Atypical Gender Roles in “Taiko”

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A Rarity, Female Samurai

Demonstrations of gender vary extensively between the characters of Taiko. While some characters of Taiko act singularly and embody their gender stereotypes, many others are multifaceted and seem to contradict traditional expectations. Further, by highlighting the intricacy of both male and female characters within this setting, one can recognize how this concept transcends the text and represents overall gender complexity.

Specifically, Nene and Oichi, being atypical and unusual, demonstrate the complexity of women during this time period, while Hideyoshi and Hanbei represent intricate male characters who cannot be defined or restricted by mere stereotypes.  Nene, wife of Hideyoshi, works hard from the first day of their marriage. She stays with Hideyoshi’s mother and works on the farm with her, and certainly has a positive attitude throughout the whole time Additionally, Oichi, the sister of Nobunaga and the wife of Nagamasa, presents herself unexpectedly in Book Four. After being “rescued” from Nobunaga’s attack of her castle, and losing her husband by the hands of her brother, Oichi asserts herself with unexpected anger rather than typical sadness. Likewise, when Nene is approached by Nobunaga about her husband’s infidelity, she does not demonstrate despair but rather keeps her emotions to herself. Further, the two women act and display less feminine qualities as a symbolic measure of their implicit complexity. 

Similarly, both Hideyoshi and Hanbei display atypical features as males. They are neither physically strong or handsome, yet both are intellectually superior and are well appreciated for their intelligence. Hanbei (before Hideyoshi) lives as a recluse and pursues mental development, yet is valued by armies for his capacity for strategic development. Despite lacking physical prowess, he is a vital asset to Hideyoshi’s team as well. The leader himself develops and rises in rank through his mental capabilities. Hideyoshi continues to grow and reach success through the five books through his intellectual strength and his emotive capacity to read and reach out to others. Both of these men demonstrate unique, unmanly characteristics that suggest the multifaceted nature of their being.

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Empress Xiaozhey, from Concubine to Empress

Therein, as demonstrated by the aforementioned characters, the tale of Taiko highlights the actual complexity of both genders by showing persons who are unique and yet are valuable nevertheless.

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