Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tomoe Gozen: Jidai Matsuri 2007

Heian Period
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Fukuteru, geiko of Miyagawa-cho, appears as Tomoe Gozen in Kyoto's Jidai Matsuri, the "Festival of Ages".

Arrayed in men's armor, Tomoe Gozen fought courageously besides her husband, General Kiso Yoshinaka, in battle. Heike Monogatari, or The Take of Heike, describes her as the epitome of both feminine and masculine virtue:

"Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swords-woman 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 valor than any of his other warriors."

Fiercely brave and unwaveringly loyal to her husband, her final act of service to him has become the subject of many plays, poems, art, manga and even the modern, made-for-TV-drama, Yoshitsune. Having defeated the Heike clan, driving them into the western provinces and taking Kyoto, Yoshinaka decided to claim leadership of the Minamoto clan (to which he belonged). His cousin and rival, Yoritomo, promptly sent his brothers to kill Yoshinaka, and their forces finally met in the Battle of Awazu. Outnumbered and overwhelmed, with only a handful of warriors standing, Yoshinaka ordered his wife to flee the field rather than face capture and death. Promising her husband that she would hold off the enemy long enough for him to commit seppuku, the ritual suicide considered honorable in defeat, the Tale of Heike records that:

"[Tomoe] flung herself upon Onda [the strongest warrior} , and, grappling with him, dragged him from his horse... and cut off his head."

Tomoe Gozen's fate after the battle is not known, but it is generally believed that she lived a long life, becoming a Buddhist nun.


hanako said...

Tomoe: charming&mistic warrior-woman...
Lovely painting:*

sivaluk_htn said...
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Art on the Edge said...

way to go, Tomoe!!!
I am fascinated by Japanese culture and was interested to find your blog in a search, Melissa. Thanks!