Nakano Takeko

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Nakano Takeko
Nakano Takeko, the woman warrior of Aizu
Native name
中野 竹子
BornApril 1847 (1847)
Edo, Japan
DiedOctober 16, 1868(1868-10-16) (aged 21)
Aizu, Japan
AllegianceAizu Domain
Years of service1868
Battles/warsBattle of Aizu
MemorialsNakano Takeko Monument
Statue of Nakano Takeko
RelationsNakano Heinai (father)
Nakano Kōko (mother)
Nakano Toyomi (brother)
Nakano Yūko (sister)
Akaoka Daisuke (adoptive father)

Nakano Takeko (中野 竹子, April 1847 – 16 October 1868) was a Japanese female warrior of the Aizu Domain, who fought and died during the Boshin War.


Nakano, born in Edo, was the eldest daughter of Nakano Heinai, an Aizu official and his wife Kōko. She was thoroughly trained in the martial and literary arts, she was intelligent from childhood, and could recall Ogura Hyakunin Isshu around 5 to 6 years old and never mistook a single character. She was adopted by her teacher Akaoka Daisuke (Tadayoshi).[1] After working with her adoptive father as a martial arts instructor during the 1860s, Nakano entered Aizu for the first time in 1868.[1]

During the Battle of Aizu, she fought with a naginata (a Japanese polearm) and was the leader of an ad hoc corps of female combatants who fought in the battle independently, as the senior Aizu retainers did not allow them to fight as an official part of the domain's army.[2] This unit was later retroactively called the Jōshitai (娘子隊, Girls's Army).


While leading a charge against Imperial Japanese Army troops of the Ōgaki Domain,[3] she was fatally shot in the chest. Rather than let the enemy capture her head as a trophy, she asked her sister, Yūko, to cut it off and have it buried. It was taken to Hōkai Temple (in modern-day Aizubange, Fukushima) and buried under a pine tree.[1]

After the battle, Kōko and Yūko entered Tsuruga castle and joined Yamamoto Yae.


Nakano Takeko Monument at Hōkai-ji, Aizubange, Fukushima, Japan

A monument to her was erected beside her grave at Hōkai Temple; Aizu native and Imperial Japanese Navy admiral Dewa Shigetō was involved in its construction.[1]

Photo of unknown onna bugeisha (most likely an actress) who was often mistakenly identified as Nakano Takeko
Nakano Takeko Statue at Hōkai-ji, Aizubange, Fukushima, Japan


Nakano had a kill count of 172 samurai.[1]

During the annual Aizu Autumn Festival, a group of young girls wearing hakama and shiro headbands take part in the procession, commemorating the actions of Nakano and her band of women fighters of the Joshigun.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Yamakawa Kenjirō; Munekawa Toraji (1926). Hoshū Aizu Byakkotai jūkyūshi-den. Wakamatsu: Aizu Chōrei Gikai. pp. 63–64.
  2. ^ Hoshi Ryōichi (2006). Onnatachi no Aizusensō. Tokyo: Heibonsha. p. 80.
  3. ^ Yamakawa Kenjirō; Munekawa Toraji (1926). Hoshū Aizu Byakkotai jūkyūshi-den. Wakamatsu: Aizu Chōrei Gikai. p. 69.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hoffman, Michael (October 9, 2011). "Women warriors of Japan". The Japan Times.
  • Kincaid, Chris (August 9, 2015). "Japan's Warrior Women". Japan Powered. (incl. "The Women's Army – the Joshigun")
  • Smithsonian Institution (2015). "Samurai Warrior Queens". Smithsonian Channel.
  • Szczepanski, Kallie (April 1, 2017). "Images of Samurai Women". ThoughtCo.

External links[edit]