Rare vintage photograph of an onna-bugeisha, one of the female warriors of the upper social classes in feudal Japan (emerged before Samurai)


An onna-bugeisha (女武芸者?) was a type of female warrior belonging to the Japanese upper class. Many wives, widows, daughters, and rebels answered the call of duty by engaging in battle, commonly alongside samurai men. They were members of the bushi (samurai) class in feudal Japan and were trained in the use of weapons to protect their household, family, and honor in times of war. They also represented a divergence from the traditional "housewife" role of the Japanese woman. They are sometimes mistakenly referred to as female samurai, although this is an oversimplification. Onna bugeisha were very important people in ancient Japan. Significant icons such as Empress Jingu, Tomoe Gozen, Nakano Takeko, and Hōjō Masako were all onna bugeisha who came to have a significant impact on Japan.


  1. If they emerged before samourai, how can they fight alongside with them?

  2. a photograph from a set of photos of Kabuki actors and Geisha in costume.

    The original caption read:

    Portraits of Japanese Kabuki actors and geisha. Unknown photographer, 1870s.

    It went on auction, which you can see listed here, and there were 34 prints total, but none of them were of Onna Bugeisha. Just a heads up! There are images of Onna Bugeisha on this blog here.



  3. Maybe it was just a Japanese woman dressed in Onna-Bugeisha.