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Portrait of Nō in Gifu Castle

Lady Nō (Japanese: 濃姫, Hepburn: Nōhime, Nohime), also known as Kichō (帰蝶), was the legal wife of Oda Nobunaga, a major daimyō during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. Her proper name was Kichō, but since she came from Mino Province, she is most commonly referred to as Nōhime ("Lady of Mino"; is an abbreviation for Mino Province, and hime means "lady, princess, woman of noble family"). She was renowned for her beauty and cleverness.

Nōhime's father was the daimyo Saitō Dōsan and her mother was known as Omi no Kata. Nō herself appears very little in any historical record, and there is not a lot of information on the dates of her birth or death; however, proposed dates for her birth fall in 1533–35. According to one historical record, Lady Nō was infertile, and when Nobunaga's concubine Lady Kitsuno gave birth to Oda Nobutada, the child was given to Lady Nō, Nobunaga's legal wife, to be raised as Nobunaga's heir.

Marriage to Nobunaga[edit]

Nō was said to be extremely intelligent and stunningly beautiful. At their wedding, Nobunaga described her as having "the mind of a genius and the appearance of a goddess."[citation needed] She was married to him in 1549, during a truce between his father, Nobuhide, and hers (Saitō Dōsan).

The marriage is believed to have been a political gesture, with little actual love between Nō and Nobunaga. Though she was his official wife, it is often believed that he focused his love on his concubine, Kitsuno, who bore him his first son, Nobutada. Nō was never able to conceive a child with Nobunaga, and it was believed that she was barren.

Through lack of historical record there is not much information of what became of Nō or even the date of her death. Overall, it can be said that Nō's life as it is known now is more of a mixture of legends, folktales, and tentative half-truths. Nō's official grave is at Sōken-in (総見院), a subtemple of Daitoku-ji in Kyoto.

Legends and speculation[edit]

One theory posits that Nō was acting as a spy, or even assassin, for her father; at that time it was not an uncommon practice for a wife to relay information to her maiden family. Given Nobunaga's reputation at the time as the unruly "Fool of Owari" (Owari no Utsuke 尾張の虚け), it was also not impossible for Dōsan to want Nō to assassinate him, as she was skilled in both the sword and a selection of martial arts.

As for her alleged role as a spy, there is a popular story where Nobunaga purposely gave Nō false information regarding a conspiracy between two of her father's head servants and their plans to betray him. Her father had both men executed, and thus weakened himself by eliminating those loyal to him.

In 1556, Nō's father, was killed in a coup in Mino Province. This detracted much from Nō's worth as a wife. Her inability to conceive and her supposed spying were held against her.

After the Incident at Honnō-ji which claimed the lives of Nobunaga and his son Nobutada, it was uncertain where Nō went. Some speculate that she died at Honnō-ji, but the woman alleged to be Nō was more often believed to be a dormant prostitute who Oda Nobunaga had taken a liking to. Nevertheless, after the incident, Nobunaga's wives and female servants were all sent to Azuchi Castle, which was Nobunaga's castle of residence. Among the women was a Lady Azuchi (安土殿 Azuchi dono), who was taken in by Nobunaga's second son, Nobukatsu. This Lady Azuchi is widely believed to have been Nō in disguise as she soon after disappeared from Azuchi Castle in the night.

Afterwards, it was often rumoured that she had attempted to raise her father's clan in Mino under her name. But this rumour also says that Nō had been killed by an assassin sent by the Akechi who had been tracking her down since her escape from Honnō-ji.

In fiction[edit]

See People of the Sengoku period in popular culture.

In Sengoku Basara game and anime series, she is depicted as a beautiful and elegant woman, with matchlock pistols, jackhammers and guns as weapons. And she's loyal to her husband.