Nene (ねね?, 1546-1624), also known as One (おね?) or Nemoji or Kōdai-in (高台院?), was the childhood name of Sugihara Yasuko (杉原 寧子?). She was the principal samurai wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. She is also known by the title of "Kita no mandokoro".
In about 1561, she married Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a man who would later become one of the three great unifiers of Japan, although at the time of their marriage he had yet to gain much fame. Nene was his principal wife and also one of his favorite wives.
In 1585, after Hideyoshi was appointed to the post of Kampaku, Nene took on the title of "Kita no mandokoro", by which she is most commonly known by in English.
As the wife of Hideyoshi, Nene is most famous for being one of his closest aides and confidantes. The daughter of a samurai, she had many familial connections that netted Hideyoshi several retainers. Among these retainers were Sugihara Ietsugu (Nene's uncle), Kinoshita Iesada (Nene's brother), Kobayakawa Hideaki (Nene's nephew) and Asano Nagamasa (Nene's brother-in-law). The last of these characters would serve as an important official in Hideyoshi's later administration.
Nene was known to have been an intelligent woman who, at times, advised Hideyoshi on matters of governance by sending him letters. When Hideyoshi repealed the tax exemptions he had granted to the residents living in his headquarters at Nagahama, Nene appealed to him to reinstate the exemptions, and he did. It is also recorded that Hideyoshi frequently wrote letters to Nene to tell her about how his campaigns were going. Hideyoshi did this after his invasion of Sassa Narimasa's territory in Japan's Hokuriku region and after his campaign against the Shimazu clan.
When Hideyoshi unified Japan, Nene often went with him to attend parties. Nene was courteous and respectful to her guests on every occasion. When Emperor Go-Yozei visited Hideyoshi's mansion with his entourage in 1588, Nene freely distributed a plethora of gifts to Hideyoshi's visitors. Nene worried about Hideyoshi often when he was on his deathbed. Eventually, as Hideyoshi was on his last throes, she even petitioned the Imperial Court to sponsor a sacred dance ritual to pray for and expedite Hideyoshi's recovery.
Though adored, Nene often found herself competing with other women for Hideyoshi's attention. In a letter to Nene, Oda Nobunaga also noted that Hideyoshi was somewhat dissatisfied with Nene. Hideyoshi took up several concubines.
Nene did not bear any children.
Letter to Lady Nene from Oda Nobunaga
...It has been quite sometime since I last saw you, but your beauty grows day by day. Tokichiro (Hideyoshi) complains about you constantly and it is outrageous. While that "bald rat" (Hideyoshi) flusters to find another good woman, you remain lofty and elegant. Do not be envious. Show Hideyoshi this letter...
After Hideyoshi died in 1598, Nene became a nun, taking the name Kōdai-in (高台院?) and establishing a Buddhist temple, Kōdai-ji, in Kyoto, to which she moved. It became the burial area for her husband, his mother, and later Toyotomi Hideyori. During the contest between Toyotomi Hideyori and Tokugawa Ieyasu for supremacy, Nene took the side of Ieyasu. There is also a rumor that Toshiie Maeda had a crush on Nene before she was married to Hideyoshi. After her death in 1624 she was posthumously given the name of Hikari no Tenshi or "Angel of Light" and entombed at the Hikari no Shrine in Kyoto.
The life of this prominent resident of Kyoto is still commemorated in a short street which bears her name. The Path of Nene (ねねの道 Nene-no-Michi?) remains lined with structures built in traditional Kyoto style. Nene-no-Michi is located in Higashiyama Ward in eastern Kyoto near Kōdai-ji, Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine.
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- Rowthorn, Chris. (2005). Kyoto: City Guide, p. 95; JapanVisitors: Kodaiji Temple/Nene-no-Michi.
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