Ejima Kakomi Yashiki

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Background

Near Takatoh Castle is an Edo period house designed as a miniature prison for its lonely occupant.

In 1714, the Shōgun was the infant Tokugawa Ietsugu. Confucian scholar Arai Hakuseki, a reported genius, was responsible for much of the Shogunate's policy during this time, which included monetary reform. Ietsugu's mother, Gekkōin, was meanwhile engaged in a power struggle within the Shōgun's court with Ten'eiin, the surviving wife of the former Shōgun, Tokugawa Ienobu, Ietsugu's father.

At the end of February that year, Lady Ejima, a courtesan in her early thirties under Gekkōin, paid her respects at the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ienobu, before attending a kabuki performance by popular actor Ikushima Shingorō at the Yamamura-za theatre. Ikushima then attended a party along with Lady Ejima and others at a teahouse (dramatised illustrations of the event often show Lady Ejima heavily flirting with Ikushima). The party ran very late, and Lady Ejima missed the curfew imposed upon the courtesans of the Ôoku, the Shōgun's inner palace. This lead to her causing a scene at one of its gates, and before long everyone was aware of the transpiring fuss.

This seemingly banal happening led to a major affair. Lady Ejima became the unfortunate focus of a massive power struggle within the Shogunal court, with Gekkōin and Arai Hakuseki on one side, and Ten'eiin and the Rōjū (Council of Elders) on the other. Ten'eiin called for an investigation of the Ôoku by the Machi-bugyō (Town Magistrate), and many infractions were discovered in what what was supposed to be a highly regimented and strict institution. 1,300 people were reportedly punished in the ensuing fall-out. Actor Ikushima and the owner of the Yamamura-za were banished to remote islands. Lady Ejima's half-brother, bannerman Shirai Katsumasa, was beheaded. And all for some lollygagging!

Lady Ejima herself was also in line for execution, but she was pardoned, and instead sent to live in domestic incarceration in Takatô Domain, Shinano Province. The Ejima-kakomi-yashiki (Lady Ejima's Prison House) was built as a secured residence in which she lived out the rest of her days. The veranda facing the garden was barred with a lattice frame, and the house had a guardhouse attached to monitor comings-and-goings. The wall surrounding the residence was double-barred with shinobi-gaeshi (anti-thief spikes).

Although Lady Ejima's new life was miserable at first, and she was strictly monitored and forbidden from eating sweets (a great cruelty), she is said to have acted with great deportment, and never discussed the affairs of the Ôoku. This earned her the respect of Lord Naitō of Takatô Castle, and, by 1722, he was able to have Lady Ejima pardoned. Lady Ejima thereafter enjoyed considerably more freedom, and even had a respected position at the castle educating the domain's ladyfolk on etiquette and discipline. Lady Ejima passed away in 1741, aged 61.

Ejima-kakomi-yashiki was restored in 1967.


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  • Ejima Kakomi Yashiki Profile
    English Name Ejima Kakomi Yashiki
    Japanese Name 江島囲み屋敷
    Year 1714; 1967
    Residence Type Upper Class
    Features Gates, Garden, House
    Visitor Information 09:00-17:00, closed Mondays
    Website https://www.inacity.jp/shisetsu/library museum/rekishihakubutsukan/index.html
    Location Ina, Nagano Prefecture
    Castle Takato Castle
    Coordinates 35° 49' 49.30" N, 138° 3' 51.88" E
    Takato Castle and nearby Samurai Homes
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    Visits
    Added Jcastle 2023
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