7 Most Famous Female Samurai in History

  1. Onna-Bugeisha
  2. Tomoe Gozen
  3. Nakano Takeko
  4. Hangaku Gozen
  5. Yodo-Dono
  6. Tsuruhime
  7. Hojo Masako

A female samurai, known as “Onna-Bugeisha,” was a skilled warrior in feudal Japan, dating back to the 12th century. These remarkable women, comprising 1-5% of samurai, were trained in martial arts and combat. They wielded weapons such as the naginata, katana, and bow, defending their homes with honor and valor.

The samurai resonate as the noble warriors of Japan, their tales echoing through the ages. Yet, amid the clash of katana and the echoes of bushido, a silent but powerful melody emerges – the tales of female samurai. Like elusive shadows on the pages of history, their stories are often overlooked, overshadowed by the legendary feats of their male counterparts.

But within their graceful movements and resolute spirit lies an untold saga, a narrative of resilience and valor that defies the conventions of their time. As we unsheathe the layers of history, let’s illuminate the forgotten chapters of the Female Samurai, warriors whose existence challenges not only the norms of their era but also the very essence of our understanding of strength, honor, and the untamed spirit of those who dared to carve their destiny with a katana.

List of Famous Female Samurai

The Onna-Bugeisha, a formidable class of female warriors in feudal Japan, shattered gender norms with their martial prowess and indomitable spirit. These skilled samurai women were not only trained in the art of combat but also played crucial roles in defending their homes and clans.

Armed with weapons such as naginata, katana, and yumi (bows), Onna-Bugeisha displayed exceptional courage on the battlefield. Beyond combat, they exemplified discipline, honor, and resilience. The historical legacy of Onna-Bugeisha endures as a symbol of female strength in a male-dominated society, challenging stereotypes and proving that women were integral to Japan’s martial history.

Their stories echo through time, embodying the essence of empowerment and valor that transcends gender boundaries. The Onna-Bugeisha remains an inspirational testament to the formidable role women played in shaping the warrior ethos of feudal Japan.

Tomoe Gozen, a legendary figure in Japanese history, was a formidable female samurai during the late 12th century. Renowned for her exceptional martial prowess and strategic acumen, she served as a loyal retainer to Minamoto no Yoshinaka during the Genpei War.

Tomoe’s battlefield prowess was so extraordinary that she could reportedly unhorse a foe with a single stroke. Her presence on the front lines, armed with a naginata, defied societal norms of the time. Tomoe Gozen’s unwavering courage was highlighted in the Battle of Awazu, where she fought fiercely before ultimately choosing an honorable death over surrender.

While her life is shrouded in the mists of time, Tomoe Gozen’s legacy endures as an iconic representation of female strength and skill in the annals of samurai history. Her story resonates as a testament to the indomitable spirit that transcends gender norms on the battlefield.

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Nakano Takeko
Nakano Takeko via Wikimedia Commons

Nakano Takeko, a revered female samurai of the Aizu domain in the 19th century, exemplified both martial prowess and dedication to duty. Trained in martial arts from an early age, Takeko played a vital role in the Boshin War.

Commanding a troop of female warriors, she fought with unparalleled skill at the Battle of Aizu in 1868. In a poignant act of bravery, Takeko refused to surrender and, recognizing her impending demise, asked her sister to behead her to prevent enemy desecration. Her legacy lives on through her contributions to the martial arts and her unwavering commitment to the samurai code.

Nakano Takeko stands as a symbol of female strength, resilience, and sacrifice, etching her name indelibly in the chronicles of Japanese warrior history.

Hangaku Gozen, a revered female samurai from the Kamakura period, left an indelible mark on Japanese history with her remarkable martial prowess. A skilled archer and warrior, she fought alongside her husband, Kamakura general Satō Tsugunobu, in the defense of their fortress against the invading Mongol forces in 1274.

Hangaku Gozen’s legendary heroism unfolded during the Battle of Bun’ei, where she displayed unparalleled courage on the front lines. In a pivotal moment, she engaged in fierce one-on-one combat with a Mongol officer, ultimately sacrificing herself to protect her family and honor.

