Tomoe Gozen

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Tomoe Gozen
巴 御前
Tomoe Gozen, painting by Shitomi Kangetsu
Occupation Onna-musha
Years activelate 12th century (Heian period)
ChildrenYoshitaka (ja:源義高 (清水冠者), Yoshishige ?, Yoshimoto ((ja:源義基 (木曾義基)) ?, [1] [2] Yoshimune (ja:木曾基宗)?
Parent(s)Father = Nakahara no Kaneto (ja:中原兼遠), Mother = Chizuru Gozen (ja:千鶴御前)

Tomoe Gozen (巴 御前, Japanese pronunciation:  [tomo.e] , [3] ) was a onna-musha, who appeared in 14th century Japanese literature. [4] According to lore, she served Minamoto no Yoshinaka during the Genpei War and was a part of the conflict that led to the first shogunate. [5] [6] Her family had strong affiliations with Yoshinaka.


Although never proven to be a historical figure, her story influenced several generations of samurai. Tomoe is often celebrated in books, music, poems, films, historical novels and culture in general. [6]


Her father, Nakahara Kanetō, was a strong supporter and foster father of Yoshinaka, having raised him since he was two. Her mother was Yoshinaka's wet nurse. Two of her elder brothers also served Yoshinaka as generals. [6] She is best known for her participation in the Battle of Awazu in 1184.

According to epic account written at the beginning of the 14th century,

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 [7]

In 1182 she commanded 300 samurai in a struggle against 2,000 warriors of the rival Taira clan. After defeating the Taira and driving them into the western provinces, Yoshinaka 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. [8]

Tomoe Gozen with Uchida Ieyoshi and Hatakeyama no Shigetada. Woodblock print by Yoshu Chikanobu, 1899 Yoshu Chikanobu Tomoe Gozen.jpg
Tomoe Gozen with Uchida Ieyoshi and Hatakeyama no Shigetada. Woodblock print by Yōshū Chikanobu, 1899

There are varied accounts of what followed. At the Battle of Awazu in 1184, [9] she is known for beheading Honda no Morishige of Musashi. [10] She is also known for having killed Uchida Ieyoshi and for escaping capture by Hatakeyama Shigetada. [11] After Tomoe Gozen beheaded the leader of the Musashi clan and presented his head to her master Yoshinaka. [12]

In fiction and culture


  1. ja:武居用拙『岐蘇古今沿革志』(明治23年(1890年))
  2. ja:今井善兵衛著『更生農村 : 北橘村の実情 』日本評論社(1935年
  3. Note: Gozen is not a name, but rather an honorific title, usually translated to "Lady", though the title was rarely bestowed upon men as well.
  4. Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al. (2005). "Tomoe Gozen" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 984. , p. 984, at Google Books
  5. Turnbull, Stephen (1987). Battles of the Samurai. Arms and Armour Press. p. 14. ISBN   978-0853688266.
  6. 1 2 3 Pennington, Reina (2003). Amazons to Fighter Pilots - A Biographical Dictionary of Military Woman (Volume Two). Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 437–438. ISBN   978-0-313-32708-7.
  7. McCullough, Helen Craig. (1988). The Tale of the Heike, p. 291. , p. 291, at Google Books; Kitagawa, Hiroshi et al.(1975). The Tale of the Heike, p. 519.
  8. The Tales of the Heike. Translated by Burton Watson. Columbia University Press. 2006. p. 86. ISBN   9780231138031.
  9. Turnbull, Stephen (1998). The Samurai Sourcebook. Cassell & Co. p. 204. ISBN   978-1854095237.
  10. Faure, Bernard. (2003). The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender, p. 211 , p. 211, at Google Books; Kitagawa, p. 521.
  11. Joly, Henri L. (1967). Legend in Japanese Art, p. 540.
  12. Salmonson, Jessica Amanda (2015-04-07). Thousand Shrine Warrior. Open Road Media. ISBN   9781453293836.
  13. "Rise of Kingdoms Commander Tomoe Gozen". Rise of Kingdoms Guides. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  14. Tassi, Paul. "'Ghost Of Tsushima 2' Has A Clear Hero In Waiting, A Legendary Woman Samurai". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-07-30.

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