empress Meishô, Emperor Go-Sai, and Emperor Go-Kômyô. She is known chiefly from her diary, which covers a lengthy period from 1666 to 1700, and which was never published but survives in manuscript copies.
She married the 16-year-old court noble Konoe Motohiro in 1664, when she was 22, at her father's arrangement. Initially, he did not move into her mansion with her, but returned frequently to the Konoe family residence; two years after their marriage, however, he arranged for a new mansion to be built which the couple could make their own.
She and Motohiro had three children. Her only daughter, Hiroko (b. 1666/3/26), married the sixth shogun, Tokugawa Ienobu, and her son Iehiro (b. 1667/6/4) and grandson Iehisa came to hold high rank and post, serving as sesshô, kanpaku, and dajô daijin, and being granted the rank of jugô (aka jusangô), second in rank only to emperors and empresses, though Iehiro declined the latter honor. Her other son, Nobuna, was born 1669/4/27.
Even after marriage, Shinanomiya remained closely involved in socializing with the Imperial family, spending a great deal of time with her father, his consorts, or other prominent court ladies. Whether she spent so much time at the palace because her husband was frequently away, or whether he spent so much time away because she was so frequently at the palace is unclear. But she visited constantly with her mother and other close relations, and after the death of Go-Mizunoo in 1680, she became close with her half-brother, the Retired Emperor Go-Sai (r. 1654-1662). Meanwhile, relations between her brother Emperor Reigen (1663-1686) and just about everyone in the family were comparatively rather strained, and so after her father's death, Shinanomiya became more closely involved with the Konoe family.
As a member of the Court, she was quite experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled in matters of music, Noh and kyôgen theatre, dance, calligraphy, the appraisal of artifacts, and the arts of incense & perfumes. When her half-brother Emperor Go-Sai had to choose a single successor to whom to pass on his personal secret recipe for perfumes, he chose Shinanomiya and not one of his closer relatives. She is also said to have been a good judge of character, interviewing and selecting not only her own servants, but many of those who would serve her daughter Hiroko and son-in-law Tokugawa Ienobu. Further, her father Emperor Go-Mizunoo, perhaps believing her to be more financially responsible, named her and not one of her other siblings to manage her brothers' estates.
Following the death of her son Iehiro's wife in childbirth in 1688, Shinanomiya took on a considerable portion of the care and upbringing of Iehiro's two children.
- 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.