Chūjō-hime (中将姫), also known as Princess Hase, is said to have been the daughter of Fujiwara no Toyonari and a ‘Princess Murasaki.’
A folktale has sprung up around her life.
In Nara lived Fujiwara no Toyonari married to Princess Murasaki. They had no child, which caused them sadness and so made pilgramage to Hase-no-Kwannon and their prayer for a child was answered. Upon her birth they chose to call her Hasehime from the name of the temple.
When five years old her mother fell gravely ill, before she died telling her daughter to grow up to be a model woman.
After her death her father remarried to a woman called Princess Terute and she was a cruel step-mother to Hasehime.
Hasehime studied hard in the art of music and poetry and aged twelve she and her step-mother were summoned to court to perform. Hasehime played beautifully, but the Princess Terute as she didn’t often study had to have someone else finish her performance. The Emperor praises Hasehime giving her many beautiful girls as a reward, and the step-mother grew angrier and jealous.
She was also jealous as she felt if Hasehime didn’t exist, the son she had had with Toyonari would have all the love from his father.
And so she makes a plan to poison and kill Hasehime. She gives wine to her son and Hasehime but in the act mistakenly gives the posioned wine to her son and so her son dies.
When Hasehime turns 13, heavy rains had caused floods and the river Tatsuta was close to breaking its banks. The noise of the water causing the Emperor that he came down with a nervous disorder. Orders were sent for priests to pray for the floods to end but it didn’t work.
Legends of the time a poetess (Ono no Komachi) had stopped rain by praying in verse to Heaven, and so they called on Hasehime to do the same. After reciting the poem she had written the river quietened and the Emperor regain his health. She was rewards for this with the rank of Lieutenant General and so we given a new name Chūjō-hime.
The step-mother was furious and jealous and began to spread lies about her to the girls father, though he said they were all false. One day Hasehime’s father was absent and so the step-mother takes the opportunity to have her killed in the Hibari Mountains. She orders her vassal Kotoda to take her, saying she needed to be killed to prevent disgrace falling on the familiy for something she had done. Kotoda knew this was a lie and vowed to save her life instead.
When Toyonari returns the cruel step-mother says Hasehime ran away because of something she had done. He takes his men hunting into the mountains, and hearing a girl singing find Hasehime in a mountain hut. Kotada then reveals the events of the cruel step-mother. A messenger is sent home with the good news of Hasehime being found and the cruel step-mother flees back to her father in disgrace and is never seen again. After this she grows to an old age and gave birth to the familiy heir before her father retired.
1. Ozaki, Y.T. (2015) “Japanese Fairy Tales” USA: Cavalier Classics.
Find the website useful?