28 September 2022 The Future is the Product of the Past

Onna-Bugeisha, Female Samurais of Japan

Long before the Western World began to consider Samurai warriors male by nature, there were female samurai. These female samurai were as strong, dangerous, and just as deadly as their male counterparts.

Female samurai were known as Onna-Bugeisha (meaning female martial artist). They trained in self-defense and attacking maneuvers much like males. They employed a weapon made expressly for women, the Naginata, which gave them superior balance due to their diminutive size. They battled alongside the male samurai for years, were held to the same standards, and were required to execute the same tasks.

The First Female Samurai “Empress Jingu”

One of the first female samurai warriors was Empress Jingu. Jingu personally organized and conducted a battle that resulted in the conquest of Korea in 200 AD. There were exceptions for women like Jingu, despite the prevailing conventional belief that women were second to men and desired the job of stay-at-home caretaker. Women who were strong and self-reliant were encouraged to battle alongside the male samurai.

After Empress Jingu paved the way, another Onna-Bugeisha ascended through the ranks.

Empress Jingu
Empress Jingu

Tomoe Gozen

A battle between two powerful Japanese clans erupted between 1180 and 1185. The Minamoto and Tiara clans fought in the Genpei War, both believing that they should reign over the other. The Minamoto eventually ascended to prominence, but they might not have had it not been for Onna-Bugeisha: Tomoe Gozen.

She possessed exceptional battlefield skills as well as a high level of intelligence. Tomoe Gozen featured in The Tale of the Heike, sometimes known as the “Japanese Iliad.” She was characterized as “particularly gorgeous,” as well as “a wonderfully good archer… as a swords-woman, she was a fighter worth a thousand, ready to battle a demon or a deity, mounted or on foot.”

Tomoe Gozen
Tomoe Gozen

In warfare, she excelled at archery and horseback riding, as well as katana skills (a long, traditional samurai sword). Outside of the battlefield, she was as dreadful. Her troops obeyed her orders, trusting her intuition. Soon after, the Minamoto clan’s master appointed Tomoe Gozen as Japan’s first genuine general. In that part, she shined in that role too.

She led 300 samurai into combat against 2,000 Tiara clan warriors in 1184, and was one of only five to survive. She beat the Musashi clan’s most notable fighter later that year during the Battle of Awazu (Honda no Moroshige). She decapitated him and kept his head as a trophy.

Tomoe Gozen’s fate after the conflict is unknown, unfortunately. Some claim she stayed and battled valiantly until she died. Others tell she galloped away on horseback with Moroshige’s head in her saddle. Although there is no record of her following the fight, some say she married a fellow samurai and became a nun following his death.

The Onna-Bugeisha Flourished

The Onna-Bugeisha thrived for generations following Tomoe Gozen’s rule. Female warriors made up a sizable proportion of the samurai. They guarded communities and established schools across the Japanese Empire to teach young ladies the art of battle and the use of the Naginata. The Onna-Bugeisha had access to all of Japan’s various clans, which included samurai soldiers.

During a period of conflict between the reigning Tokugawa clan and the Imperial court in 1868, the Joshitai, a force of elite female soldiers, was formed. This organization was commanded by Nakano Takeko, a 21-year-old Onna-Bugeisha.

Nakano Takeko monument Fukishima- Japan
Nakano Takeko monument Fukishima- Japan

Nakano Takeko

Takeko was the daughter of a high-ranking Imperial court officer. She was well-versed in martial arts and the use of the Naginata. The Joshitai went to accompany the male samurai into the Battle of Aizu under her command. They battled with the male warriors fiercely, killing a number of opposing male fighters in a close battle. Unfortunately, during battle, she received a shot to the heart which cost her life.

Reconstruction of a photograph of Takeko from the 19th century. Wikimedia Commons
Reconstruction of a photograph of Takeko from the 19th century. Wikimedia Commons

In her final breath, she urged her sister to behead her so that her body would not be used as a trophy by the enemy. Her sister agreed to her request and buried her head in the roots of a pine tree at Aizo Bangemachi Temple. A memorial has been erected in her honor.

Takeko is often regarded as the last outstanding female samurai warrior. Similarly, the Battle of Aizu is the Onna-Bugeisha’s last stand. Shortly after, the Shogunate (the feudal Japanese military government) fell, leaving the Imperial court to take over leadership.

Though Onna-Bugeisha lost their reign, women warriors survived for the most part following Takeko. Throughout the 1800s, women defied traditional gender roles by fighting in battles. Meanwhile, the rest of the world accepted the idea that samurai warriors were big, strong men, and that women were submissive, effectively burying the legendary legacy of the Onna-Bugeisha in history.

Banner
Related Post

Michelangelo, the artistic giant, was actually rather short

3 September 2021

3 September 2021

The legendary Michelangelo Buonarroti left huge works behind as an artist. But Italian researchers found that the shoes of this...

Mysterious Archaeological find in Flanders Revealed to be Hernia Truss

24 May 2021

24 May 2021

The hernia truss found during the Hopmarkt excavations in Aalst, in the Belgian state of East Flanders, was a surprise...

The Oldest Known Map of Europe, “Saint-Bélec Slab”

6 April 2021

6 April 2021

An ornate Bronze Age stone slab (Saint-Bélec slab) that was excavated in France in 1900 and forgotten about for over...

New Details on Mummification Techniques

28 February 2021

28 February 2021

In ancient Egypt, embalming was considered a sacred art, and knowledge of the process was restricted to a few. Egyptologists...

The Mystery of the Scythian Ice Maiden

1 June 2021

1 June 2021

A mummy of a tattooed Scythian-Siberian noblewoman is believed to have supernatural powers, but it’s stored in a museum because...

Foundations laid with human blood “Foundation sacrifices”

5 September 2021

5 September 2021

The custom of sacrificing a human being at the erection of a new house or fortress is very old. Foundation...

Dental Treatments That Surprised Neanderthals

10 April 2021

10 April 2021

Before the invention of modern dental instruments, people tried to treat teeth using primitive methods. Nobody wants to have a...

New Dead Sea Scrolls in The Horror Cave

16 March 2021

16 March 2021

On Tuesday, Israeli archaeologists revealed dozens of recently discovered fragments of Bible text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were based...

The Historical Building Next To The Million Stone Will Sell

6 February 2021

6 February 2021

Everyone has heard of the Million Stone, which was built during the Byzantine Empire and accepted as the zero points...

World’s First Pregnant Ancient Egyptian Mummy has been Discovered

29 April 2021

29 April 2021

Experts from the Polish Academy of Sciences aim to research all mummies in museums as part of the Warsaw Mummy...

World’s Oldest Settlement Plan Found in “Çatalhöyük”

15 February 2021

15 February 2021

With the beginning of the Holocene period, many lakes have dried up and have become suitable for settlement. It is...

China’s 4300-Year-Old Ancient Pyramids

26 March 2021

26 March 2021

Shaanxi Province in Northwest China is famous for its rich archaeological treasures. Among the many sites discovered in Shaanxi, the...

5,700-Year-old Ancient “Chewing Gum” Gives Information About People and Bacteria of the Past

4 April 2021

4 April 2021

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have successfully extracted the complete human genome from “chewing gum” thousands of years ago....

The world’s earliest drawing of a ghost discovered in the British Museum vault

17 October 2021

17 October 2021

The world’s earliest drawing of a ghost has been unearthed in the gloomy vaults of the British Museum. The British...

Archaeologists have uncovered the source of King Solomon’s wealth

31 August 2021

31 August 2021

An archeological team working in Israel’s Timna Valley believes they have discovered the reason behind King Solomon’s legendary wealth. The...

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.