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For centureis the Western world has been slowly grasping new bits of information from Japan about the shogunate period, or more specifically the tokugawa period (1603 - 1867). We have certainly learnt a lot about tradition and morals from this time period. However, there was one area of life that was not documented or recored therefore both Japan and Western countries have stuggeled to understand, the life of samurai woman in Shogunate Japan. The following article dicussed the regonition of Samurai woman and how their legacy shaped modern society.
It was known that both Samurai men and woman were literate, however, samurai woman could only write in the form of hiragana which meant they were prevented from reading about political and business trades or great literary works.
In the city of Kyoto on the 30th of November, there was a letter torn on the edges down the left side. Archelogists have hyostised it was torn from a diary. Thie letter of course is written in Hiragana, but has given us a whole new look at what expetations challenges and descrimination faced Samurai women.
This primary source has been translatd into English and both versions can be read below.
This letter was written by Nakano Takeko a female Japanese warrior who fought and died during the Boshin War. Her letter was written during her time in The Boshin War, estimating a week or two before her death.
Her empathetic letter to her self reflects on her life, what could have been and what she faced ahead of her. She states how she was one of the very few Samurai woman to have been able to fight in a war. She was thoroughly trained in the martial and literary arts, and was adopted by her teacher Akaoka Daisuke.
The Legacy of Samurai woman in Shogunate Japan
By: Kate Coyne
She lead a group of female combats, who fought in the battle independantly, becuase the men warriors did not let them fight as an official part of the army. Her letter dicusses thr harships she faced living in this era. She states "always considered less then men, dimishes our self worth".
Nakano Takeko bravley opens up to all that sadens her in the world that she was brought up in. We can see that from a Japanese woman's point of view freedom of power was an aspect in their life that was lacking. She talks about the discrimination that faced her during this time period, including not being able to read important political trades or events, therefore never putting her education and knowledge to use. She also states that the Samurai warriors would not let her group of female combats join the war as an officaial part of the army. " We could have tunred back at this point, which most woman were willing to do. Yet I was determined to fight". This quote shows us how much courage, passion and drive Nakano had to fight for what she belived in.
All her characteristics were and are idolised by Japanese woman, which is what made her such a great leader and warrior. She definatly left a legacy of her own, but also helped shape the legacy left of Samurai woman.
At the end of the letter Nakano Takeko stated that she hoped one day someone woud find the letter, read it and notice that things have changed. Of course gender discrimination still occurs all over the world. In Japan, 70 percent of women have jobs before they get married, but 62 percent of them quit after having their first child.However, after WWII occupation changed the gender roles for Japan. Discrimination based on gender was forbidden by the Japanese Constitution, WII essentially ended the social feudal system. Women still control the household, household budget, and household decisions, allowing men to devote themselves to their work. This is changing as more women start careers. Both genders are also delaying marriage. The stigma of being single is fading for both genders, most of all for women. So it is fair to say that there are key ideas about gender in modern Japan that has remianed consistant like,
- Men should work outside the home
- Genders should be brought up differently
- Women are more suited to household work and child rearing than men.
- Full time housewives are valuable to society because of their family raising role.
Again these ideas are just generlisations and Japan like many countries in the world have dramasticly improved when it comes to gender discrimination. Even though there is still much room for improvement, Nakano Takeko's wish came too.
In conclusion the history of Samurai woman did shape modern Japan, because they were no where near as well identified and known as the male samurai.The ideas of endurance and strength are important characteristics to both genders of today’s society.The reason why woman embodies these ideas, was due to birthing and growth of raising children. However the morals and values of samurai women, which were honouring their famiy name, honouring their counrty and selflessness are three traits that have helped depict modern woman in Japan and therefore shape the tradition that is kept within modern society.