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How women-samurai won hearts and fought: Armed, dangerous, good-looking
How women-samurai won hearts and fought: Armed, dangerous, good-looking

When we say “samurai,” we definitely represent a man, and the situation is the same in popular historical films. A samurai girl can be seen in anime - for example, in "Princess Mononoke", but everyone understands that in anime you can see anything you want, even if the cartoon is declared on a historical theme. And yet, history knows samurai women, and it's not just two or three separate names.

Armed and very dangerous

Although you can find the term "onna samurai" (where the first word means female), in fact, this is a politically correct remake, and the samurai culture did not know such terms. What is called a samurai woman in the West, in Japan had a separate name: "onna-bugeisya", where the second word means a person who knows martial arts. That is, in the Japanese mentality, warriors were not a kind of samurai, but a kind of woman.

Nevertheless, the onna-bugeisha belonged precisely to the samurai class. However, unlike buke-no-onna, any woman born and raised in samurai families, onna-bugeisha wielded the same weapons as the men of her clan. True, any "samurai" lady got a minimal idea of ​​a fight with tanto and kanken daggers. Including, as a last resort, she had to be able to kill herself. Each girl from a samurai family was given a dagger at the age of twelve as a sign of belonging to her class and a reminder that she must fight for her honor, because it is the honor of the clan.

A samurai girl posing in an onna-bugeis costume

Onna-bugeisya did not postpone their knowledge and skills as a last resort. They showed themselves in the war, and also taught the martial arts of the boys of their clan. Unlike ordinary ladies who preferred murder of children and suicide as a last resort (before which they tied their legs so that they would not decide to spread obscenely in agony), onna-boogey preferred to avenge their relatives or the master of their father, brother or husband.

True, the position of Japanese women was greatly shaken by the seventeenth century. Property rights were taken away from them, and girls were less taught how to use weapons. Suicide in any incomprehensible situation began to be considered as the main normal reaction of a woman or girl of the samurai class. Despite this, in the battles of the nineteenth century, samurai ladies amazed observers with their resilience and wonders of courage when they took up arms to help their men. By that time, an internal female culture had developed in samurai families, and while men thought that women were told almost nothing about the battle, mothers and grandmothers told their daughters and granddaughters about the tactics of battle and about the exploits of the legendary onna-bugeisha.

A samurai girl posing in an onna-bugeis costume

Three heroines

The most famous onna-bugeisha - and therefore the ones that almost every samurai daughter learned about - were the three women of ancient times, Hojo Masako, Tomoe Gozen and Hangaku Gozen. Those who grew up on Soviet editions of Japanese classical prose will immediately recognize one of the names: Tomoe Gozen - the heroine of The Tale of the Taira House, or Heike Monogatari, the beloved of the protagonist, Minamoto no Yoshinaki.

Tomoe Gozen is a national heroine, a loyal ally of the leader of the Minamoto clan. She was equally adept with bows and katana and shared with her lover almost all of his battles - against the Taira clan and against his relative Minamoto no Yoritomo.Moreover, the Gozen heated up by the battle chopped off the heads of opponents and kept them as trophies - she was so fierce in temper.

About Tomoe Gozen in our time, the film The Beautiful Samurai was shot

At the Battle of Awazu, when only five samurai survived from Yoshimoto's side, including himself, Gozen was among them. She was going to die near her lover, but he persuaded him to leave, saying that death near a woman would not bring him honor - he could not have made her leave with anything other than caring for his honor. Gozen finally defeated another enemy samurai in battle, cut off his head and galloped away. Nobody knows exactly what happened to her after. Some say that she died not far from Yoshimoto, others that she was able to travel far and went to a monastery.

By the way, the wife of the same Yoritomo, with whom Yoshimoto fought, was also onna-bugeisha - the same Hojo Masako who is at the top of the list of three heroines of the past. When her son became shogun, she influenced his decisions and politics so much that she was nicknamed ama-shogun - nun-shogun. Her father decided to raise Masako as a warrior. Masako's childhood fell on a period of turmoil, so the reasons for the decision are obvious. As a result, the girl was taught to fight and horseback riding, as well as hunting and fishing, which can feed those who have lost their homes and peasants. She also always had breakfast with only men.

The more often there were wars, the more girls were taught to use the sword and horse riding

At the same time, Hangaku Gozen, the namesake of the fierce Tomoe Gozen, also excelled. She could not get herself a sword or simply did not learn to wield it decently, because she preferred another weapon - the naginata, the Japanese analogue of the glaive. She was known to be young and beautiful, and as fearless as she was pretty. The Hangaku Gozen clan, nee Yo, was the Taira people, that is, opponents of Tomoe Gozen.

At that time, politics was seething and cutting with swords. Many years after the battle between Taira and Minamoto, Hangaku Gozen rebelled against the Minamoto who seized power. She led three thousand soldiers with her. Ten thousand were put up against her. In battle, she was wounded with an arrow. After Gozen was captured, the ranks of her supporters, already embarrassed by the numerical superiority of the enemy, wavered. In general, Gozen lost, and her future fate seemed unenviable. It was brought to the shogun, the son of Hojo Masako, as a trophy. When Gozen was shown to the shogun, the samurai Asari Yoshito saw her. He fell in love with the warrior and persuaded him to let him marry her.

Drawing by Toyohara Chikanobu

And the fourth

In the nineteenth century, after the defense of Aizu Castle, a new onna-bugeisha legend appeared - Nakano Takeko. She was not taught how to handle a katana, since this was no longer accepted, but the naginata, which was traditionally given into the hands of all samurai daughters, she mastered skillfully. Shocked by the girl's talent, her teacher adopted her and later she taught martial arts at his school.

During the battle for castle, Takeko gathered those women who were better at martial arts into a single squad. The commanders forbade this detachment to officially join the army, so as not to disgrace the men with their presence, so the Takeko detachment went down in history as a separate army, the female “Jo Shigun”.

During the attack she was leading, Takeko was shot in the chest. She asked her sister who was fighting near her to cut off her head and take her away so that the enemy would not receive her head as a trophy. Later, Takeko's head was buried under a pine tree in the courtyard of the temple. Japanese admiral Dewa Shigato, originally from Aizu, later erected a monument in this place. Every year, girls in hakama, depicting the warriors of Takeko, take part in the procession at the city's autumn festival nearby.

Monument to Nakano Takeko

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