Microbiographia | Issue 18

Microbiographia | Issue 18

Tomoe Gozen Ė Female Samurai

So today Iíll be trying to remedy the anticipated Euro-centric subject bias mentioned in my first column (cos everyone remembers what I wrote three weeks ago). Basically, this means the subject is Eastern: Japanese, to be precise.

Tomoe Gozen lived in the late 1100s, when Japan was rife with ninjas, ritual suicides, and gardens with those picturesque little bridges (gotta get me one of those). As a female samurai (itself a rare thing), Gozen excelled in the arts of war. At this point Iím gonna cop out a bit and quote a historical account (straight off Wikipedia, but whoís checking). So, according to ďThe Tale of the HeikeĒ:

ďTomoe 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 valour than any of his other warriors.Ē

Now, some might question the historical accuracy of these claims. Whether or not Tomoe rode around on unbroken horses, storming down perilous descents to confront and kill demons with her oversized sword and mighty bow, is a mystery that shall remain forever unsolved. She does, however, have less suspicious claims to fame. Apparently she beheaded some guy named Honda during a huge battle. Okay, beheading someone isnít really a claim to fame, but itís still pretty badass.

If youíve been following the column closely (cue tumbleweed), you might have noticed that both the women Iíve profiled were total babes (well, yíknow, the evidence suggests they were). ~This is most likely a result of me being a closet chauvinist who believes the only way women can achieve greatness is by looking pretty~. Here you might note my use of irony-marks. Itís just a little bit of innovative punctuation addressing the inability to communicate sarcasm easily via the written word. ~Iím sure itíll catch on~.

I seem to have strayed from my topic somewhat, like a lost lamb straying from the safety of its herd only to be set upon by the wolves of vacuous and overly wordy journalism. No matter, Iíll wrap it up quickly. Following the big battle mentioned earlier, where she beheaded some chap, Tomoe Gozen is said to have given up the sword and become a nun. Lesson for the day: donít mess with Japanese nuns.
This article first appeared in Issue 18, 2012.
Posted 2:41pm Sunday 29th July 2012 by Toby Newberry.