The thumb for this one seemed to be a big hit, so here's the final. What do you think?Women in feudal Japan enjoyed remarkable rights and privileges, considering the time period. During the Kamakura period (12th-14th century by Western reckoning), they could inherit lands, file lawsuits against grievances and were expected to defend their homelands from invasion should the men be on military campaign. However, once Japan inherited Confucian beliefs, women became regulated to the subserivent gender.
In the history of Japan, there were a few 'women samurai', although the term would be incorrect, since the name samurai was gender specific to men. A more proper term would be onna bugei-sha, meaning literally 'woman trained in the buke (fighting) arts'.
Probably the most famous of the onna bugei-sha was Tomoe Gozen. Very little is known about Tomoe. She fought during the Gempei wars (1180-1185), and was either wife, concubine or female attendant to Minamoto no Yoshinaka. While most women of the time were skilled in sojutsu (the art of the spear), Tomoe was legendary for her skills in riding, archery and kenjutsu (the art of the sword). She was fiercely loyal to her lord, and was one of his most successful and respected senior Captains.
Minamoto no Yoshinaka successfully defeated the Heike clan at the Battle of Kurikawa (which turned the tide of the war in favor of the Minamoto), but tragically was betrayed by his own cousin, Minamoto no Yoritomo (who would eventually rise to be the final victor of the Gempei wars). Yoritomo sent his brothers, the legendary Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Minamoto no Noriyori to crush Yoshinaka at the Battle of Awazu on February 21, 1184.
Yonshinaka and his clan were defeated, but what became of Tomoe Gozen is unknown. Some say she died alongside her lord, but only at the cost of many of the enemy. Others say she fled from the battle with the head of her lord to deny the enemy their trophy. Some say she threw herself into the sea or became a nun. The mystery and intrigue surrounding her life only added to her legend.