Here's a little drawing of my favorite female Samurai. Do you have any favorite historical figures? Let me know in the comment section! I really want to start drawing more fierce women such as Grace O'Malley or Ching Shih to name a few.
Tomoe Gozen (巴 御前) was a late twelfth-century onna-bugeisha, known for her bravery. She served Minamoto no Yoshinaka in the Genpei War and was a part of the conflict that led to the first shogunate in Japan. She is best known for her loyalty and courage at the Battle of Awazu in 1184, where she has slayed several samurais and escaped capture. After she beheaded the leader of the Musashi clan and presented his head to her master Yoshinaka, Tomoe's reputation was so high that she was considered the first general of Japan.
An interesting point is that the different sources give a coherent picture of Tomoe’s military career. The most well-known account of her story, the Tale of the Heike, gives the following description of Tomoe:
“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.”
Tomoe’s story has inspired noh and kabuki plays. You can even spot a geiko dressed as her every year during Kyoto’s festival of the ages. Archeological discoveries may suggest that women were involved in armies on a larger scale than expected, it seems that Tomoe wasn’t perhaps a lone exception.
Brown Steven T., Theatricalities of power, the cultural politics of noh
McCullough Helen Craig (trad.), The tale of the Heike
Tyler Royall, “Tomoe, the woman warrior”, in: Mulhern Chieko Irie (dir.), Heroic with grace: legendary women of Japan