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Ninja Costumes, Outfit and Armor

Updated on March 4, 2011

The Ninja Outfit

The traditional ninja outfit, a full black costume, is taken for granted, but in reality ninja actually disguised themselves to blend in with their surroundings. As the Buke Meimokusho says:

"They traveled in disguise to other territories to judge the situation of the enemy, they would inveigle their way into the midst of the enemy to discover gaps, and enter enemy castles to set them on fire, and carried out assassinations, arriving in secret."

We have the earliest illustration of a ninja from year 1801, portraying him scaling a castle wall wearing, as expected, a black garb. However, according to traditional artistic convention in Japan, that goes back in time to centuries ago, to dress a character in black is to communicate to the viewer that the person is invisible to the eye. This convention is still in use today in the Bunraku puppet theater and several others.

First Illustration We have of a Ninja
First Illustration We have of a Ninja

To portray an invisible assassin in the same way in a picture would seem perfectly natural to the contemporary Japanese viewer, without any implications that the illustration is an actual portrait of a ninja.

Nonetheless, it stands to reason that a ninja best suited to carry out his duty of entering a castle in the dark of night, is one dressed in a head-to-foot ninja costume of black. 

Ninja Outfit

Ninja Outfit (click to view)
Ninja Outfit (click to view)

Ninja Costume And Armor

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Traditional Ninja CostumeTraditional Ninja Light-weight Armor
Traditional Ninja Costume
Traditional Ninja Costume
Traditional Ninja Light-weight Armor
Traditional Ninja Light-weight Armor

Ninja Costume and Armor


The ninja costume (1) included a jacket, similar to one worn for karate or judo. The ninja jacket (2) was without ties and its tails were tucked in the ninja trousers, so that nothing would catch on any protrusions when scaling a wall.

The ninja trousers (3) were similar to ones worn by samurai for horse riding. They were narrow and tied below the knee. Over the calves cloth gaiters (7) were worn, while on the feet would be black tabi, traditional Samurai socks with a separate compartment for the big toe and hardened soles. Waraji, or straw sandals (4), were worn on the feet.

Ninja would wear a shirt having close-fitting arms (5), the whole ensemble tightened together by a black belt round the waist.

A major difference between a samurai costume and a ninja costume was that the ninja's head was wrapped in a cowl (6) covering everything but the area around the eyes.

Sometimes the ninja would wear lightweight body armor under the ninja costume, whose body was of a heavy cloth backing with small lacquered metal plates sewn onto it pulled together by thin sections of ring mail. The hardened hoods of the ninja outfit were also constructed of this type of material.

The ninja's lightweight body armor was ashigaru-like (Japanese infantry), and it stands to reason to draw a connection between these, as ashigaru kote, or sleeve armor, and suneate, or shin guards, would have added more protection for little extra weight.

Comments

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    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Smurfette isn't nearly as cool as a ninja in head to toe black

    • Haunty profile imageAUTHOR

      Haunty 

      6 years ago from Hungary

      No, just be the smurfette you were planning to be. ;)

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      This is the most detailed information I've come across about ninja outfits. I totally need one for Halloween now...so I can sneak up on my kids after dark and scare them half to death!!!! Great information Haunty.

    • Haunty profile imageAUTHOR

      Haunty 

      7 years ago from Hungary

      lol Zak, I hope you defeated him. :)

    • Zakmoonbeam profile image

      Michael Murchie 

      7 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Loved the hub, Ninja is one of my favorite historical warriors, and at one point (as a child I might add) I was not against putting on my Ninja costume and battling the evil samurai (my next door neighbor)!

      Rate up :)

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