Is Japan in need of a strong woman? (Part I)
Which strong Japanese woman should Hitomi Sakamoto look like? You decide.
I’ve always thought that our need for heroes is a good thing. It’s not that we’re all cowards and need some super figure to deal with the world’s problems. No, we need heroes because we need people to look up to. We strive to become like them. Not that that’s ever going to happen, but still we dream of it — in that sense we are all authors. Some of us are the authors of our dreams, some of us put it down on paper and put our names on it. I love that part of being an author: creating a heroic figure.
When Miss Hitomi Sakamoto emerged as a sidekick for the hero of my novels, radio detective Carl Pappas, she turned out to be the strongest member of the team. Hitomi is a woman with power, but soft spoken and gentle at the same time. Men fear her, although they are also attracted to her. And on top of it all: she is a mature woman, not another one of these adolescent girls like we can see all the time on TV or in the movies. Now that she has successfully participated in seven Radio Detective novels and now that we know that Hitomi is a Japanese woman who has just embarked on an adventure series of her own —The Hitomi Files— a question must be asked:
Does Japan really need ANOTHER strong woman?
All the power women of the past
I ask this because there have been and are enough power women on the Japanese islands for sure. I’ve taken the liberty of looking them up for you. Today we look at Strong Woman #1, Hôjô Masako.
But before we do, there’s one more thing. There is no image of my Hitomi Sakamoto yet. She jumped out of my imagination — of course you can pick up “North” or one of the seven Radio Detective novels and get some idea. But I can’t beat your imagination!
Hôjô Masako, the ‘nun-shôgun’ (1156-1225)
Masako was a formidable political figure, no doubt. She was the daughter of Hôjô Tokimasa and was married to Minamoto Yoritomo, who had become the first Minamoto shôgun in 1192. After Minamoto’s death, Masako became a nun, accepting the tonsure from the priest Gyôyû in 1199. Meanwhile she worked closely with her father to secure the power of the Hôjô in Kamakura. She formed a council of ‘elders’ (the shukuro) to moderate the power of her own son, the headstrong 2nd shôgun Yoriie. The son didn’t like that and the result was a power struggle that I won’t go into here, because that’s a long story and it ended in the death of Yoriie anyway. Her life was full of intrigue and political struggle. Obviously Masako was a special person with political ability and sway in Kamakura. She was even given the nickname of ‘ama-shôgun’, or the nun-shôgun. She died at the age of 69.
Do you know any powerful Japanese women you’d like to add to this series? Please describe her or them in a comment below. Thank you for sharing.
Read the next blog in this series here.