Tomoe Gozen - The story of the samurai warrior

One of the most emblematic and striking figures of Japanese culture is the samurai. Fearless and brave warriors, having the katana as their main weapon. They are always portrayed in movies, games, anime and manga. Right here on the website, we already have several articles on samurai like those of Itsuo Okada and Yasuke.

Whenever we hear about samurai we immediately remember a male figure. And in fact, in most societies in the past, including the Japanese, it was men who became combatants and fought in wars. But, there are many records throughout the history of women that have managed to stand out in environments dominated by men.

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In feudal Japan of the samurai, there were women warriors, one of the best known is the Tomoe Gozen (巴御前). It was even common for women in feudal Japan to receive martial training. Many were even trained to use swords and bows and arrows. But, this training was basically of a defensive nature, in order to protect their homes, in case an enemy attacked.

Tomoe gozen - the story of the samurai warrior

But Tomoe Gozen, unlike most women of his time, focused his skills on offensive use, battling on the front lines. So let's get to know a little more about this fearless character.

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The legend of Tomoe Gozen

Tomoe Gozen was a Japanese warrior who lived around 1157 to 1247. And it was during the Genpei War that Tomoe Gozen stood out and gained fame as a warrior. She was also skilled in the art of naguinata (長刀) where you learned to manipulate a weapon that is basically like a spear, but with a curved blade at the end.

Interesting that Tomoe is mentioned only in a late 12th century tale called The Tale of the Heike. Apart from this work, there are no other written records about Tomoe's life. This leads some to treat this warrior as a fictional character.

Such work describes Tomoe in such a way ”She was beautiful, had long black hair and fair skin. Furthermore, she was a fearless rider, which neither the fiercest nor the hardest horse could dismay. With such skill he manipulated the sword and the reverence that was a match for a thousand warriors, and suitable to find god or demon ... ”

Tomoe gozen - the story of the samurai warrior
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She was very skilled with both swords, bow and arrow and naguinata, in addition to being a complete fighter. About two years after starting her warrior career, she was already leading armies with more than 1000 men.

Tomoe was portrayed in the work as a subordinate of a great samurai named Yoshinaka Minamoto. Some speculate that both were married or had some kind of romantic relationship. Yoshinaka was a powerful general and in 1192 he became a feudal ruler of Japan.

The battle of awazu

Some tried to revive Yoshinaka's power, but together with his army that Tomoe was part of, he was defended. But everything changed in the battle of Awazu, where Minamoto Yoshinaka was challenged by one of his cousins called Yoshitsune Minamoto.

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Yoshitsune's army was much larger in number, which left Tomoe and his war companions at a disadvantage. This leads to the defeat of Tomoe's husband. From there are several “endings” to this story.

Tomoe gozen - the story of the samurai warrior

Some say that Yoshinaka orders Tomoe to flee the battlefield, as it would be somewhat shameful to die with a woman. Tomoe, despite not wanting to run away, ends up seducing her husband's request. But before fleeing, she beheads one of the enemy warriors and goes to the eastern provinces.

Others say that she died with her husband in that battle, refusing to abandon him. Others still say that she survived this battle and still married one of her rivals. And yet some claim that he stayed alive, but decided to change his life by becoming a nun.

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Regardless of the end of this story, Tomoe is still seen and recognized as a brave, strong and brave woman. Leaving a beautiful legacy, that women can do a lot, even in a totally unfavorable environment.

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