Cutting Edge Issue 2 - Page 36

Tomoe Gozen Tomoe Gozen (Gozen was not her name, but a title, often translated as “Lady”) provides one of the few examples of a true female warrior – onna bugeisha – from early Japanese history from around 1157 to around 1247. S ome question whether she truly lived, or was she merely a fictional figure invented in the Heike Monogatari. While countless other women were at times forced to take up arms, Tomoe is described as a consummate warrior and credited with some formidable skill. She is described by some as the daughter of Nakahara no Kanetô, and sister to Imai Kanehira, alongside whom she fights at the Battle of Awazu. The same sources say, she was married to Kiso (Minamoto) Yoshinaka (though the Heike Monogatari describes her as a female attendant, and other sources describe her as a consort, or even a prostitute), who rose against the Taira, and in 1184, took Kyoto, after winning the Battle of Kurikara. With the Taira forced into the western provinces, Yoshinaka began insinuating that it was he who should carry the mantle of leadership 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, but was defeated, with only a few of his soldiers left standing. Yoshinaka, along with Tomoe, faced the warriors allied with Yoritomo at Awazu, and a desperate fight commenced in which Tomoe took at least one head, that of Onda Hachirô Moroshige. She is said to have killed many samurai warriors that day, one after another in single combat, and 34 | CUTTING EDGE The Heike Monogatari describes Tomoe accordingly: Heike Monogatari “...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.” killing their leader, Uchida Iyeyoshi whilst he attempted to drag her from her horse. Uchida so infuriated Tomoe, that she promptly decapitated him and delivered his head as a trophy to Yoshinaka. Following defeat, Yoshinaka to the only option left for him. So he insisted that Tomoe flee as he wanted to die with his foster brother Imai no Shiro Kanehira, stating that he would be ashamed if he died with a woman. After the battle, according to the Heike Monogatari, she gave up the sword. It is also said that she was defeated by Wada Yoshimori and then became his wife. After Wada died, she was said to have become a nun in Echizen. These different stories are what give the story of Tomoe Gozen its mystery and intrigue. However, the grave of Yoshinaka’s other female attendant Yamabuki Gozen, does exist and most of the incidents in The Tale of the Heike are believed, by historians, to be true. Tomoe Gozen is among the most popular and widely known female figures in Japanese history/legend, and even appears as the lead in at least one kabuki play, Onna Shibaraku. Source: php?title=Tomoe_Gozen