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Images of Samurai Women

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Tomoe Gozen on Horseback
Print by Kuniyoshi Utagawa, c. 1848-1854

An actor portrays Japan's most famous female samurai, Tomoe Gozen.

Library of Congress Prints Collection

The story of Tomoe Gozen has inspired artists and writers for centuries.

This print shows an actor in a mid-19th century kabuki play portraying the famed female samurai. Her name and image have also graced a NHK (Japanese television) drama called Yoshitsune, as well as comic books, novels, anime and video games.

Fortunately for us, she also inspired a number of Japan's great woodcut print artists. Because no contemporary images of her exist, artists have free rein to interpret her features. The sole surviving description of her, from the Tale of the Heike, states that she was beautiful, "with white skin, long hair, and charming features."

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