Hangaku Gozen’s legacy reverberates as a symbol of unwavering loyalty, resilience, and the formidable presence of female warriors in Japan’s martial history. Her story transcends time, embodying the spirit of those who defy conventions to defend what they hold dear.

Yodo-Dono, formally known as Lady Chacha, emerges as a captivating figure in Japanese history, recognized for her role as a female samurai during the turbulent Sengoku period. Born Chacha, she later became Yodo-Dono upon marriage to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan’s preeminent military leaders.

After Hideyoshi’s death, Yodo-Dono navigated the complex political landscape, marrying Tokugawa Ieyasu to secure her son’s position as heir. However, the tides of fortune turned, leading to Yodo-Dono’s involvement in the Winter and Summer Sieges of Osaka Castle.

Her life encapsulates the intricate interplay of power, loyalty, and tragedy. Yodo-Dono’s legacy endures as a symbol of resilience in a tumultuous era, offering a nuanced perspective on the challenges faced by women in the demanding world of samurai politics.

Tsuruhime, a remarkable female samurai hailing from the Warring States period, captivates history with her courage and leadership. Born to the powerful Chosokabe clan, Tsuruhime navigated the complexities of feudal Japan with finesse.

After the death of her father, she assumed control of the clan and its military forces, demonstrating exceptional strategic acumen. Tsuruhime played a pivotal role in the Siege of Osaka, defending her family’s interests against the encroaching Tokugawa forces. Her unwavering commitment to her people and astute governance earned her a place among Japan’s notable women warriors.

Tsuruhime’s legacy echoes through time, an inspiring testament to female empowerment in an era dominated by martial prowess, showcasing that strength and leadership know no gender bounds in the annals of samurai history.

Hojo Masako, a formidable figure in feudal Japan, transcended traditional female roles to become a revered female samurai. Born into the influential Hojo clan, Masako navigated the complex political landscape with finesse.

Following her husband Minamoto no Yoritomo’s death, she assumed a central role in consolidating the power of the Kamakura Shogunate, effectively becoming a political force in her own right. Masako skillfully managed alliances and intrigues, ensuring the stability of the shogunate.

Her strategic brilliance earned her the moniker “Nun Shogun.” Masako’s legacy extends beyond her lifetime, standing as a testament to the indomitable spirit of women in feudal Japan, challenging societal norms, and leaving an enduring impact on the nation’s history.

Her influence, marked by both political acumen and martial resilience, solidifies her place as one of Japan’s most influential female samurai.

History of Women Samurai

The history of women samurai, or Onna-Bugeisha, traces back to feudal Japan, emerging in the 12th century. Despite societal norms, these female warriors mastered martial arts and combat, defending their homes with weapons like the naginata and katana.

Their legacy continued through periods of conflict, with notable figures like Tomoe Gozen and Nakano Takeko. While representing a small percentage of samurai, these women shattered gender stereotypes, showcasing exceptional courage and skill on the battlefield, leaving an indelible mark on Japanese history.


In the tapestry of Japanese history, these remarkable women have etched their stories with strokes of courage, resilience, and indomitable spirit. From the legendary Tomoe Gozen, who rode into battle with the grace of a tempest, to the strategic brilliance of Hojo Masako, who wielded power as adeptly as her katana—each female samurai transcended societal norms, leaving an enduring legacy on the pages of time. Tsuruhime, Hangaku Gozen, Nakano Takeko, Yodo-Dono, and the Onna-Bugeisha collectively stand as embodiments of strength, challenging the constraints of their era.

As we reflect on their lives, we recognize that the echoes of their deeds extend far beyond the battlegrounds. These women, though often overshadowed, played pivotal roles in shaping the course of Japan’s history. Their stories inspire us to revisit and reevaluate notions of gender roles, resilience, and the unyielding pursuit of honor.

In the end, the saga of these female samurai is a testament to the timeless truth that strength, courage, and leadership know no gender, and their legacies continue to resonate, urging us to honor the warriors who defied conventions and carved their destinies in the annals of samurai lore.


Were female samurai common in Japanese history?

Female samurai were not as common as male samurai, but there were still many women who trained in martial arts and fought in battles.

Did female samurai have the same rights as male samurai?

Female samurai did not have the same rights as male samurai