Tomoe Gozen

Tomoe Gozen on horseback

Tomoe Gozen on horseback

Tomoe Gozen (c. 1157—1247) was a samurai warrior who participated in the Genpei War. She was reportedly an excellent swordswoman, horsewoman, and archer. “The Tale of the Heike” chronicles her life during the war. Many historians believe that “The Tale of the Heike” is a true source for Japan during this era.

” 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.”  — The Tale of the Heike

The Genpei War was a civil dispute between two rival clans, Minamoto and the Taira. Yomoe was the “onna bugeisha” (female consummate warrior) of Minamoto noh Yoshinaka. In 1184, Yoshinaka and Tomoe captured the city of Kyoto, exiling the Taira. At this point, Yoshinaka stated that he wished to be head of the clan. Minamoto noh Yoritomo did not acquiesce and faced his kinsman in the Battle of Awazu. Yoshinaka was badly defeated, and ordered Tomoe to flee as he did not want to shame himself by dying in the presence of a woman. Tomoe did escape capture.


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