Japanese Women Warriors

Just an interesting article I stumbled upon last night I want to share. It’s maybe for the girls, hehehe

The Empress Jingu (c. 169 – 269 A.D.) leads an invasion of Korea.

Long before the term “samurai” came into usage, Japanese fighters were skilled with the sword and spear. These warriors included some women, such as the legendary Empress Jingu (c. 169-269 A.D.), pictured here leading an invasion of Korea.

According to the stories, Jingu was married to the fourteenth emperor of Japan, Chuai, who reigned between 192 and 200. After his death, she ruled as a regent for her young son. To pass the time, she invaded and conquered Korea (without shedding a drop of blood, according to the legend).

“Female Samurai”

Linguistic purists point out that the term “samurai” is a masculine word; thus, there are no “female samurai.”

Nonetheless, for thousands of years, certain upper class Japanese women have learned martial skills and participated in fighting.

Between the 12th and 19th centuries, many women of the samurai class learned how to handle the sword and the naginata (a blade on a long staff) primarily to defend themselves and their homes. In the event that their castle was overrun by enemy warriors, the women were expected to fight to the end and die with honor, weapons in hand.

Some young women were such skilled fighters that they rode out to war beside the men, rather than sitting at home and waiting for war to come to them. Here are pictures of some of the most famous among them.

Tomoe Gozen, c. 1157–1247, a Genpei War-era samurai, leaning on her naginata (pole weapon).

During the Genpei War (1180-1185), a beautiful young woman named Tomoe Gozen fought alongside her daimyo (and possibly her husband), Minamoto no Yoshinaka, against the forces of his cousin Minamoto no Yoritomo.

Tomoe Gozen (gozen is a title meaning “lady”) was famous as a swordswoman, a skilled rider, and a superb archer. She was Minamoto’s first captain, and took at least one enemy head during the Battle of Awazu in 1184.

The Genpei War

The late-Heian era Genpei War was a civil conflict between two samurai clans, the Minamoto and the Taira. Both families sought to control the shogunate. In the end, the Minamoto clan prevailed and established the Kamakura shogunate in 1192.

The Minamoto did not just fight the Taira, though. As mentioned above, different Minamoto lords also fought one another. Unfortunately for Tomoe Gozen, Minamoto no Yoshinaka died at the Battle of Awazu. His cousin, Minamoto Yoritomo, became shogun.

Reports vary as to Tomoe Gozen’s fate. Some say that she stayed in the fight and died. Others say that she rode away carrying an enemy’s head, and disappeared. Still others claim that she married Wada Yoshimori, and then became a nun after his death.

You can find more of these here if you are interested.



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December 2010
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