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Shizuka Gozen (fl. 12th c.)

Shizuka Gozen (fl. 12th c.)

Legendary beauty who was the lover of Minamoto no Yoshitsune. Pronunciation: She-zoo-kah Goe-zen. Flourished in the later 12th century; no other details are known.

Shizuka Gozen is one of the great, tragic, romantic heroines of Japanese history. While she is likely to have lived, her story is a romantic legend, written in numerous works of medieval fiction which chronicle the Minamoto-Taira War (1180–1185). Said to have been a spectacular beauty, and the best dancer in the country, Shizuka was the mistress of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a brilliant warrior. When Minamoto no Yoritomo turned against Yoshitsune, his younger brother, Yoshitsune fled, accompanied by Shizuka. She could not keep up, however, and so was seized by warriors loyal to Yoritomo and taken to his headquarters. Yoritomo forced the beautiful Shizuka, against her will, to dance for him. As she danced, she sang songs that attested to both her love for Yoshitsune and his military skill. She went so far as to gloat that Yoshitsune had successfully evaded his enemies. While she thus taunted her captor, her dance was so beautiful that Yoritomo swallowed the insults and spared her life. Not long thereafter, she gave birth to Yoshitsune's son. The child was killed, and Shizuka became a Buddhist nun.


Benton, Margaret Fukazawa. "Hōjo Masako : The Dowager Shōgun," in Heroic with Grace: Legendary Women of Japan. Edited by Chieko Mulhern. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1991.

Linda L. Johnson , Professor of History, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota

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