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Tomoe had long black hair and a fair complexion, and her face was very lovely; moreover she was a fearless rider whom neither the fiercest horse nor the roughest ground could dismay. And so dexterously did she handle sword and bow that she was a match for a thousand warriors, and fit to meet either god or devil. Many times had she taken the field, armed at all points, and won matchless renown in encounters with the bravest captains. And so in this last fight, when all the others had been slain or had fled, among the last seven there rode Tomoe
Tale of the Heike

Tomoe Gozennote  (circa 1157 – 1247) is a name that to many Japanese people is pretty much synonymous to the term 'Lady of War'. In the days of the past, when women's role were basically to take care of homes, make babies and sometimes defend it from invaders... Tomoe gave her middle finger to it. She's a frontline warrior, capable in wielding many types of weapons, riding horses and fought just as fierce than any other male soldiers (or perhaps even fiercer).

Much of Tomoe's past were mudded in history. However, she was the chief wife/concubine of Minamoto no Yoshinaka, and was the daughter of his wet nurse. Instead of receiving the training of a home-defender, Tomoe took the other route and trained as a frontline soldier. As The Tale of the Heike coined, Tomoe 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.

The Minamoto clan was at first nominally united in their battle against the rival clan of Taira. After Yoshinaka managed to beat the main line (headed by Yoritomo) to Kyoto in defeating the Taira, he sought to improve his political standing with the Imperial Court, even ending up with the title 'Asahi Shogun' (Daylight Shogun). However, with Emperor Go-Shirakawa clearly expecting a more pliable puppet, they easily fell out—with Yoshinaka holding the Emperor hostage and burning down his palace. Yoritomo, sensing the opportunity to regain momentum with the Court, sent out his two other brothers, Yoshitsune and Noriyori, to punish Yoshinaka with death. The morality of Yoshinaka's actions weren't part of Tomoe's considerations—as far as she's concerned, she's got her duty as his wife to protect and support Yoshinaka.

And thus, she participated in the Battle of Awazu, where she went on a rampage against Yoritomo's forces, beheading several of their generals. Unfortunately, even Tomoe's might was not enough to save Yoshinaka's forces from being decimated. Legends has it that Tomoe was ready to commit her life to a Last Stand to protect Yoshinaka, until Yoshinaka told her to retreat and live; since he did not want to die with a woman next to him. At that age, it was the common norm; and a harsh reminder to Tomoe that no matter how badass she became, she couldn't really change the hierarchical caste Inherent in the System. She reluctantly obeyed Yoshinaka and retreated, but not after she beheaded one last general of Yoritomo as her final gift.

What happened to Tomoe afterwards remained unknown, she either became a nun for the rest of her life; or finally one general of Yoritomo bested her in combat and in return made her his concubine; or snuck into Yoshinaka's grave and took his head before diving to the sea together. But she left a great legacy, perhaps even bigger than Yoshinaka, for female samurai warriors in Japan. While her place in history remained unknown and spotty, she still left an impact in the warrior class of Japan, influencing many naginata schools of the time and eventually receiving a lot of arts for her and went down as one of Japan's most known female figure.

She's basically Japan's Trope Maker of Lady of War (the Ur-Example would be her predecessor, Empress Jingu).

