Tomoe Gozen was a 12th-century Japanese female Samurai warrior. She fought alongside her husband, Minamoto no Yoshinaka, a Japanese general, during the Genpei war. She also participated in the war that culminated with the establishment of Japan’s first shogunate.
Yoshinaka was a close acquaintance of Tomoe’s family. Nakahara Kaneto, the father to Tome Gozen, was the foster father and a huge fan of Minamoto no Yoshinaka. Tome’s mother was the general’s wet nurse.
In the Tale of the Heike, Tomoe is described as a beautiful woman who had white skin, glorious hair and a pretty body. Moreover, Gozen was an exceptional archer with unrivalled bravery on the battlefield. At times of war, her husband would put her on the forefront because she was his most reliable warrior.
Yoshinaka conquered Kyoto after defeating the Taira who retreated into the western provinces. However, Yoritomo, a cousin to Yoshinaka, grew envious and sent assassins after Yoshinaka. This resulted in a war known as the Battle of Awazu. During this battle, Tomoe allegedly killed prominent figures in Yoritomo’s army. Eventually, Yoshinaka was defeated by the sheer numbers in the enemy’s troops. Before his death, he advised Tomoe to flee to safety. There is no verifiable account of what happened to Tomoe after she fled the war.
Although nobody knows her fate, Tomoe is still celebrated in contemporary Japanese society. She is the protagonist in a trilogy of novels written by Jessica Amanda Salmonson in the 80s. She has also been featured as a character in many other pieces of literature.