The ninja, also known as shinobi, were covert mercenaries during the feudal era in Japan that practiced espionage, assassination, and guerilla warfare. Ninjas were not prominent figures in history until the 15th century when they became active in the Iga province and neighboring village of Koga. The stealth of the shinobi may date back farther, but it wasn't until the Sengoku period that ninjas were specially trained for their purpose.
The preferred weapons of the ninja were the katana and also straight blade swords like the ninjato. The Ninja has a vey different mission and purpose from the Samurai, and specialized tools are needed. A sturdy, straight and shorter sword best suits the clandestine activities of the Ninja clans.
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Professional Spy in Feudal Japan Highly trained in Stealth and Secrecy
Ninja is a name of individual or group who served daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) or feudal lord doing intelligence activities and assassinations from the Kamakura period to Edo period in Japan. Ninja is well known not only in Japan, but also in the world. Ninja was a group who was mainly doing covert operations for a feudal lord. Their position was different from that of samurai or ashigaru (common foot soldier). A recent study shows that ninja was a group of engineers who had abundant knowledge of animals and plants, and chemistry as well as a group of intelligence agents who had great physical ability and were strictly disciplined.
Ninja didn’t wear “Solid Black”
Image of ninja wearThey are often described as "dressed in solid black", "wearing kusari-katabira (chain woven protective wear) inside and paint their face with black ink", "carrying a sword on the back" or "break into the enemy territory under cover of darkness", but a figure in black costume can be seen in the night, thus it is considered that their costume was dark blue or persimmon color. Most of the existing costumes which are considered to be "ninja costume" are persimmon color or similar colors. Since they focused on escaping rather than fighting, usually they didn't wear heavy kusari-katabira to be as nimble as possible. The sword carried on the back encumbered their move, they normally belted a sword on. However, when they crawled under floor, they carried a sword on the back to move easily in the narrow space and used it as a shield.
Art of Ninjutsu in Darkness and Light
They conducted various special trainings and had special tools, the tools are called "Ningu" and the various techniques including art of escaping and fighting are called "Ninjutsu". There are two types of ninjutsu, "Innin" (Ninjutsu of Darkness) and "Yonin" (Ninjutsu of Light). Innin is a way of seeking an inside information and sabotaging by breaking into the enemy territory concealing themselves, the appearance of ninja which generally people imagine is of this situation. On the other hand, yonin is a way of accomplishing a purpose with a trick exposing themselves to the public. So-called intelligence, conspiracy and dividing operation are included. Some kobujutsu (old manners of Japanese martial art) still have traces of ninjutsu.
Special Female Ninja called “Kunoicho”
Image of KunoichiFemale ninja is generally called "Kunoichi" (the origin of this code name was a Japanese character "女" meaning woman, and it is considered that this character was broken down into three characters "く (ku)", "ノ (no)" and "一 (ichi")). there is a description that a female ninja snaked into the castle masquerading as a housemaid and it is considered that she used "women's gossip" for the intelligence activity and created considerable performance. Famous kunoichi appeared in historical fact is a group of arukimiko who served Shingen TAKEDA.
Ninja arose with the Period of Warring States in Japan
There are several theories about the origin of ninja. They formed some groups in regions around Japan. Particularly, groups of ninja which were based in Koga and Iga were famous. In these locations, there were many ninja houses and they conducted daily training. Since most territories of Koga and Iga were shoen (manor in medieval Japan) in the Kamakura period, they were not controlled by shugo (provincial constable) or jito (manager and lord of manor), but when the shoen system collapsed in the Sengoku period (in Japan), dozens of jizamurai groups struggled for power. It is considered that "Ninjutsu" arose spontaneously in the condition that each jizamurai always fought an information war and a guerrilla war to maintain power.
Ninja worked for, and Fought against Samurai at the same time
Image of Sengoku JidaiIn Iga Province, three families of Jonin (upper class Ninja), the Fujibayashi clan, the Momochi clan and the Hattori clan controlled other jizamurai and adopted collegial system to form the area not controlled by daimyo (Japanese territorial samurai lord) in the Sengoku Period (period of warring states). They united and fought against invasion from outside, when famous samurai load Nobunaga ODA sent Katsutoshi TAKIGAWA to control Iga Province, they dismissed him, and also eliminated Nobukatsu ODA's army who invaded in retribution (the first Tensho Iga War). When Nobunaga schemed a conspiracy with a part of enemy and invaded again with a great army, the other groups of ninja in Iga Province suffered catastrophic damage (the second Tensho Iga War). It is said that Tanba MOMOCHI and other one hundred ninja fled down to Negoro, Kishu Province.
Iga and Koga Ninja swore Allegiance to Edo Bakufu
Iga ninja started to be hired by Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a samurai shogun) because when Ieyasu TOKUGAWA visited Sakai (present-day Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture) for sightseeing at the time of Honnoji Incident, they escorted and helped him to pass through Iga Province. In particular, Masanari HATTORI was treated preferentially and one of the gate of Edo-jo Castle was named after him and it still remains as a geographical name of Tokyo, "Hanzomon". As well as seeking inside information of territorial lords for the Tokugawa shogunate, they kept peace of the Edo-jo castle town as doshin (a police constable) by handling surveys near the Edo-jo Castle, guard of O-oku (the inner halls of Edo Castle where the wife of the Shogun and her servants reside) and management of vacant residences. there is a record that when Shimabara War occurred, a squad of Koga ninja sneaked into Hara-jo Castle where rioters barricaded themselves and found the fact that rioters' provisions were running out.
