What are Ninja?
Ninja are people who have the ability to hide from the public eye with the duty of a present-day secret agent or spy. It is said that Ninja have better physical abilities than modern-day top athletes. Ninja can travel the distance of one hundred villages (one village equals approximately 3.937km) and jump 3m into the air. “Ninjitsu” or “Ninpo” is their original tactical ability, which includes handling fire and water, and disappearing.
Iga and Koga are the two are the most well-known factions, followed by the lesser-known Togakushi, with about 10,000 followers in the world. There are more than 40 other factions.
The most popular tools are …
The shuriken: a Ninja symbol
Shuriken are almost always associated with Ninja. The word “shuriken” means “a sword hidden in the hand,” but it also means “throwing sword.” Shuriken were used not only by Ninja, but also by samurai as part of their fighting tactics.
The Ninja sword: the basic and best weapon for Ninja
The basic Ninja style is wearing a hood and carrying a Ninja sword on the back. However, swords weren’t carried on Ninja’s backs because they make noise even if you walk very quietly.
Makibishi are sharp, spiked weapons that were used in feudal Japan to slow down pursuers and defend samurai fortifications.
Ninja created a cipher using a combination of rice grains dyed blue, yellow, red, black, and purple.
Kaginawa are a type of grappling hook that were used in feudal Japan to scale large walls, secure boats, and hang up armor and other equipment during the night.
The color of a Ninja costume is mainly brown, grey, or navy blue so that they can disappear in the shadows of night. Because black clothing creates outlines that can be seen in moonlight, navy blue is popular instead, and they also use reversible costumes so they can change the color immediately after they are seen by enemies.
Ninja wear a loincloth (underwear) that can be used as a rope or bandage in an emergency, and split-toe socks (shoes) so as to not make any sound when moving about.
Ninja used many artful tricks to conceal themselves. Ninjas follow a philosophy based on the five 5 elements.
• Wood: to hide themselves in trees or the leaves of trees
• Fire: used to shoot an arrow that had burning straw on it to distract their enemies’ attention
• Earth: they would use the earth itself by hiding behind rocks
• Metal: they scattered money to distract the enemy, and while the enemy picked it up, the Ninja would escape
• Water: Ninja hid underwater by using a bamboo tube to breathe through.
Other Ninja arts:
• Magic to create body doubles: They moved quickly, giving the appearance that there were many of them
• The Gosha technique: To control their enemies they upset their emotions by flattery or through offending them
• Shinobi ashi: Soft steps were used to steal up on their enemies on tiptoe without making any sound
• Kitsune bashiri: So that others wouldn’t know how many people were running in a group, Ninja left footsteps in a single line and they all stepped in those same footsteps
• The Yamabiko technique: Infiltrate the enemy group, gain their trust, and then betray them at a crucial point. This technique requires sophisticated communication skills.
• Cat’s clock technique: Telling time by observing how much the pupils of cats’ eyes are dilated
• The Tenda technique: Giving false information to enemies who are spying on the opponent and pretending to not know
To improve their leg strength, Ninja were trained to run so fast that a long cloth wrapped around their body would not touch the ground.
To maintain enough strength to jump over high walls or fences, Ninja raised hemp plants from seed and jumped over them every day. Hemp is a fast-growing plant and it is said that some of them can grow up to 3 to 4 meters high in about 4 months.
Well-trained Ninja could jump over hemp plants even though they are very tall even without knowing they were coming upon them because they practised jumping every day.
To improve their sense of hearing, Ninja would drop needles on a stone in a quiet place and practise trying to tell from the sound the exact number of needles dropped.
Female Ninja “Kunoichi”
The term “Ninja” normally refers to men, but female Ninja also existed. Female Ninja were called “kunoichi.”
This term is thought to derive from the three strokes that make up the kanji character for “woman”:
ku (く) + no (ノ) + ichi (一) = woman (女)
The characters who appear in NINJA WAR are all female: Ku No Ichi.
Hanzo Hattori — Iga Ninja
Hanzo Hattori is the name of one of the successive leaders of the Hattori family. Only the first leader was a Ninja.
The second leader was most famous and he was a regular samurai (not a Ninja) and a servant of
Ieyasu Tokugawa, who was the first leader of the Tokugawa shogunate. Hanzo Mon, the name of a place in Tokyo,
is named after Hanzo Hattori.
Sasuke Kozuki — Koga Ninja
He was the inspiration for Sarutobi Sasuke, who is one of the Sanada Ten Braves, also known as the Ten Heroes of Sanada, a legendary group of Ninja who assisted the warlord Yukimura Sanada during the Warring States era of Japan. It is said that Sarutobi used monkeys in his practice.
He was also one of the Sanada Ten Braves. The records say that he tried to pierce through from under a floor with a spear to assassinate Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who is known as a pre-eminent warrior, general, samurai, and politician of the Sengoku period and is regarded as Japan’s second “great unifier.”
Yazaemon Kido — Iga Ninja
It is said that he twice tried to assassinate Nobunaga Oda. Oda was a powerful samurai in Japan in the late 16th century. He attempted to unify Japan during the late Sengoku period and successfully gained control over most of Japan.
Kotaro Fuma is one of the successive leaders of the Fuma group. The fifth leader is famous and he served the Hojo family in Odawara, Japan. The Fuma clan was independent of the Iga and Koga clans.
Chiyome Mochizuki — The most famous Kunoichi (female Ninja)
It is known that she gathered many women, such as orphans, war victims, and former prostitutes, and trained them as agents under Shingen Takeda, who was a pre-eminent samurai with exceptional military prestige in the later part of the Sengoku period.
He was a illusionist; many people thought he was a magician. It is said that he could make a seed sprout, throw it, and cause a flower to bloom.
Protection against Ninja?
Castles can trick them!
Japanese castles have built-in elements that prevent ninjas from invading.
Various efforts were made from the construction stage to prevent Ninja from
getting inside castles.
One of the tricks is known as “shinobi gaeshi.”
Shinobi gaeshi are similar to spikes, and they are driven into castle walls at right angles.
Who was the first master of Ninja in Japan?
It is said to be Prince Shotoku (574-622 AD).
He is credited with creating a 17-article constitution.
The Prince was an ardent Buddhist, and in section 2 of the constitution he stated, “Sincerely respect the three treasures.
The three treasures are Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.”
It is said that Prince Shotoku trained spies called “shinobi” to carry out secret investigations into the Imperial Court.
The word “shinobi” might be the origin of Ninja.
The Prince used a Ninja named Hosohito Otomo as a spy; he is recorded as being the very first Ninja.
The Prince also used the Hattori clan as spies.
It is said that the Hattori clan is the origin of the Iga Ninja and Hosohito Otomo is one of the Koga Ninja.
These Ninja’s main work was espionage activity.
The Art of War, an ancient Chinese military treatise written by Sun Tzu, is composed of 13 chapters
and one of them explains how important secret services and spies are.
It is believed that Prince Shotoku read The Art of War.