Women Warriors Fighting for Family and Honor: Onna-Bugeisha
During medieval Japan, there was an important title given to female martial artists known as Onna-Bugeisha or Onna-Musha. These women were samurais and were trained to use weapons to protect their families and honor them during times of war. They represent the historical women warriors that existed in Japan during various periods.
Onna-Bugeisha were female warriors who specialized in traditional samurai skills such as archery, horseback riding, and katana usage. They were trained in wielding various weapons such as swords, kamayari, yari, or naginata. Among these weapons, naginata was one of the most popular weapons which was a long spear with a curved blade at one end. Other common weapons included the katana (sword), yari (spear), and tessen (iron fan).
Historical sources indicate that Onna-Bugeisha played a significant role in Japan’s history and possessed combat skills equal to male samurais. For instance, in the 12th century, an Onna-Bugeisha named Tomoe Gozen fought in Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s army and killed many enemy soldiers. In the 18th century, Nakano Takeko, another Onna-Bugeisha, fought in the Battle of Aizu and unfortunately died in the conflict. These brave female warriors trained and fought alongside male samurais, showcasing incredible skills and high intelligence. They were equally brave and capable when fighting alongside male samurais and were extremely dangerous and lethal.
The Social Role of Women Warriors: Onna-Bugeisha
The history of Onna-Bugeisha varies across different periods in Japan. However, the existence and contributions of these female warriors hold significant importance in Japanese history. They were not only recognized as warriors but also esteemed figures in their societies. The origins of Onna-Bugeisha can be traced back to Empress Jingū, one of the earliest female warriors in history. After her husband, Emperor Chūai’s death, Jingū ascended the throne and personally led an invasion of Silla (modern-day Korea).
Onna-Bugeisha are highly regarded as independent and strong women in Japanese culture. They played a significant role in the history of Japan and embody the richness of its culture. Even in contemporary times, Onna-Bugeisha continues to hold an important place in Japanese society. Some of them have established schools to teach traditional martial arts, while others work towards raising awareness about Japanese history and culture. Japan’s rich history features Onna-Bugeisha, female samurais, who inspire with their courage, strength, and independence. This collection honors and respects them.