Famous Haiku poet Basho was also a Ninja
Basho MatsuoA haikai poet, Basho MATSUO who walked across provinces in the Edo period was from an area which is present-day Iga City, Mie Prefecture. Thus, there is a theory that Basho MATSUO was actually a ninja or a spy and it is used as a subject of novels and so on. The fact that it is physically difficult for 47 years old man to travel tens of kilometers per day as described in his famous book "the Narrow Road to the Deep North" was used as the basis for the theory. An ukiyo-e artist, Hokusai KATSUSHIKA who lived in the Edo period is also considered to have been a kogi-onmitsu (shogunate ninja). When Kurofune (the Black Ships) led by Commodore Matthew PERRY arrived off the coast of Urawa, the shogunate spy acted for investigation and it was the last activity of so-called ninja.
Both Ninja and Samurai disappeared in peaceful Meiji period
In Meiji period, the administration was transferred to new Meiji Government and Japanese army and navy were created through modernization policy, then ninja lost their job. It is said that after ninja lost the scene of their activities, they got new jobs such as farmers, policemen, pyrotechnicians with special skills of using fire, doctors or pharmacists with knowledge of medicine. Since the said arrival of Kurofune, the existence of ninja had been forgotten, but ninja started to be featured in novels and period dramas from late 1950 and they have come to be recognized among Japanese again.
Shinobigatana (Ninja Sword)
Shinobigatana is a sword which is said to be used by ninja and is also called Ninjato. The size and shape of Shinobigatana are designed to improve the portability and functionability compared with Samurai sword “Katana”. Most "Shinobigatana (Ninjato)" currently transmitted have a length between an ordinary Uchigatana and a wakizashi (short sword) and are classified into Nagawakizashi (long wakizashi). It has only slight warpage unique to Japanese swords and the body of the blade is classified into "Straight sword." The sword-guard is large and angular, and the shitao (string) is longer than that of an ordinary samurai sword; the sheath is matted so that it does not glitter when light reflects off its surface, and the tip of the sheath is made of metal, and forms an acute angle. The sword guard of Shinobigatana is large and angular, and it was used as an alternative of a ladder to put foot on it.
Generally, a sward has a piece of string called shitao on the scabbard and the string of Shinobigatana is longer than that of the ordinary sword and the string was used to collect the sword after it was used as an alternative of a ladder of 1 m,. The scabbard of Shinobigatana is coated in black and frosted to prevent reflection and make it inconspicuous. The kojiri at the tip of the scabbard is made of metal and acute angled so that it can be driven into the ground or used as a weapon. Some kojiris are removable and used to contain medicines, etc. and it is said that a cylindrical scabbard was used like a snorkel to hide under water. When they fight in the dark, they locate enemies by hooking the scabbard on the tip of the sword.
Special art of Ninja Warfare and Martial Art
Ninjutsu is a generic term for techniques used by Ninja (persons in feudal Japan who used ninjutsu for the purposes of espionage, assassination, sabotage, etc.), who were active during the Muromachi Period and the Sengoku Period, to gather intelligence or to destabilize intelligence against the enemy camp and also arts of warfare and martial arts necessary to carry out Ninja's operations. Ninjutsu includes various martial arts such as swordplay and Jujutsu but equipment (weapons) specific to Ninjutsu is referred to as Ningu or Ninki. Additionally, teachings of some schools of Japanese martial arts included Ninjutsu.
Iga Ninja excelled in Individual Ninjutsu, while Koga excelled in Group Ninjutsu
ninjutsuTechniques to slip into the enemy camp to gather intelligence are described in Ninjutsu-sho (book of Ninjutsu) such as Mansei (or Bansei) Shukai and Shonin-ki. Koga school that fought against the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and Iga School that was famous for Hanzo HATTORI, who was a retainer of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA are well known. The Iga School excelled in individual activities, while the Koga school excelled in group activities. It is said that as many as 49 schools of Ninjutsu used to exist in Japan including “Hagakure”, “Togakure”, “Kumogakure”.
Name of Known Ninjutsu
Gosha no jutsu
It is an art that five verbal skills to control other person psychologically in conversation.
Kisha no jutsu
ninjutsuIt is a skill to praise other person and watch for a chance.
Dosha no jutsu
It is a skill to make other person angry and lose its coolness.
Aisha no jutsu
It is a skill to raise sympathy.
Rakusha no jutsu
It is a skill to make other person envy and lose its will to fight. If circumstances allow, it will be able to gain over the opponent.
Kyosha no jutsu
It is a skill to play on other person's fear by using superstition and so on and make him/her lose its will to fight.
Tonjutsu (ninja art of escape)
ninjutsuIt is a skill to make enemies stuck when ninja runs away from them. In particular, katon (a tonjutsu using fire), suiton (a tonjutsu using water), doton (a tonjutsu using dirt), mokuton (a tonjutsu using tree) and kinton (a tonjutsu using valuable article) are called goton (five tonjutsu).
Chujuton no jutsu
It is an art of tonjutsu using insects and animals
Tenda no jutsu
It is an art to feed the enemy's spy disinformation
It is a martial art with bare hands
It is an ninjutsu art using vital energy
ninjutsuIt is an art of ninja sword fighting and assassination
It is an art of ninja shuriken weapon
It is an art of ninja fire for attacking and defencing
It is an art of ninja spearmanship