Tomoe Gozen (巴 御前, pronounced [tomo.e]; c. 1157 – 1247) was a late twelfth-century female samurai warrior (onna-bugeisha), known for her bravery and strength. She married Minamoto no Yoshinaka and served him in the Genpei War and was a part of the conflict that led to the first shogunate in Japan.
Her family had strong affiliations with Yoshinaka. Her father, Nakahara Kanetō was a strong supporter of Yoshinaka and also his foster father, who raised him since he was two. Her mother was Yoshinaka's wet nurse. Two of her elder brothers also served Yoshinaka as generals. She is best known for her loyalty and courage at the Battle of Awazu in 1184.
According to one historical account,
|“||Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god, mounted or on foot. She handled unbroken horses with superb skill; she rode unscathed down perilous descents. Whenever a battle was imminent, Yoshinaka sent her out as his first captain, equipped with strong armor, an oversized sword, and a mighty bow; and she performed more deeds of valor than any of his other warriors.
After defeating the Taira and driving them into the western provinces, Yoshinaka 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.
There are varied accounts of what followed. At the Battle of Awazu in 1184, she is known for beheading Honda no Morishige of Musashi. She is also known for having killed Uchida Ieyoshi and for escaping capture by Hatakeyama Shigetada.
In fiction and culture
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).
Tomoe Gozen is the title character in C. J. Cherryh's 1988 novel, The Paladin.
Tomoe Gozen appears as an enemy at first with her alias as 'Archer Inferno', but becomes a playable Archer-class servant in Fate/Grand Order.
Tomoe Gozen appears as a character in the podcast Film Reroll.
Tomoe Gozen appears as a character in the manga and anime Nurarihyon no Mago.
Tomoe Gozen—artist's impression by Kikuchi Yōsai (1781–1878)
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