Oct 21

Believe it or not denizens, female Samurai are not restricted to the wild imaginings of anime and western movie plots; they truly existed. One of the premier names that tends to come up when you mix the words woman and samurai is Tomoe Gozen, a beautiful and extraordinary woman whose life was so dynamic that many think that she never really existed.

Lady samurai were known as ona bugeisha, there weren’t very many of them and the few that lived came from the bloodline of samurai (Japanese cast system dictated a strict division between lords and peasants). Being as it was a rare thing to become a lady samurai, you can imagine that most who took on the title were very good at what they did.

Tomoe’s legend begun when her master Minamoto no Yoshinaka took Kyoto and assumed leadership of the Minamoto clan. This did not sit well with his rivals and before long Wada Yoshimori took him on at the Battle of Awazu. Tomoe fought along the other samurai with her master and legend says that after his defeat, he forced her to flee so that he could die with his brother – since it was dishonorable for him to die with a woman.

Pissed and humiliated of course, Tomoe rode down Onda no Hachirô Moroshige, a rival soldier and removed his head with her Naginata blade. She fled to the eastern provinces and the remainder of her story is heavily debated. Some say she eventually married her conqueror Yoshimori, while others use the cliché warrior’s end in saying that she became a nun. Seriously why do all historians make it out for warriors to run to church?

If you wonder why this warrior woman would be considered a hottie of history, observe the following:

“…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.”Tale of the Heike, McCullough, pg. 291

Tomoe is one of the only female icons in Japanese history to be frequently portrayed in anime, books and manga. Her name is used to represent warrior women in many stories and I remember her well from a comic book I used to read by the name of Shi. Pale death can be beautiful and that beauty is Tomoe Gozan, one of history’s legendary hotties.

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