History of women

We have included an overview of women in Japanese history for those who are curious about the different roles women have played throughout the ages:

  • from revered Shinto shamans and clan leaders to those written out of buddhist history

  • from powerful empresses to political prohibition

  • from warriors to writers, artists, homemakers and activists

Women in Reiki book

"The roots of Shinto are clear here, in a land where animism prevailed

and female shamans were revered. Women were seen as on equal footing

with men in the religion (which developed into Shinto), and therefore

most likely in society. Himiko ruled for fifty or sixty years and died in 248 CE."

from chapter on The Yayoi period 300 BCE - 250CE 

"Aristocratic women found themselves hidden away, unable to see men

other than their father or husband. If another man visited, they had to be

behind a screen or in a separate room, speaking via notes or messages

through servants. They were permitted to attend festivals but couldn’t

speak to anyone and were more than likely hidden from sight. Under

these circumstances, poetry became a way of speaking to the

outside world for women."

from chapter on Women in the Heian period  

"Mugai was only able to train in Zen at Tofukuji because she inflicted terrible burns on her face. Monks believed women were a distraction for them and there are several stories of women burning their faces to gain entry. In Mugai’s case, the Zen master, Enni Benen, was willing to train her, but the

monks didn’t want her there and caused trouble."

from chapter on Women in Zen  

"Women warriors of Aizu were highly educated and received expert training

in martial arts. They were heavily involved in battles against the Imperial

army in 1868 as the Meiji Emperor’s troops attempted to secure control

over Japan. A platoon of 30 Aizu women are credited with the name

Joshigun after fighting alongside the men in battle.

They fought courageously killing many soldiers during the battle, but their naginata and swords were no match for the guns of the Imperial army."

from chapter on Female warriors