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They were trained in the same way men were, in self-defense and offensive maneuvers.

They were even trained to use a weapon specifically designed for women, to allow them better balance given their smaller stature, called a Naginata. For years, they fought alongside the male samurai, being held to the same standards, and expected to perform the same duties. In AD, she personally organized and led a battle, a conquest of Korea. Despite the widespread traditional idea that women were second to men, and must submit to them and act the role of the stay-at-home caretaker, exceptions were allowed for women like Jingu. They were considered strong, independent, and encouraged to fight alongside the male samurai.

Wikimedia Commons Empress Jingu and her subjects.

The Fearsome Female Samurai That Collected Heads Like Picking Flowers

Between and , a war broke out between two ruling Japanese clans. The Genpei War involved the Minamoto and the Tiara, clans who equally believed they should rule over the other. Eventually, the Minamoto rose to prominence, but they might not have had it not been for Tomoe Gozen. If Empress Jingu was a 10, Tomoe Gozen was an She was described as having incredible talent on the battlefield as well as an extremely high intellect.

In battle, she displayed a knack for archery and horseback riding, as well as mastery of the katana, a long, traditional samurai sword. Off the battlefield, she was just as fearsome. Her troops listened to her command, trusting her instincts. She engaged in politics and word of her competency quickly spread through Japan. Alexander Takeuchi of the University of Alabama suggests "Onna-bugeisha" as probably the most proper term.

Both were warriors, the males went away to war and the females stayed and protected the homefront as it were. In early samurai history the Naginata was a male weapon used mainly for dealing with cavalry, as swords became more refined it lost favour and was relegated to a female weapon.


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Having much greater reach and therefore defensive capability. I don't know how accurate my information is but if you check Japan today you see that most adherents to the Naginata are female. When this shift in attitude came about I don't know. Re: were there female samurais? It think they didn't want to be recognized as a woman at the field. I believe they only fought when the castle was attacked. Yes, there where female Samurai! The primary role of women of the samurai class had been to support the family and their husbands.

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During the Kamakura Period , women were responsible for raising their children with the proper samurai upbringing. The women of this period were allowed rights to inheritance and to bequeath property. They controlled the household finances, and managed the staff. Women were also expected to defend their homes in times of war. This period in Japanese history produced some of the most famous women: Tomoe Gozen, wife of Minamoto Yoshinaka and a fierce warrior very proficient with sword and bow; and Hojo Masako , wife of Minamoto Yoritomo and known as the "nun shogun".


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  • In keeping with customs of the time, Hojo Masako became a Buddhist nun upon the death of her husband in After Yoritomo's death, Hojo Masako along with her father and son, usurped the real ruling power from her dead husband's ruling Minamoto clan to her own Hojo clan. Her efforts gave the Hojo clan true power over the now 'puppet regime' Minamoto clan. After this period in Japanese history, daughters were used in power struggles as pawns in marriage.

    This practice greatly reduced the influence of women in the samurai class. Eventually, by the 17th century, women had lost their previous rights of inheritance and the ability to bequeath land. However, they were still expected to raise the children with the proper samurai education and defend the home in times of war.

    One of these women of this period, Nakano Takeko, was highly skilled with the weapon called "naginata. The story of Nakano Takeko is in her defense of Wakamatsu Castle along with samurai of the Aizu clan. The Aizu clan were supports of the shogunate.

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    Their battle was with the imperial forces and its restoration of Japan and elimination of the samurai class you may be familiar with this time in history from the movie "Last Samurai". The Aizu clan were greatly outnumbered -- 20, to 3, So the Aizu samurai put anyone who could use a weapon to use. A small band of women of the castle organized a unit to fight on the front line of this battle. Nakano Takeko charged into enemy lines, cutting down many men. She was only stopped by being shot in the chest.

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    In order to avoid being taken by the enemy, her sister Yuko removed Nakano's head, as they had previously agreed upon, and Yuko took the head home in honor. Today there is a monument erected to Nakano Takeko at the temple "Aizu Bangemachi" in the Fukishima province of Japan. Today in Japan, women are active in various martial arts and gained recognition by winning gold in the olympics in Judo. Her name is pronounced "toh-moh-eh", and is translated as "perfect circle".

    Most knowledge about Tomoe Gozen comes from tales and legends. Depending on the source, Tomoe Gozen was either the wife, concubine mistress , or female attendant of prominent daimyo Minamoto no Yoshinaka. Many women of the time knew how to use the naginata to defend their home, and there are tales of female ashigaru, but Tomoe Gozen was a high-level samurai, skilled in riding, archery and kenjutsu. She was said to have been fearless and possessing great skill in combat.

    Fiercely brave and tirelessly loyal to Yoshinaka, she was one of his senior captains during the war, leading his troops, and accompanying him to every battle. She was well respected by men and fought bravely alongside them. In the Heike Monogatari Tale of the Heike , Tomoe is described: 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. Stories Princesses Map Collections. Book 1 Book 2 Behind the Scenes.

    The final page is depicted absolutely accurately, down to me tracing all the calligraphy from multiple poor-resolution photos of the display case. Same with the drawing of the castle. In scouring the internet for reference, I managed to find a rare late-life picture of Yuko, the younger sister:. If you were a Patreon backer, you'd be seeing some cool stuff right here.

    There's alternate versions, reference imagery, and timelapse videos for everything on here.