Tora Gozen (虎御前)
In 'Sogamonogatari' (the tale of Soga) that deals with the famous story of the Soga brothers' revenge that happened in Fuji no Makigari (Hunting session at Mt. Fuji), Tora Gozen (1175-?) is a heroin and a lover of the elder of the brothers, SOGA no Sukenari, the role added depth and color to the story.
She is also called O-tora san or Torajo; in haiku she is sometimes referred to as 'Toragoze.'
Juro Sukenari and his younger brother Tokimune SOGA had determined early on to take revenge for their father's death, so they had no intention to marry, but when Goro suggested Juro have a wife, Juro chose a courtesan thinking about matters that would occur after his death. Tora was a courtesan in Oiso-machi, with whom Juro was destined to fall in love with immediately. Tora was seventeen and Juro was twenty years old when they met. When Tora was nineteen, in May 28 1193 (old lunar calendar), the brothers sneaked under the darkness of night into the hunting grounds at the foot of Mt. Fuji held by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and executed their revenge on Suketsune KUDO for their father's death. However, Juro was slain on the site by Tadatsune NITTA and Goro was caught alive and investigated by Yoritomo himself before executed.
Toragaame (Tora's rain)' is a kigo (season word) for haiku that came from the sympathy of the people in the following generations with Torajo's sorrow that was reflected in the rain in May 28 of the old lunar calendar. After the brothers died, the surviving Torajo visited their mother to mourn for them, and she became a nun.
Torajo also appears in 'Azuma Kagami' (The Mirror of the East), so she is considered to be an existing woman. There are several theories on her origin; according to an alternative version Omosuhon 'Sogamonogatari,' Torajo's mother was a courtesan in Hiratsuka City named Yashao and her father was Kunai hogan Ienaga who escaped from the capital to Ebina-go, Sagami Province. Torajo was born in Hiratsuka and became a courtesan under a choja (female controller) in Oiso-machi.
The brothel in Hiratsuka to which Tora's mother Yashao belonged is said to be located in present-day Kurobeoka, Hiratsuka City. The choja in Oiso was placed near Mt. Koma (present-day Yamashita, Hiratsuka-City), so it was not so distant from Kurobeoka; the distance between these places is less than an hour on foot there is even the Hanamizugawa River in between.
Name of Tora Gozen
According to 'Sogamonogatari,' she was named Mitora (three tigers) Gozen because she was born on the time, day, and year of Tiger, she was actually born in the year of the Sheep. It can be determined with a quick calculation. The true reason why she was named Tora is therefore unknown. The place where Tora was born was near a corn field and Komayama Mountain was beyond the field; such exotic scenery can be associated with Morokoshi (China) and its Makura word (Poetic epithet convention) is Tora, but it is uncertain whether such association is the reason for her name or not. Gozen in "Tora Gozen" is a designation given to courtesan and Shirabyoshi (women who play Japanese traditional dance) at that time, such as Shizuka Gozen and Tomoe Gozen. At that time, they were called 'Goze' instead of 'Gozen,' that was later Goze (blind female musicians).
After her husband Juro died (there was no system of family registration at that time, so no distinct definition of marriage existed either, but Tora spent her life as Juro's wife), she visited the brothers' mother in the village of Soga before she climbed the Hakone to became a nun by Betto (superintendent) of Hakone gongen (sacred mountain). Then she visited Zenko-ji Temple in Shinshu to hold a memorial service for her deceased husband. After returned to Oiso-machi, she build herself a hermitage in Yamashita on the north side of Mt. Koma where she placed a Bosatsu Jizo and spent all her time praying for her deceased husband. That is described in 'Shoganji Toragozen Engi' handed down at Shoganji and still exists today in Yamashita (in present-day Hiratsuka City) and was a branch temple of Korai-ji Temple. Torajo never ceased to pray for the soul of the brothers and deeply related to the generation of 'Sogamonogatari' until she died at the age of sixty-three at her hermitage.
(Torajo said to have died in June 4, 1225 at the age of fifty-three, but the recent research revealed that she died in 1238; see notes.)
Consideration for courtesans (reference)
People today have a dark and negative image on courtesans who lived during in the Edo Period as ruined women, but in days prior to the Muromachi Period, courtesans were rather intelligent women who were strictly trained in singing and dancing by a female controller called Choja, and some of them acquired some culture, so they were sometimes regarded as sacred women and played the role of miko (shrine maiden). It is considered that courtesans became mere prostitutes after the Sengoku period (period of warring states).