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Facts of Japan - Ninja

Updated on September 10, 2012

Ninja is basically a covert agent. They were the special agents in kid of unorthodox arts of the war. Ninja had more functions. Few of them were Espionage, infiltration, sabotage and assassination. When situations demand, they were all ready for the open combat too. While the Samurais were straight Ninjas were more secretive. And they mostly were in disguise to find the truths of the enemies.

Though the exact origin is not very clear it can be supposed to be around 14th Century. Very few records were available about the Ninjas, though. Before 15th century the spies and other secretive agents and mercenaries were truly seen as some specialized group only. From 15th to 17th century, during the Sengoku period, there was lot of unrest. And hence the necessity for spies and mercenaries arose reasonably and it was from that time of the clans the Ninja knowledge emerged.

When under Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan was unified, the demand for Ninjas reduced and they almost disappeared from the scene. But later in 17th and 18th centuries, the Ninjas appeared more in numbers. Ninjas actually practiced such a wide variety of practices and these practices were known as Ninjutsu. Ninjutsu was an assortment of religious beliefs, philosophies, espionage techniques and warfare application of Ninjas.

Ninja, in the native Kunyomi language is read as Shinobi. Shinobi practically means to Steal away. Kunoiche actually means a female Ninja.

The historical references point out that Ninjas were actually appointed from a lower class and so there was no literary interest in Ninjas. While the history reflects more on Samurai there was not much written about Ninjas because they were really trained to be more secretive and almost non-existent.

In whole Japanese history there were many secret agents or spies. But the actual need for the spies happened only during 15th Century and proper training was even gives to the so called Ninjas.

Only in 15th Century the Ninjas emerged a great mercenaries. They were actually recruited as raiders, arsonists, spies and even terrorists. During Sengoku rule the Shinobi had many roles to play. They were scout, spy, a surprise attacker and the agitator. The Ninja families, in fact, were organized into much larger guilds and they had their own territories too. Even a rank system existed among them. The higher rank was called as a Jonin. He represented the group and hired all the mercenaries.

The next in rank was Chunin. They assisted the Jonin. Then at the bottom line was the Genin. These Genins were the real field agents. They were chosen from the lowest class and were ordered to carry out the real ground action.

Jiraiya, ninja and title character of Japanese folklore, "Jiraiya Monogatari".
Jiraiya, ninja and title character of Japanese folklore, "Jiraiya Monogatari".
Naruto - one of most famous ninja recently :)
Naruto - one of most famous ninja recently :)
Kunai and shuriken.
Kunai and shuriken.

The Iga and Koga clans actually emerged from mountain villages and their remoteness and secretiveness prompted them to devote themselves for the Ninja clan. The region helped them train and groom Ninjas in large numbers. Those Ninjas were really professionals.

Between 1485 and 1581 these professionals were hired mainly by the Daimyos. Daimyos hired them because those Ninjas were so stealth and so skillful.

The primary roles of Ninja were sabotage and espionage. They were trained to assassinate without any traces. The same Ninjas were used to cause quite a lot of confusion in enemy ranks and strategies. This was kind of psychological warfare.

Ninjas disguised and entered in enemy precincts. They gathered secretive information on enemy areas, obtained passwords, collected building specifications and ambushed classified communications.

For arson Ninjas targeted the castles and camps most of the times. Many deaths of historical people pointed to Ninjas only. Like Samurais, Ninjas were trained from their childhood itself. The primary strategy of Ninjas was to work in a team and not alone.

Ninjas mostly disguised as mercenaries, priests, entertainers, merchants, fortune tellers and even monks. They were truly great in their profession.

Weapons of Ninja

Ninja used a great many types of weapons. History gives us a large arsenal of weapons. Starting from the swords, and ending on artificial nails used by kunoichi (female ninja).

Swords - are called the ninja-to. Were straight and shorter than a katana. Sword so it was easy to conceal. They had no access to the blacksmiths, which explains the poor quality of their swords. Ninja-to handle was longer than the katana, daggers and other small weapons were hidden inside to surprise the enemy in battle. Ninja swords were usually primitive blades of a relatively short blade and a low weight. Because they could not interfere with climbing.

Battle fan - had a sharp metal inserts. Ninja could throw such a fan or hurt his opponent at close range.

Kunai - metal tool used by farmers, and later by a ninja. The appearance resembles a fish.

Kusari-gama - has evolved from a small tool with a sickle attached to a chain length of 2.7 m. With the help of the chain ninja immobilize sword or spear, or enemy's body parts such as arms, neck, wrist. At the same time using blade they hit to the head or neck.

Kyoketsu-shoge - Traditional ninja weapon. It was a combination of yari (spear) with a sickle and an iron ring about 10 cm. diameter attached to the end of the rope made often with women's or horsehair, length 2.4 to 3 meters. Way to fight: a ninja throws rim attached to a rope, cord enlace arms, legs or necks of opponent. Quick and strong links ninja jerk forced the enemy to close and inflict him a dagger blow.

Tetsu-bishi - small, metal, sharp pieces of metal. When the ninja ran away, throwing it on the ground when opponent step onto it, he was not able to continue the chase. Sometimes covered with poison to make them even more deadly.

Shobo - small arms, used to strike the vital parts of man. Neck, neck, eyes, perineum were the best places to use this weapon.

Shuriken - commonly known as a star does not necessarily appears in that shape. Sometimes it was just a small knife throwing. Shu - hand, Ri - throw, Ken - blade. Most were thrown in the vital parts of the body. Often covered with deadly poison acting on the cardiovascular system.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      learning ninja history like medievel japan

    • Trsmd profile image


      6 years ago from India

      is this arts.. still learned by the youngsters in the modern life?


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