Tomoe Gozen in fiction

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Elusive Samurai: Ayako idolizes and strives to be just like Tomoe Gozen, a powerful female warrior who was so strong that she could rip the heads off her enemies with her bare hands.
  • In Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Tomoe was one of the past incarnations of Hagoromo-Gitsune.
  • In Samurai Deeper Kyo, it's revealed that Saisei, apparent member of the Goyosei, is actually a powerful zombie of Tomoe Gozen, armed with a truly massive Oonaginata and donning a ridicolously skimpy samurai armor. She can unleash deadly sakura petals or summon a portal on her body which redirect all damage inflicted on her opponent. She's also a Tragic Villain and dies at Akira's hands when the latter turns her own Attack Reflector against her.
  • Ushio and Tora: At one point, Tora compares Ushio's love interest Asako to Tomoe Gozen. A sidestory narrates Tomoe's encounter with Tora and how she witnessed him taking down a whole gang of Bakemono whose boss was impersonating Tora.
  • The Tale of the Heike is an account of the Genpei War that also heavily featured Tomoe in her lifetime and popularized many of the features of Tomoe.
  • Tomoe Gozen Saga naturally features the lady herself although in an Alternate Universe of Japan.
    Live Action TV 
  • The NHK Taiga Dramas would usually have her as a character in Genpei War-oriented series, such as:
    • 2005's Yoshitsune portrayed by actress and model Eiko Koike. Relatively straightforward, she presents herself as mistress to Yoshinaka, who joins him in battle, is more of a Blood Knight than he is, and falls into the Despair Event Horizon when he is executed, disappearing afterwards.
    • 2023's The 13 Lords of the Shogun, portrayed by Sayaka Akimoto of AKB48. While broadly serving the same function, she is portrayed as having survived the fall of Yoshinaka, becoming the de facto spouse of Wada Yoshimori (one of the titular 13 Lords)—and generally demonstrating a more steely and mature resolve regarding her fate. She would even counsel Yoritomo's daughter (who was betrothed to Yoshinaka's son before Yoritomo had him executed) to live instead of pining for him, even if it failed.note 
  • In the 2010 Riverworld adaptation, Tomoe appears as one of the many people revived in the Riverworld. At first, she is dressed as a Buddhist nun and acts like no one of consequence, as she had been enjoying her retirement, but is forced to take up the sword again to help the hero Matt against the bad guys.
    Video Games 
  • In the game Yoshitsune Eiyuuden (basically a Samurai Warriors clone of the Genpei War by FromSoftware), Tomoe is a playable character for the Yoshinaka faction. Since it doesn't follow the history that closely, both Tomoe and Yoshinaka can survive the Battle of Awazu and seize the Minamoto clan as Yoshinaka planned since before.
  • In Persona 4, Tomoe is the initial Persona of Chie Satonaka, belonging to the Chariot Arcana. She allows Chie to cast some ice magic and physical oriented magic (the latter was more prominent eventually), and she is seen with a naginata. If Chie's bond is maxed, Tomoe is then upgraded into another Kamakura-era figure and lady, Suzuka Gongen.
  • Fate/Grand Order at first mentioned Tomoe to have been summoned as a Servant during the Babylonia Singularity, but apparently died after pulling a Heroic Sacrifice against the forces of demons. She made her more proper debut way later during the third Epic of Remnant scenario, as Shimosa's Archer Inferno, where she has been corrupted into a bloodthirsty warrior that has to be defeated. However, she can be summoned more normally and she exhibits a much more normal personality: A nurturing and loyal Lady of War decidedly devoted to Yoshinaka even beyond death and hates the three Minamotos that ordered his death; Yoritomo, Noriyori and Yoshitsunenote . In this continuity, Tomoe's might is explained with one addition about her: she's got Oni blood in her, which is why she has horns in her later ascensions and presumably the source of her Playing with Fire powers. Hanging around with the modern devices of the protagonist eventually had her grow interested in playing video games.
    • She would later cameo in a memory sequence Rogue Saber is having in Fate/Samurai Remnant, all but confirming his identity as her husband, the Asahi Shogun Minamoto no Yoshinaka.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: One of the more pivotal figures in the backstory is a warrior woman known only as "Lady Tomoe", who passed her clan's techniques (which include channeling lightning through one's weapon) down to her student, main antagonist Genichiro Ashina.
  • Total War: Shogun 2: The Rise of Samurai expansion pack DLC Saints and Heroes Unit Pack features 'Gozen Hime Heroines', which is referring to Tomoe Gozen rather than other lady samurais. Tomoe herself appear as the default wife of Yoshinaka in Rise of Samurai, but since the game does not allow the appearance of female generals, she's stuck as a wife whose role is to give birth to children.
  • Samurai Warriors, Tomoe is referenced in the name of the strongest naginata-type weapon, mentioning her as a powerful samurai woman.
    Western Animation 
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, Kagami Tsurugi's mother Tomoe Tsurugi is named after her. Tomoe even mentions her namesake as someone she admires for defying her society's restictions to become a samurai, and she's also an international fencing champion. Tomoe's Akumatized form, Ikari Gozen, is also an allusion to Tomoe Gozen's "gozen" title.