The Deadly Female Samurai Tomoe Gozen

Grace Higgins | February 6th, 2020

Known for her immense beauty and deadliness on the battlefield, Tomoe Gozen was a late twelfth-century samurai warrior. At a time when female samurai were not numerous at all, Gozen showed the path of immense bravery and became a beacon of hope for all Japanese women at the time. Being that she was a strong and independent figure, something that was not witnessed during 12th century Japan where much like the rest of the planet, the patriarchy society was strong.

She served Minamoto no Yoshinaka during the Genpei Wars and was even part of the great battle, along with several other conflicts, that eventually led to the end of the first shogunate in Japan. This was because her family always had very strong connections to Yoshinaka so she also followed him and supported his battles. Her mother was Yoshinaka’s wet nurse. She is best known for her courage on the battlefield during the Battle of Awazu in 1184, where Gozen showed immense loyalty and turned the tides of the battle.

In 1182 she was commanding over 300 samurai against what records state was 2,000 warriors from a rival clan. And it was recorded as a victory, Gozen rode horses with superb skill and shot arrows like no other. Whenever the battle was reaching a point of peril, Yoshinaka would send out Gozen to turn the tides. Her men would rally behind her and suddenly morale would be boosted across the whole army.

She is also known for beheading Honda no Morishige of Musashi who was a famous Japanese general at the name, and there is the tale of how she escaped capture by Hatakeyama Shigetada. It is believed that after she presented the severed head of the Musashi leader to her master Yoshinaka this is when Gozen came to fame. Her reputation was so high and well regarded, that many historians consider her to be one of the first generals of Japan.

There are varied accounts of Gozen’s demise, some say she died on the battlefield next to her master when they were greatly outnumbered by the forces of an arch-rival Yoritomo. However, many writings suggest that in his last moments Yoshinada ordered her to flee citing that he would be ashamed to die next to a woman. If these accounts are to be believed, Gozen then was able to live out her days to the age of 90, hiding as a typical old village Grandma.

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