Women In Japan’s Warring State Period

About the works of Sengoku Samurai women:

In Between (Princess Yoshi):

Inbetween (Princess Yoshi) is one of the series of women in Sengoku Period (Warring State Period) in Japan. Sengoku period was the time when most of samurai families involved in wars against each other. During this period, women of samurai families played important roles; often as a key person to connect family relationships or/and hostages. While many of the women ended their lives as tragic figures, some lived and contributed to sustain their families. They were courageous survivors who steering their lives during one of the most difficult periods in Japanese samurai history. As it is common during Warring States period, family members were often battled as enemies. She was one of the brave, outspoken woman during battles. When she heard her close brother was nearly defeated by her husband, she got in her carriage to see her husband during the battle. She begged to stop, and her husband agreed to her. 10 years later, her son was almost defeated by her brother during the battle. She did the same to his brother this time, and successfully stopped the battle and saved her son, who became an important samurai later ( Date Masamune). Despite of her bravery to seek for peace, she is portrayed as a evil-minded samurai wife or mother, which is because her deeds was not following samurai’s philosophy of self sacrifice and not obeying patriarchy.

Ain’t Your Chic (Vota Julia):

Vota Julia is researched from the Sengoku period in Japan, (1467-1615) a long stretch of intense civil war between Samurai families that divided the country. Julia is a given Christian name. She was born in Korea, but was taken to Japan as a result of Japan’s failed invasion to Korea in 16th century. She spent the rest of her life in Japan. She had a great knowledge of medicinal herbs from her adopted family business. She was asked to abandon Christianity and serve to the most powerful samurai at that time, Ieyasu Tokugawa. She refused multiple times. As the government forbade Christianity, she was considered to be a criminal for not changing her religious belief, and sent to a remote island. She kept her belief and lived supporting other criminals, the poor, and the diseased. In the short looping video, we see various facets of Vota as she endlessly revolves around the masculine gongs, and with every turn we hear the sound of contemporary Korean Benedictine nuns singing evening chants that reflect on helping the sick, poor and young. I incorporated both traditional and contemporary elements to make a bridge between the past and the present as well as cultural gaps. Geometric patterns are developed from circular forms and negatives of the forms. Circles are symbolically used as the notions of totality, wholeness, original perfection, the Self, the infinite, eternity, timelessness, all cyclic movement. The work attempts to reveal a deeper continuity between our disparate histories. In an iconic composition, it honors the struggles endured by these women in the past, with contemporary generations of survivors in our current moment.


Nonoh is a regional term for a Japanese shrine maiden around 16th century. It means ‘spirit’. They traveled beyond the districts they lived in to give services as a shrine maiden. They worked as fortune tellers, that was widely trusted in older times, also due to listening to other’s issues and worries, they functioned like psychic readers or counselors. They are also known to be acting as spies for their regional shogun, as they were authorized to across districts easily.

They were scouted for their good appearance and talent,  while those maiden groups were traveling. It could have probably been easy to find orphans and girls in poverty due to the frequent battles all over Japan at that time. They went through strict trainings to become Shrine maidens. It was so strict that some young women decided to end their lives instead. 

The work’s complicated image reflects these young women’s path of their lives. Most likely there were lot of struggles, choice making, and endurance in their lives. This work is my response to the lives of these unknown women. The circles here represent individuals as well as their wishful thoughts of peace in their lives and also of ending the warring period.

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