Tomoe Gozen (or ‘Lady Tomoe’) was a samurai warrior in 12th century Japan who was famed for her ability with both the sword and the bow. She was also a master horsewoman, said to be able to ride an unbroken horse with skill.
Tomoe served in the Genpei War (1180-1185) as the First Captain of her daimyo (and possibly her husband), Minamoto no Yoshinaka. The Tale of the Heike describes her as a beautiful woman with charming features, who went to battle in heavy armour and wielding an oversized sword.
Following their defeat of the Heike, she led Yoshinaka’s forces in the taking of Tokyo in his attempt to claim leadership of the Minamoto clan. This action led to civil war within the clan against Yoshinaka’s cousins, culminating in the Battle of Awazu in 1184. During this battle Tomoe is recorded as beheading members of the enemy army, however Yoshinaka was killed and the army defeated.
Her ultimate fate is unknown. Some accounts say she fought to the death on the battlefield, others that she escaped on horseback carrying an enemy head and disappeared.