Samurai Women


Tomoe Gozen was a 12th-century noblewoman -- or, very likely, a mythological figure -- famous both for her beauty and her courage. She led her own troop of men, and at the Battle of Uji in 1184 saved her husband by cutting off his attacker's head. This design is from a series called Kokon hime kagami, "Mirror of Beauties Past and Present." Yoshitoshi's relations with women were difficult and his depictions of modern women were careless and vulgar, but in his prints of women from history he was able to distance himself and draw with care and sensitivity. Yoshitoshi/Asian Art & Archaeology Inc./Corbis

Did women samurai exist in ancient Japan? Cristen and Caroline uncover the truth about Japanese women warriors and how their uncommon backstories became the stuff of legend.

Tomoe Gozen was a 12th-century noblewoman -- or, very likely, a mythological figure -- famous both for her beauty and her courage. She led her own troop of men, and at the Battle of Uji in 1184 saved her husband by cutting off his attacker's head. This design is from a series called Kokon hime kagami, "Mirror of Beauties Past and Present." (Yoshitoshi/Asian Art & Archaeology Inc./Corbis)

Episode Sources:

"Women Warriors of Japan" http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2011/10/women-warriors-of-japan.html#.VbvVePlViko

"Women Warriors of Japan" http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2011/10/09/general/women-warriors-of-japan/#.VbvSuflViko

"Onna bugeisha - The Powerful Female Samurai Warrior" http://www.kusuyama.jp/the-powerful-onna-bugeisha-female-samurai-warrior/

"9 Female Warriors Who Made Their Mark on History" http://mentalfloss.com/article/59287/9-female-warriors-who-made-their-mark-history

"Women Warriors - Female Samurai in Ancient Japan?" http://www.tenshinichiryu.com/articles/womenSamurai.html

"Samurai Woman" http://www.pbs.org/empires/japan/tokaido_6.html

Academic Insights:

"Women in Ancient Japan: From Matriarchal Antiquity to Acquiescent Confinement." Mallary A. Silva-Grondin. Student Pulse. Vol. 2, No. 9. 2010. http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/286/women-in-ancient-japan-from-matriarchal-antiquity-to-acquiescent-confinement

"The Samurai Swordsman: Master of War." Stephen Turnbull. 2008. https://books.google.com/books?id=NR9j09T2hLkC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=snippet&q=tomoe%20gozen&f=false

"Samurai Women: 1184-1877." Stephen Turnbull. 2010. https://books.google.com/books?id=1QlY29B5DDMC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Topics in this Podcast: Japan, history, war, Asia