Mixed media and photographic collage on European Poplar. Framed in black stained oak.
Depicted here with her Naginata (a Japanese polearm), Nakano Takeko (1847 – 1868) was a female Samurai figure. Born into a family of the Aizu clan, she was born in Edo, the name of Tokyo. Developing a warrior's soul at an early age, Nakano was thoroughly trained in the martial and literary arts. She was adopted by her teacher Akaoka Daisuke and worked with her adoptive father as a martial arts instructor during the 1860s.
In January 1868, Boshin's war broke out. Nakano wished to join the Aizu army and fight but was banned from active duty because of her gender. Braving the ban on women fighting, at the age of 21 Nakano builds and leads an army of intrepid female warriors on the battlefield called Aizu Joshitai. During an attack, she is fatally wounded in the chest and rather than let the enemy capture her head as a trophy, she asked her sister, Yūko, to cut it off and have it buried. Nakano’s remains were taken to the Hokai Temple, which can be found in modern day Aizubange, Fukushima, Japan and buried beneath a pine tree.
As an onna-bugeisha, Nakano is remembered for her courage, intellect and fighting prowess. Her fighting spirit lives on and remains a source of inspiration for many women.