Other Known Names: Kicho
Nōhime, also known as Kicho, was the wife of Oda Nobunaga and Saitō Dōsan’s daughter. Much of her life is unknown and left to much speculation. There is very little that is proven fact about her life.
While historians do know that Nōhime was the daughter of Saitō Dōsan and Omi no Kata, they are not sure about the year of her birth. It is believed that she was born sometime between 1533 and 1535. She was married off to Oda Nobunaga as part of a peace treaty between the Saitō and Oda clans in 1549. One record states that Nobunaga said that Nōhime had “the mind of a genius and the appearance of a goddess.”
Historians are unsure of the type of relationship that Nobunaga and Nōhime had as husband and wife. She was unable to bare any children in life, making historians believe that she was barren. It seems that Nobunaga’s love and attention seemed to be focused on his concubine, Kitsuno, who gave birth to Nobunaga’s first son, Oda Nobutada. Despite being the son of Nobunaga and Kitsuno, Nobutada became Nōhime adopted son.
If the legends are true, there is another reason why Nōhime was not in good favor with her husband: Nōhime was a spy. It is the most famous legend that surrounds her life. It is said that Nōhime was a spy and assassin for her father. Some believed that she was sent to kill Nobunaga, which she could have done, for she was known to have been skilled with a sword. As for the spy angle, it is said that she often relayed information that she learned from Nobunaga to her father back in Mino. One such story exists about her spying activities. One day, Nobunaga gave Nōhime information about two men in her father’s ranks that were going to betray him. She passed along the information to her father, who killed the men, but those men were actually extremely loyal. The information turned out to be false. On top of everything else, in 1556, Saitō Dōsan was killed by her brother, which added further injury to her reputation.
Nōhime’s death is as much of a mystery as the rest of her life. There is no record of her year nor a cause of death. There are a few rumors surrounding her possible death. The first is the most obvious: dying at Honnō-ji Temple alongside her husband. Others claim that the female body found with Nobunaga was not Nōhime, but a prostitute. There is also the possibility that she lived past the Honnō-ji Incident. Many believe that she was sent to Azuchi Castle with the other wives and female servants but was disguised as a woman only known by Lady Azuchi. It is unknown what happened to Lady Azuchi, for it is believed that she slipped away in the night. The final, and most unlikely theory is that she was going to raise the Saitō clan under her name of her father, but never did because she was killed by an Akechi assassin.
In 2011, Rumi Komonz wrote Kicho and Nobunaga and while it is a historical fiction romance novel, it is based on research and tells a very interesting tale of Nōhime’s life.
The author paints her to a loving wife to Nobunaga, who was jealous of the concubines that Nobunaga took to create heirs and secure his power. The author keeps with the common belief that she was an assassin, but it gets more complicated. In the story, Nōhime is told to kill Nobunaga and marry his brother, Oda Nobukatsu, to create a more stable alliance between the Saitō and Oda clans. This plan fell through when Nōhime fell in love with Nobunaga.
Nōhime also endures an in-house scandal involving her sister-in-law, Oichi and Nobunaga. This part of the story is based on a legend that Lady ChaCha was actually the love child of Oichi and Nobunaga. This legend came about by looking at two separate facts. The first is that Lady ChaCha was born in December 1567, but Oichi married Azai Nagamasa in September 1567. She also ended up being remarried after Nagamasa’s death and was kept away from Nobunaga. While it is just a legend, it does present a lot of interesting facts.
The story also presents a fictional love triangle between Nōhime, Oda Nobunaga, and Akechi Mitsuhide. In the story, Mitsuhide is Nōhime first love interest, but he rejected the possibility of marrying her. This is brought in as a way to explain why Mitsuhide did not serve Nobunaga right after the death of Saitō Dōsan and why she was allowed to return to Azuchi Castle after the Honnōji Incident.
Finally, there is the book’s ending. According to the book, Nōhime outlived her husband. Many claim that Nōhime perished during the Honnōji Incident, but in Kicho and Nobunaga, she did not die at Honnō-ji, but a concubine. Nōhime managed to escape, became a nun, and died in 1612. It is unclear if it is fact or fiction.