February 5, 1836|
Kagoshima, Satsuma Domain Japan
|Died||November 20, 1883
She was originally named Katsu (一?) by her parents. When she was adopted by Shimazu Nariakira, her name was changed to Atsuko (篤子?), and later changed to Fujiwara no Sumiko (藤原の敬子?) when she was adopted by Konoe Tadahiro.
Tenshōin was born in Kagoshima in 1835. In 1853, she became the adopted daughter of Shimazu Nariakira. On August 21, 1853, she travelled by land from Kagoshima via Kokura to the Edo jurisdiction, never to return to Kagoshima again.
Atsuko was thought to be sent to Edo castle with the aim of helping Shimazu Nariakira politically. The question of the next heir to the Shogunate was divided between the choice of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, then head of the Hitotsubashi-Tokugawa house and Tokugawa Yoshitomi, then head of Kii-Tokugawa house and later known as Tokugawa Iemochi. In order to ensure that Yoshinobu becomes the next in succession, Atsuko was arranged to wed into the Tokugawa clan.
In November, 1856, Atsuko married Tokugawa Iesada. In 1858, both Tokugawa Iesada and Shimazu Nariakira died. The 14th shogun was decided to be Tokugawa Iemochi. Following the demise of her husband, Atsuko took the tonsure, becoming a Buddhist nun, and took the name Tenshōin. In 1862, as part of the Kōbu Gattai ("Union of Court and Bakufu") movement, Iemochi was married to Imperial Princess Kazu-no-Miya Chikako daughter of Emperor Ninkō, and younger sister of Emperor Kōmei. The Satsuma clan brought up the request for Tenshōin to return to Satsuma, but was rejected by Tenshōin herself. In 1866, Iemochi died. Tokugawa Yoshinobu became the next shogun. During the Meiji Restoration, Tenshōin and Seikan'in (Kazu-no-Miya's name after tonsure) helped negotiate for the peaceful surrender of Edo Castle.
She spent her remaining years nurturing Tokugawa Iesato, the 16th head of the Tokugawa clan. In 1883, she died in Edo at the age of 48. She was buried in Kaneiji in Ueno, Tokyo, together with her husband, Iesada.