The history of the Ninja : different from our image


People all over the world know the ninja (shinobi).

“a guy dressed in black with a sharp sword and throwing stars”


Some people believe that they never really existed. But, Ninja were real! And the truth behind the ninja is far more interesting than the myth.



Origins of the Ninja

Ninjas, they had flourished mainly from the Muromachi Period (1336〜1466) to the Sengoku Period (1467〜1603).

And they became well known for their exploits during the Sengoku Period and Edo Period (1603〜1868).


During this time, the central government in Japan had basically fallen apart and the different warlords throughout the country began fighting each other for land, resources, and power.

Ninja served as an asymmetrical force to the warlord’s samurai and peasant troops. They were skilled in spycraft, assassination, and spread of misinformation.


They were ultra-survivalists. Particularly, groups of ninja which were based in Koga and Iga were famous.They were more common in the mountainous and difficult terrain of the Iga and Koka areas.

The earliest ninja would be trained in survival techniques, and would adapt those teachings for espionage and assassination. Two groups of peasants (Iga and Koga)  formed their own mini-societies. They set up a democratic society where your place in society was not based entirely on your birthright.


They knew that they would be attacked by the various warlords around them, so they set up their villages in very mountainous areas with lots of defensive advantages.

Knowing that they would never be able to stand up to the larger, highly trained samurai armies, they learned a lot and formed the ninja.




The Ninja’s democratic systems

Living under the samurai as peasants was a nasty. The ninja wanted personal freedom, and to live independent of an all-powerful local lord.

Your position in a ninja village was based on your personal skill, in the Iga village, for example, there were three levels; basically advanced, intermediate, and beginner.


Any rules or important decisions were decided after all of the elders took conciliation with each other. This may not seem impressive to us now, but for Japan at this time, it was absolutely radical.

The Koka and Iga villages were generally cooperative with each other, and would often exchange information.


Actually, Ninja minimized chances of direct fighting.




a formidable enemy, Oda Nobunaga

Sadly, that same attitude of justice and freedom would make the ninja one particularly great enemy: Oda Nobunaga. He would declare war on the ninja. His first attack against ninja villages would fail epically.

This small group of ninja would decimate a much larger army, but the wrath of Nobunaga would not be erased so easily. A second much larger army would finally run the ninja out of their homes.




The stream of time

The ninja would be protected by the Tokugawa clan  and shogunate, and would last for a couple of generations longer, but eventually, they would be defeated by peace.

As the Tokugawa government enforced peace throughout the land, the purpose of the ninja would be lost, and eventually forgotten.




Ninja was different from our image

 Many popular aspects of the ninja are, in fact, wrong. For example・・・


①  What color did ninja wear when they were on sneaking missions? Black?

No. Black doesn’t camouflage you very well at night. Dark blue or purple is a much better color to hide you in the night sky.



Ninja didn’t seem to use their traditional costume often. They would use disguises more often than camouflage .They would dress as peasants, priests, actors, travelers or sometimes even prostitutes.

Ninja often disguised himself as a weak person such as an old person or a sick person.




②  The throwing star was probably never used.

Furthermore, one of the ninja’s most famous weapons, the throwing star was probably never used. The ninja star lacks any real power and is too difficult to practically use. Also, it seems that ninja didn’t even use swords much.



Swords are heavy and loud. If you are running around, the sword is going to clank around and give your position away. They used more common weapons.

Scythes could double as a weapon, and no samurai would blink an eye if he saw a poor pitiful peasant carrying a scythe on his belt.





The reality is greater than the myth ☆


the truth of the ninja is so much cooler than any legend. You can find legends of ninjas flying on kites, dropping bombs on troops below, and then turning invisible.

While these are great stories, they built their own democratic society, and were prepared to defend it with their lives.

How marvelous!



I have worn a ninja costume before.


Ninjas don’t exist anymore.

What a pity…