Tomoe Gozen


Tomoe Gozen (note: Gozen is an honorific title meaning 'Lady') was a female samurai warrior during the time of the Gempei War in the C12th.

Many Japanese women knew how to fight and defend their homes (the favoured weapon was the naginata), and there are stories of female ashigaru (foot soldiers), but Tomoe was special in that she was a high-level samurai, skilled in riding, archery and kenjutsu.

The Heike Monogatari (Tale of the Heike) describes her as "especially beautiful with white skin, long hair and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god, mounted or on foot."

There are numerous legends about her exploits and rumours about her life. Some say she died at the Battle of Awazu in 1184. Others said she fled, as ordered by her general Yoshinaka. A few say she even gave up the sword and became a nun!

Whatever, Tomoe Gozen remains a source of endless fascination for the Japanese. Some even believe she was the reincarnation of a river goddess, being such a formidable and powerful warrior.

For me, she was the inspiration for Akiko and the proof that there were formidable female samurai warriors.

© Chris Bradford 2021