Tomoe Gozen

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Tomoe Gozen, a drawing by Shitomi Kangetsu (1747-1797).

Tomoe Gozen (巴 御前?) (1157?–1247), pronounced [tomo.e], was a late twelfth-century female samurai warrior (onna bugeisha), known for her bravery and strength.[1] She is believed to have fought in and survived the Genpei War (1180–1185).

She was also the concubine of Minamoto no Yoshinaka.[2][3]


According to one historical account,

After defeating the Taira and driving them into the western provinces, Minamoto no Yoshinaka (Tomoe's master) took Kyoto and desired to be the leader of the Minamoto clan. His cousin Yoritomo was prompted to crush Yoshinaka, and sent his brothers Yoshitsune and Noriyori to kill him. Yoshinaka fought Yoritomo's forces at the Battle of Awazu on February 21, 1184, where Tomoe Gozen purportedly took at least one head of the enemy. Although Yoshinaka's troops fought bravely, they were outnumbered and overwhelmed. When Yoshinaka was defeated there, with only a few of his soldiers standing, he told Tomoe Gozen to flee because he wanted to die with his foster brother Imai no Shiro Kanehira and he said that he would be ashamed if he died with a woman.[citation needed]

Tomoe Gozen with Uchida Ieyoshi and Hatakeyama no Shigetada. Woodblock print by Yōshū Chikanobu, 1899

There are varied accounts of what followed. At Battle of Awazu in 1184, she is known for beheading Honda no Moroshige of Musashi.[5] She is also known for having killed Uchida Ieyoshi and for escaping capture by Hatakeyama Shigetada.[6]

In fiction[edit]

Tomoe Gozen's life, set in a fantasy Japan, is the subject of a trilogy of novels by Jessica Amanda Salmonson (The Disfavored Hero, The Golden Naginata and Thousand Shrine Warrior, 1981 – 1984).



  1. ^ Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al. (2005). "Tomoe Gozen" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 984., p. 984, at Google Books
  2. ^ Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al. (2005). "Tomoe Gozen" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 984., p. 984, at Google Books
  3. ^ Bryant, Anthony J. (1991). Early Samurai: 200-1500 AD, p. 19., p. 19, at Google Books
  4. ^ McCullough, Helen Craig. (1988). The Tale of the Heike, p. 291., p. 291, at Google Books; Kitagawa, Hiroshi et al. (1975). The Tale of the Heike, p. 519.
  5. ^ Faure, Bernard. (2003). The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender, p. 211, p. 211, at Google Books; Kitagawa, p. 521.
  6. ^ Joly, Henri L. (1967). Legend in Japanese Art, p. 540.


External links[edit]