If you’re looking to get a better understanding about Ninjas and why they’ve remained so intriguing over the years, start by picking up the book called “Real Ninja”, written by Dr. Hirohisa Oda. Although his education specialty is in medicine, his passionate interest in history, weaponry, and military tactics has led him to write about ninja’s with strong detail to historical accuracy dealing with events in Japan. Ninjas played an important role in information gathering. They were the “REAL” spies of the time, infiltrating enemy clans from the inside and passing on the information back to their employers. REAL NINJA explains the amazing spying techniques and how ninjas used a multitudes of tools and tricks (including hypnosis, illusions, and poisons) to gather information or assassinate a target.
Monument for the legendary ninja – Sandayu Momochi
Sandayu Momochi was expertly skilled in ninjitsu and the use of various weapons. It is believed that he was the leader of one of the most powerful ninja clans during the Edo Period in Japan. His fame was so widespread, there was a monument built in his honor, which is pictured above.
There were 3 powerful Ninja Clans which resided in the Iga Province. Sandayu Momochi was believed to be the head of the Southern Clan and ran 3 ninja schools in the area.
One of the top historical sites in Japan is the Iga-Ueno Castle. Located in Iga, where many Ninjas lived and trained during the Edo Period, this castle was once owned by the powerful landlord and governing official (known as a Daimyo) Todo Takatora. Originally built as a “defense weapon” for the area, it was later converted to a governing office after 1602. These pictures posted here were all taken by Dr. Hirohisa Oda, author of the book “Real Ninja”.
Ninja expert and author of the “Real Ninja” book, Dr. Hirohisa Oda, explains the different types of weapons commonly used by ninja and how it was important that they were hidden well or camouflaged by their professions.
To learn more fascinating “REAL” facts about ninja in feudal Japan, click on the right order section to download your copy or REAL NINJA today!
**Dr. Oda has just come across some of his old ninja artifacts! Check back often as we update the site with these new items!**
Matsuo Bashoo was the most famous poet during the Edo Period in Japan. There is strong evidence that some historians believe he may have also been a Ninja (details can be found in Dr. Oda’s “Real Ninja” book).
Matsuo Bashoo Monument
The “Real Ninja” spends a few pages on Bashoo’s life and details why it is possible that Bashoo may have been a Ninja and hired by the Edo Shogunate. It was not uncommon for Ninja to use their undercover status as an artist or physician to access places easily without being questioned too much.
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Another lesser known fact about ninjas is that many had skills and knowledge of magic. They could use simple illusions to distract or complete their mission to “steal” information for their employer. Below is an interview with Dr. Hirohisa Oda. We spoke about what ninjas were and how they did their work. Dr. Oda shows us a little “slight of hand” techniques that ninjas may have known how to do to distract someone or make something seemingly disappear!
Ninja surprise attack techniques
Occasionally, ninjas were hired to assassinated people. Whenever possible, ninjas attacked by using the element of surprise. They were also known to use techniques which would make it difficult to determine who initiated the attack by using small archery devices in the twilight or at night. Small arrows were advantageous because they were easily concealable and they could be used at close range. After they disabled their opponent quickly by surprise, they used spears or swords to quickly finish him/her off.
The ninja used ash to blind their opponents so they could attack, incognito, with swords; the ash was concealed in various places, such as in eggshells, wrapped in cloth, or poured into sword sheaths. The victims would be very surprised by the ash coming out of a sword sheath. Since ash was available anywhere, it became a convenient tool in the ninja’s repertoire of techniques.
The ninja sometimes urinated on doorway tracks to make them slide without any noise. Although this was a clever technique and worked well in most circumstances, it could not be used against one’s ninja enemies because they would identify the smell right away.
(content taken from Page 18 and 19 of “Real Ninja” by Dr. Hirohisa Oda)
Ninja Weapons – Ninja Sword (Shinobi Katana)
Most ninjas were not known to be good swordsmen. There were a few who could handle a sword well in combat, but for most ninja, getting into a sword duel was not desirable since they preferred the more “elusive” way to assassinate a target. If they were to use a sword in combat, you could assume that they would have a small handful of “dirty” tricks up their sleeves (or sheaths) that would give them an great advantage in a sword fight. Samurai despised ninjas for their lack of honor and because the never fought fair. Ninjas were known to have “sneaky” tactics and would often use their knowlege of chemistry to create blinding powder (hidden in their sheaths) or gun powder bombs to disable or disorient their enemies in close combat. Another little known fact is that the typical ninja would often use a flintlock gun first before drawing a sword if a choice presented itself.
There are a few distinctions about the ninja sword that should be mentioned. The edge of the ninja sword blade was not like that of the samurai sword. A samurai sword was double-bladed and designed with the strict intention that it would be used to kill an opponent in combat. Unlike the ninja sword, which was used as a tool more often than for combat, the samurai sword was not suitable for carving out wood, making holes, or scraping wood. The authentic ninja sword was similar to a scythe in that it was single-edged, instead of double-edged. Occasionally, this sword was called the Mountain sword [Yamagatana] because it was designed for multiple uses like cutting wood (which was often done by ninja when in disguise as commoners). The ninja sword’s blade was straight, unlike the curved samurai sword, which made it strong enough so the ninja could use it as a step for climbing high places such as mansion walls. They also used their sword to carve wooden devices, rope, and cloth. The knotted rope [Sageo] which connected the sheath to the sword was nine feet long, which was much longer than the rope used for other kinds of swords. The long connecting rope was thrown up over the wall until it caught securely on the top of the wall and used as an anchor to then pull themselves up. The sword guard, called the Tsuba, was much stronger and wider than the samurai sword so it too could be used as a step for climbing. When they got up to the top of the wall, the long rope attached was draw in the sheath.
