¿Cambiar a Español?
Samurai Route

Tomoe Gozen, the samurai woman

A great warrior capable of taking out up to 20 enemies in a single combat

Tomoe Gozen, the samurai woman
23 January 2010

*Tomoe Gozen charging the enemy, in a woodcut by Yoshu Chikanobu, from 1899.

The Samurai warrior class began in the 9th century as expert fighters with strict rules of honor. There is also a Japanese female warrior. She was the beautiful Tomoe who, besides being recognized as a high-ranking samurai, was feared by her enemies. Her weapon of choice, the naginata, a kind of wooden spear with an attached metal blade, gave her legendary fame. Always ready to fight, she was also an excellent archer and mastered with ease the handling of large horses up steep slopes. Her death, defending her beloved husband, General Minamoto Yoshinaka in unequal combat, made her a myth.

It is estimated that Tomoe was born around 1157. Her name means "Perfect Circle" and, like all women from samurai families, she was introduced to the martial art of naginata (NAGINATA JUTSU). This was necessary, as the women were responsible for the defense of the estates when the men were away.

Tomoe lived through a period of confrontation between Japanese clans, specifically between the TAIRA clan and the MINAMOTO clan, known as the GEMPEI WARS (1180-1185). Finally, the MINAMOTO clan won the victory, proclaiming the first shogunate of Kamakura. With his naginata, his armor and his horse, Tomoe distinguished himself during these fights and legend has it that in single combat he was able to kill 20 enemy warriors. His image has been reflected in many paintings and stories.

It so happened that the generals of the MINAMOTO clan did not get along either. Minamoto Yoshinaka, a young general of great prestige and married to Tomoe Gozen, aroused the suspicions of the Shogun of Kamakura, Yorimoto Minamoto. Accusing him of conspiracy, the Shogun got the Emperor to declare Minamoto Yoshinaka (General Kiso) an enemy of the State, which forced the Shogun to kill him.

General Kiso was abandoned by his men. By all but four loyal warriors, including his faithful wife Tomoe, who perished fighting alongside her husband in the so-called battle of Awazu (1184).

Before you continue...

By clicking "Accept All", you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation and analyze site usage.


¿Cambiar a Español?