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. She fought with Minamoto no Yoshinaka in the Genpei War.
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, 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.
There are varied accounts of what followed. At Battle of Awazu in 1184, she is known for beheading Honda no Moroshige of Musashi. She is also known for having killed Uchida Ieyoshi and for escaping capture by Hatakeyama Shigetada.
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—artist's impression by Kikuchi Yōsai (1781-1878)
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- Kitagawa, Hiroshi and Bruce T. Tsuchida, ed. (1975). The Tale of the Heike. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. ISBN 0-86008-128-1 OCLC 164803926
- McCullough, Helen Craig. (1988). The Tale of the Heike. Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-1418-1; OCLC 16472263
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- Famous Women of Japanese History. The Samurai Archives Japanese History Page.
- Shea, L. "Tomoe Gozen - Female Samurai". Bella Online, 2009.
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