The Spirit of Tomoe Gozen II

The second illustration centered around the almost mythical (but likely very real) Tomoe Gozen, a legendary 12th century Onna-bugeisha (for us westerners best described as a female samurai) who fought in the Genpei wars between the Taira and Minamoto clans for control of Japan. The famous, almost contemporary epic account on this war The Tale of the Heike describes Tomoe Gozen:

Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god, mounted or on foot. She handled unbroken horses with superb skill; she rode unscathed down perilous descents. Whenever a battle was imminent, Yoshinaka sent her out as his first captain, equipped with strong armor, an oversized sword, and a mighty bow; and she performed more deeds of valor than any of his other warriors. ” (source:

I have always had a likeness for strong warrior-like female characters in stories, a subject I have often depicted in my personal work, so naturally I took interest in the story of Tomoe Gozen when I stumbled on it a few years ago. This interest went as far as letting Jan-Willem tattoo Tomoe on my lower arm as the main subject in a Japanese full-sleeve tattoo (check out Jan-Willem’s work. His skilled hands developed a unique and personal style that particularly shows in his character work. This all based on his knowledge and respect for traditional Japanese tattooing and the legends they depict)
My tattoo shows Tomoe on horseback and is loosely based on an event in which she cut of the head of the samurai Onda no Hachirô Moroshige (a Ukiyo-e print by Katsukawa Shunzan depicts this very scene).
That’s right; I have a decapitated head, a Namakubi, tattooed on my arm 🙂

This illustration is the second in a series that I plan to do (See below illustration that gave birth to the idea) It will revolve around a young woman who possesses the spiritual power of Tomoe Gozen and will feature mythical beasts and other supernatural entities that I find very fascinating in Japanese storytelling.
I’m not a skilled writer by any means, so I just want to show this through imagery. Perhaps it will result in a graphic novel with the emphasis on ‘graphic’, in which I’ll try to convey a story with as little words as possible.
It’s all a very vague idea and I’m not sure that I will actually stick with it, but for now I’m having tons of fun jotting ideas down and doodle away on my tablet.

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