Historical Figures

Nakano Takeko, leader of the "women's army"

Last updated:2022-07-25

Nakano Takeko (1847-1868) was a Japanese onna-bugeisha (woman fighter), who led a unit of women into battle during the Boshin War.

The Boshin War

Daughter of Nakano Heina, official of Aizu (in the Tōhoku region, northeast of Honshū Island, the main island of Japan), Nakano Takeko was born in Edo (Tokyo). Trained in literary and martial arts, she was later adopted by her teacher, Akaoka Daisuke, with whom she worked as a martial arts instructor.

In January 1868, the Boshin War (literally "dragon war"), Japanese civil war, broke out and Nakano Takeko took part in the fighting. During the Battle of Aizu, from October 1868, she commanded a unit of women (nicknamed "the Women's Army") who fought independently of the official army, as they were not allowed to join it. . She herself fights with a naginata, a long weapon with a curved blade.

An early end

During a charge against the Imperial Japanese Army, Nakano Takeko is shot in the chest. In order not to fall into the hands of the enemy, she asks her sister Yūko to finish her off. Nakano Takeko dies on the battlefield, at the age of 21. His body is taken away by his sister and buried under a pine tree in Aizu's domain. A monument to his memory will later be erected near his grave.