In Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Lady Kasuga, the third shogun’s nurse, goes to extreme lengths to ensure the continuation of the Tokugawa bloodline after the shogun’s death. Kikuko Inoue voices Lady Kasuga.
Although Lady Kasuga is the third shogun’s wet nurse, she is also a political strategist who is ready to do whatever is needed to achieve her goals.
When the third shogun dies, Lady Kasuga decides to keep his death a secret in order to prevent provincial lords from taking power. To prevent this news from getting out, she even kills the doctor who tended to the shogun.
Lady Kasuga knows that she cannot keep the shogun’s death a secret for a long time, so she uproots his illegitimate daughter, kills her mother, and brings her to Edo Castle to take her father’s place.
As his daughter, Iemitsu, is the only one who can pass down the blood of the Tokugawa line, Lady Kasuga focuses on getting her to produce a male heir who will become the next shogun.
Lady Kasuga’s past
Lady Kasuga’s only memory of her father is that of his body hanging from the crucifix. Her father was the chief retainer of Akechi Mitsuhide and was killed after being labeled as a traitor.
Lady Kasuga’s family had to flee from there and keep wandering from one province to another. This did not affect her much, as she was used to feeling dirty and being ridiculed for her pockmarks by other children her age.
She was a practical person from the time she was young and could keep her emotions in check. However, sometimes even she lost control. She killed her husband’s concubine when she caught her hitting her son.
She was then ready to get divorced in order to protect her husband’s reputation. When her husband offended his lord, she realized that there is no point in staying with him and decided to go to Edo to become the wet nurse of the shogun’s son.
For that, she was ready to leave behind her younger son, but her older son chose to go with her and become the shogun’s retainer, even if that meant not being able to address Lady Kasuga as mother.
The creator of the Ōoku
Lady Kasuga is not just the shogun’s nurse; she is also the head of the Ōoku. In her attempts to get a male heir, she kills innocent people without any regrets.
She forces Arikoto to break his vows and become the shogun’s concubine. When Iemitsu fails to produce an heir with him, she replaces him with other concubines just as easily without caring about his or Iemitsu’s feelings.
At the same time, she coddles Iemitsu and treats her like she treated her father, and so her death upsets Iemitsu, who knows that her father would not have become the shogun if it was not for Lady Kasuga.
Lady Kasuga had taken the pledge to not take medicines when she prayed for the third shogun’s recovery from red-face smallpox, and she honors that pledge till the very end of her life, even when she becomes bedridden.
It is Arikoto who takes care of her in her last days. Before she dies, she leaves the responsibility of taking care of the shogun and the Ōoku to Arikoto.
She also asks Masasuke to keep writing everything that goes on within the Ōoku, as she believes that the country will soon fall to its ruin and this journal will become the record of what they had witnessed; she calls it “The Chronicle of the Dying Day”.
Lady Kasuga was not in favor of women inheriting the titles of the feudal lords, but that becomes a reality after her death. The country does not fall to its ruin but changes, and the changes are recorded in “The Chronicle of the Dying Day”.
In history, Lady Kasuga comes to be known as the Honored Kasuga, who created the Ōoku. However, what most people do not know is that the Honored Kasuga, the Senior Chamberlain of the Ōoku, was a woman, not a man.