Lady Tomoe (巴御前)
Lady Tomoe (years of birth and death not known) was a lady who was deemed a military commander in the Shinano Province and lived during the last days of the Heian period. Her name Tomoe (巴) is sometimes expressed with the characters "鞆" or "鞆絵." She was a daughter of Kaneto NAKAHARA (Chuza gon no kami), who was a local ruling family in the Shinano Province, and MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka's favorite concubine. She was a younger sister of Kanemitsu HIGUCHI and Kanehira IMAI.
In the war chronicle titled "Heike Monogatari", she appears in the chapter of 'Kiso no saigo'. She was described as a female warrior fighting with a long sword and a strong bow who, together with Yoshinaka shitenno (the four most loyal retainers to Yoshinaka), joined Yoshinaka's subjugation of the Taira family and fought in the Jisho-Juei War.
The chronicle describes 'Kiso-dono brought two beautiful maids named Tomoe and Yamabuki from the Shinano Province. For some reasons, Yamabuki stayed in the capital. In particular, Tomoe was fair-skinned and had long hair and was very beautiful. She was very strong, having the strength of a thousand warriors.'
It is also said that when she followed Yoshinaka, who Yoshinaka was defeated in the Battle of Uji-gawa River and tried to run away, she was not killed even though only five to seven men remained.
Yoshinaka tried to let Tomoe run away by telling her, 'Since you are a woman, run away anywhere you can. I have made my mind to fight and die. It is not good that I have a woman by my side to the last.'
Tomoe did not agree to the Yoshinaka's order, but as she was ordered repeatedly, she said, 'This is my last service.' and when the enemy general who was famous for his strength appeared, she rode her hose side by side with the general's horse and brought him down, wrenching his neck off and throwing the head away. After that, Tomoe took off her armor and helmet and ran away toward the eastern country and disappeared from the tale (Kakuichi-bon text). In the Yasaka-bon text, after Tomoe killed an enemy general who had chased after her, she was told by Yoshinaka to run away and convinced that her last service should be to mourn him, and she headed eastward and she was lost.
In "Genpei Seisuiki", she appeared in the Battle of the Kurikara Pass as one of generals, and it was said that she was twenty-eight years old at that time. In the scenes of the Battle of Uji-gawa River, the battle against Shigetada HATAKEYAMA is described. Rokuro HANZAWA was asked by Shigetada who was Tomoe.
He replied, 'She is a daughter between the wet nurse of Kiso-dono and Chuza gon no kami and called Tomoe. She is good at using a strong bow and taming a wild horse. Although she is a daughter of the wet nurse, she became a concubine, and she entertains him like entertaining a boy at home and, in the army, she is a commander in chief and she has never been defeated. She is a sister of IMAI and HIGUCHI and she is a terrible person.'
In "Genpei Seisuiki", her struggling with an enemy general and farewell to Yoshinaka were described in more details. After having run away, she was called by Yoritomo to Kamakura and married Yoshimori WADA, giving birth to Yoshihide ASAHINA, and after the battle of Wada, she became a priestess and mourned her master, parents and child and died at the age of ninety-one.
As the Kanasashi clan had a castle called Yamabuki-jo Castle, Chogoro KAIONJI surmised that Tomoe and Yamabuki were dispatched as aides-de-camp or secretaries by the Nakahara clan and Kanasashi clan, who were supporters of Yoshinaka, choosing capable daughters.
The description in "Heike Monogatari" and "Genpei Seisuiki" that she was a military commander is doubtful as a historical fact and it is highly possible that it is literary fiction. However, "Azuma Kagami", which is the official record of the Kamakura shogunate, has an article that, brave and good fight of Hangaku Gozen, who was a family member of the Jo clan in Echigo, caused the punitive force serious damages. In addition, as Yoshito ASARI of Kai-Genji (Minamoto clan) with whom she married after the war had proposed to her because of her braveness, it is a fact that, in a samurai's family in Koshinetsu district at that time, there existed examples of women receiving training that would allow them to stand toe-to-toe with top class warriors.
There actually exist graves that are said to be Tomoe Gozen's grave in various places such as Yokosuka City in Kanagawa Prefecture, Kiso-cho, Kiso-gun in Nagano Prefecture and Joetsu City in Niigata Prefecture.