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Samurai Woman
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Samurai Woman

Though Samurai women received martial arts training, they rarely fought in battle.

Samurai Woman

With their husbands in combat almost continuously, 16th century samurai women provided for the defense of their homes and children. Their wartime roles included washing and preparing the decapitated bloody heads of the enemy, which were presented to the victorious generals. Like their samurai husbands, personal honor was paramount for samurai women. They carried small daggers and were always prepared to die to maintain their honor and family name.

After Tokugawa Ieyasu unified Japan, the role of women changed. Their samurai husbands, no longer fighting wars, had become bureaucrats. Women were now encouraged to supervise their children's education and manage the home.

Travel was highly restricted for samurai women during the years of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Forbidden from traveling alone, they were required to carry travel permits, and were usually accompanied by a man. Samurai women often were harassed by the authorities when passing through the government inspection posts.

Top: Samurai woman/Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum
Left: Samurai woman/Tokaido Hiroshige Museum.

On the Tokaido Road
View scenes from the Tokaido Road

In the highly regulated society of the Tokugawa Shogunate, samurai women were allowed to wear silk kimonos. Unmarried women and young girls wore long-sleeved kimonos called "furisode." Married women blackened their teeth and wore the regular sleeve length (thus easily identifying their marital status).

Before the Tokugawa era, the majority of women wore their hair long and straight. In the Edo period, women experimented with more elaborate hairstyles; the most popular emphasized a rounded curve of hair on the back of the head.

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