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Images of Samurai Women

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Tomoe Gozen Playing Koto and Riding to War
Print by Adashi Ginko, 1888.

Tomoe Gozen, c. 1157–1247, playing koto (top) and riding out to war (bottom).

Library of Congress Prints Collection

This very intriguing print from 1888 shows Tomoe Gozen in the upper panel in a very traditional female role; she is seated on the floor, her long hair unbound, playing the koto. In the lower panel, however, she has her hair up in a powerful knot, she has traded her silk robe for armor, and she wields a naginata rather than a koto pick.

In both panels, enigmatic male riders appear in the background. It is not really clear whether they are her allies or enemies, but in both cases she is looking over her shoulder at them.

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