Since ninja blended into the their surroundings as commoners, merchants, monks, and farmers, they concealed their weapons when traveling. Carrying a long curved samurai sword around that was made for combat would not have been easy to explain if they disguised as a monk or farmer. The shorter and straighter ninja sword was much easier to conceal in a bundle of wood or looked like a regular “tool” a tradesmen would use for work.
Ninja Tools – Gun Powder and Kaginawa
(following excerpts taken from page 55 and 57 of “Real Ninja”)
A gunpowder-like material had already been developed by 1274, when Mongolia attacked Northern Kyushu during the Kamakura shogunate period; the gunpowder-like material had been incorporated into primitive bombs. The ninja used this powder for making signals, bombs, smoke, handguns, mortars, sounds, arson arrows, and mines. Ninja were characteristically spies—not fighters and were surreptitious, always surprising unsuspecting people. Almost all of the attack weapons were for ninja advantage—they were not designed to give their opponent a fair chance.
Kaginawa – The hook and rope is used for climbing up and down, tying up people, or for locking a sliding door. The strings of the Japanese harp, the “Koto” were often used to make the rope because they were so strong.
History of the Ninja – Sun Tzu
(The following excerpt was taken was from the “Real Ninja” book)
The original concept of the ninja was described in “Sun Tzu”, a book on military science, written by “Sun Wu” in approximately 400 B.C. The book was written because of the need for military expertise during the Warring States Period in China, which extended from the end of the 5th century B.C. to the early 3rd century B.C. Many kingdoms rose and declined during these centuries of continual war, which explains the remarkable development of military technology.
The most famous part of the” Sun Tzu” states that, “you should know the enemy and you should know yourself-even if you fight one hundred times, you will win one hundred times.” This expression indicates you must not only collect intelligence regarding your enemy, but you must also collect information about your own warring capability. Even if you feel brave, you should not take on the risk of fighting a superior enemy. Instead, you should form good diplomatic relations with your neighboring kingdoms. Of course, you can wage war against distant kingdoms because the threat to your own kingdom is minimized by distance.
According to the “Sun Tsu”, the first step in preparing for war and survival is gathering intelligence; espionage is an essential intelligence collecting tool and an essential factor in designing a systematic method of warfare.
It is thought that the “Sun Tzu” was hand carried like other Chinese character texts, such as the “Thousand Chinese Characters”, to Japan via immigrants who traveled through the Korean Peninsula and immigrants who traveled the sea currents from Southern China. Therefore, it is undoubtedly true that the Japanese nobility utilized the ideas of “Sun Tzu” during their political power struggles.
The ninja were fundamentally intelligence spies, not warriors, and carried out most of their activities during peacetime. Even if there were no major wars going on, the rulers always needed to have reliable intelligence because there were always conflicts in the court and among local monarchs. In approximately the 6th century A.D., Japan realized the necessity of developing an integrated governing system. As society developed, politics became more sophisticated and the high-ranking nobles needed information to defeat political enemies and to prevent rebellions. The majority of noble people in Japan during the 6th century were immigrants from China and Korea. Undoubtedly, they knew of the “Sun Tzu”, and must have incorporated some of its concepts on warfare into their political thinking.
These concepts also became the basis for ninja tactics.
Ninjas – Reality vs. Hollywood
(The following excerpt was taken was from the Preface on page 4 of “Real Ninja” book)
The ninja were not super human. Ninja were, in fact, very smart people who had a working knowledge of physics and chemistry. Generally speaking, ninja were not well paid for their espionage and other activities. Ninja activities were kept so secret that there is very little information available on them in standard history books; however, if you read carefully you may come across passages concerning their martial arts and espionage activities. Most of the information found on ninja is related to their prowess in the martial arts; yet their talent and activities extended far beyond the martial arts. The ninja played an important role in many historical incidents; mainly as espionage agents and information gatherers. Even today, collection and analysis of information is considered to be very important among financial and administrative institutions.
The “Real Ninja” book describes the ninja as they actually were, as opposed to the movie industry perspective that emphasizes a narrow range of ninja activities.
Origins of the term, “Ninja”
According to many ninja technique books, called “Ninjyutsu Sho”, the word ninja originates from “shinobi” which means to “conceal”. A Legend says that the expression “shinobi”, was first used by Prince Shootoku Taishi around the 590’s to the 610’s, as a reference to the covert activities of ninja. It is supposed that the Prince obtained important information from a ninja, named Sakihito Ootoomo, prior to listening to his counselors. It is said that people were impressed by the Prince’s ability to respond to ten or more of his counselor’s questions and request, without hesitation. (excerpt taken from page 6 of “Real Ninja” book)