Primary Source

Tomoe Gozen

A woodblock print of Tomoe Gozen dressed in samurai armor, seated on a horse

Annotation

Tomoe Gozen was a Japanese female samurai that lived during the late twelfth century, or late Heian period, in Japan. Tomoe Gozen was known for her skill in archery and swordcraft. The Tale of Heike, a chronicle of the Genpei War, describes her “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.” Tomoe Gozen served as the first captain to Minamoto no Yoshinaka during the war, though it is uncertain what happened to her following Yoshinaka’s ultimate defeat in 1184.

Tomoe Gozen has since become an almost mythical figure in Japanese history. The accounts of her in the Tale of Heike inspired several subsequent generations of samurai. Tomoe Gozen has since become a strong figure in popular culture and continues to be so in the modern day. She has appeared as herself in many books, movies, video games, and more, as well as inspired other characters who are clearly based on her. As such, Tomoe Gozen’s story has become partially mythologized and she stands as more of a legendary figure rather than a truly historical one.

Credits

Kangetsu Shitomi, Collection of the Tokyo National Museum

How to Cite This Source

"Tomoe Gozen," in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/tomoe-gozen [accessed January 28, 2023]