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Female Warriors In Ancient Japan

Guest Author - Melanie Shintaku

In the past, Japanese women were kept in doors and solely existed for their Lord’s pleasure, they were treasured too and woe betide anyone, who wished them ill but there were some group of women, who were a break from the norm, these wore courage on their sleeves and flew into the face of danger, they were skilled in the use of various weapons and fought in wars just like the regular Samurai, these Japanese women were a major force in some great japanese wars, they Japanese women were heroes in their own right.

Knowledge of these women has being greatly overshadowed, by their male counterparts but the roles they played can not be so easily forgotten, these Japanese women were mostly wives of Samurais but were also warriors themselves.

It was during the Kamakura Period, that the roles of women in Japan changed, they were now given more responsibilities, especially Samurai wives who were expected to support their husbands, both in and out of wars by training their children in the Samurai way. With the men at war the women were now allowed, to control the home as well as family finances, they were given rights to inheritance but most importantly, they were expected to defend their homes, in the event of an invasion by the enemy.

But after the Kamakura period Japanese girls lost to the right to choice, as they were either pawned off in marriage or used in power struggles, this greatly reduced the value of women, especially in the Samurai class and by the 17th century, Japanese women totally lost inheritance rights and even the right to bequeath land.
But roles such as child bearing "especially of healthy males" was very much expected as well as demanded, teaching the children the proper Samurai ways and defense of their homes, still remained a priority for Japanese women.

Tomoe Gozen was the wife, of a prominent warrior called Minamoto Yoshinaka, Tomoe Gozen was greatly known for her battle skills, as well as the use of the nagiata, bow and arrow. The Kamakura Period produced several other brave women such as:

Hojo Masako
Hojo Masako was born in 1157, she was the wife of Minamoto Yoritomo, she is also known as the nun shogun because after the death of Minamoto Yoritomo, Hojo Masako became a Buddhist nun in 1199, her taking the vow of chastity was in line, with the customs and traditions of that era.
History has it that Hojo Masako planned with her father and son, to usurp ruling power from her husband's Minamoto clan, at that time the Minamoto clan was the ruling house of Japan.
Hojo Masako took power and transferred it to her own Hojo clan. If not for Hojo Masako’s efforts, the Hojo clan would never have become a ruling house in Japan, it was said that they held true power over the puppet regime of the Minamoto clan. Hojo Masako died in 1225.

Nakano Takeko
Nakano Takeko was another great warrior, she was skilled in the weapon called Naginata, a Naginata is a long staff that has a curved blade at one end. It was Nakano Takeko’s defense of the Wakamatsu Castle that made her famous.
History has it that when Wakamatsu Castle was besieged, by enemies which outnumbered the Samurais of the Aizu clan by 20,00 to 3,000. The Samurais had to quickly organize, every able bodied person who could use a weapon, to help defend the castle.
A small band of women which included Nakano Takeko, was said to have defended the Castle and Nakano Takeko was said to be at the forefront of the battle, she kept charging through enemy lines with her Naginata and felled so many enemies, she couldn't be stopped ... until a shot hit her chest.
The story continues that in other not to be captured by the enemy, Nakano Takeko’s sister called Yuko had a pre-agreement with Nakano Takeko, to remove her head so that she would not be identified by the enemy, Yuko tearfully performed her sister's wishes and took it back home to be honored.

Today, there is a monument to honor Nakano Takeko, at a temple in Aizu Bangemachi, also the women of Japan are still very active, in various skills such as martial arts, which they have gained a lot of recognition, especially by winning gold in Judo at the 2004 Olympics.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Melanie Shintaku. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Melanie Shintaku. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Ching Kin Min for details.

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