1548 - 1624
Appearances: Sengoku Musou (2)
Nene was the daughter of an Oda retainer named Sugihara Sadatoshi. She is sometimes called 'O-ne' and was granted the title of 北政所 Kita no Mandokoro in her later years. The latter was a rank given to her by the Imperial Court after her husband, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, had risen to power as the ruler of Japan. Nene was admired by both her husband, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Hideyoshi's original daimyo, Oda Nobunaga. European accounts from the Sengoku-Jidai claim that the latter once wrote a letter to Nene stating that, "Hideyoshi would never find another woman like her."*
As the wife of Hideyoshi, Nene is most famous for being one of his closest aides and confidantes. Because she was 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), and Asano Nagamasa (Nene's brother-in-law). The last of these characters would serve as an important official in Hideyoshi's later administration.
Although Nene did not produce any children for Hideyoshi (she was probably barren), she was known to have been an intelligent woman who, at times, advised Hideyoshi on matters of governance. When Hideyoshi gained a large fief in Omi following the defeat of the Azai and Asakura, he exempted the residents living in his headquarters at Nagahama from paying taxes, but afterwards reneged on giving his citizens special tax privileges. Nene, however, protested Hideyoshi's second decision and, as a result, Hideyoshi later repealed it and extended tax benefits to his civilians again.** On other occasions, Nene probably gave Hideyoshi advice on civil affairs as well. 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, and probably during other times in his career.***
When Hideyoshi unified Japan, Nene often went with him to attend parties. Nene was courteous and respectful to her guests on every occasion. and when the Emperor of Japan, Go-Yozei, came to 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 the aforementioned letter from Oda Nobunaga to Nene that was quoted above, Oda Nobunaga also noted that Hideyoshi was somewhat dissatisfied with Nene. Whilst the love between Nene and Hideyoshi was probably reciprocal, Hideyoshi still took up several concubines for himself because Nene could not bear for him any children.
There are rumors (albeit unconfirmed) that during the Sekigahara campaign, Nene had taken a pro-Tokugawa stance. Other rumors say that before she was married to Hideyoshi, Maeda Toshiie, an Oda and Toyotomi vassal, used to have a crush on her.
*(They Came to Japan: An Anthology of European Reports on Japan by Michael Cooper, page 93)
**(Source: Hideyoshi, Mary Elizabeth Berry, pg. 53)
Biography created by: SlickSlicer