Female Warrior of Twelfth-Century Japan: Tomoe Gozen

Female Warrior of Twelfth-Century Japan: Tomoe Gozen

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Tomoe Gozen is a famous female warrior of twelfth-century Japan. Hence, she belonged to the changing dynamics of this period of history concerning the Heian Period (794-1185).

Female warriors – including Tomoe Gozen and Lady Hangaku Gozen – were admired for their fighting prowess and other qualities. Naturally, Japanese printmakers focused on this aspect of history – notably concerning Tomoe.

Japanese literature and folklore kept the memory of Tomoe alive for future generations to find. Accordingly, the emergence of Ukiyo-e printmaking during the Edo Period would re-connect past warriors – male and female.

The Toshidama Gallery says, “Prior to the late Edo period it was common for women to fight alongside men in battle and in the defence of communities. This role is greatly at odds with contemporary positions of women in Japanese society and does not chime with Western ideas of compliant Japanese females.”

The art prints are by Miki Suizan (Ist), Ando Hiroshige (2nd), and Yoshitoshi (3rd). The second print by Hiroshige also highlights a poem by Tennô Kôkô (Emperor Kôkô).

Female warriors were taught various aspects of the art of clan warfare. Accordingly, weapons were matched appropriately before training began concerning body weight, height, the structure of each female warrior, and speed. Weapons used relate to naginata and kaiken (dual purpose). Therefore, they were taught the fighting art of tantojutsu – concerning various systems of knife fighting: and other warrior skills were taught.

Tomoe was deeply loyal to Minamoto no Yoshinaka (1154-1184).


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