Onna-Bugeisha 'Warrior Women' [University of Central Oklahoma]


  • Beth J Anderson University of Central Oklahoma
  • Jessica Sheetz-Nguyen University of Central Oklahoma




Japan, Samurai, Women, Warrior


For centuries, women in Japan have been cast as geishas, however, the history of onna-bugeisha or “warrior women” pose a contrasting shadow. These warrior women took up training focused on using the naginata, a sort of spear with a curved blade on the end and the kaiken, a sort of dagger. They trained to protect their homes and villages; in addition, some would even carry their training into battle. In the twelfth century, Hangaku Gozen and Tomoe Gozen, while Nakano Takeko in the nineteenth century were considered to be among the best of the onna-bugeisha. These women led their own armies into battle, some made up of only women and some of only men. Very little is written about these women as Japanese warriors. Tomoe is only briefly mentioned in the Heike Monogatari, a series of stories detailing the Genpei wars (1182-1185). The down play of their importance is evident in the lack of resources recording their lives. This is possibly because their warrior-like-actions threatened the natural masculinity of the samurai. Once the samurai become a rising class structure, the onna-bugeisha began to fall away in importance, second to their husbands. As they moved behind the scenes, their training emerged to represent a method of moral discipline rather than preparing for combat. Their natural warrior way of life faded from their daily lives and the Japanese history. Most of my sources are journal articles giving the base for this research concerning the Samurai and their lives. Other sources include Japanese Girls and Women, a book by Alice Mabel Bacon, published in 1891 and Samurai Women 1184-1877a book by Stephen Turnbull, published in 2010.


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Author Biographies

Beth J Anderson, University of Central Oklahoma

I'm double majoring in Studio Art and History and plan to graduate with a BA in History in May 2020. I work as a Research Assistant to Dr. Jessica Sheetz-Nguyen and Dr. Justin Olmstead at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Jessica Sheetz-Nguyen, University of Central Oklahoma




How to Cite

Anderson, B. J., & Sheetz-Nguyen, J. (2019). Onna-Bugeisha ’Warrior Women’ [University of Central Oklahoma]. Journal of Student Research. https://doi.org/10.47611/jsr.vi.681