Ninja, The Secret Weapon of Japan’s Wartime

by ebazaar 11 November 2009 3 Comments

Knowledge of feudalism in Japan may not be complete without getting to know about Ninja or Shinobi, the Japanese mercenary who specialized in unorthodox arts of war.

A ninja can get pass you unnoticed, like a ghost passing by and you will probably have to rely to your sixth senses to feel certain presence but yet unseen. You will find it a lot in movies, epic and historical Japanese dramas, Japanese animation or anime, video games and comic books or manga. If you’re into cosplaying, you will find that ninja is one of those favored costumes by man cosplay fans. One big hit worldwide is probably the manga and anime Naruto. Ninja has quite an ironically exquisite yet mysterious nature, especially in the Japanese military function in the olden times.

ninjaNinja in wars have several functions, particularly different and much more versatile than those of samurai warriors, who were much more careful not to tarnish their reputable image and subjected to bushido or the samurai code of conduct. They don’t do front lines in wars or engaged in direct melee attacks, rather ninja were much more involved in espionage, secret infiltration, mission sabotaging and assassinations. However, there may be certain situation and circumstances that they would have to do open combat as well.

The origins of ninja is rather vague and remote from observation since their growth was hidden away somewhere in the dark forest and secluded places with little contacts with the outside world. However, it was said that the existence of these trained stealth warriors surmised around the 14th century, though very little were written about them. The word shinobi did not exist to describe a ninja-like agent until the 15th century, and it is unlikely that spies and mercenaries prior to this time were seen as a specialized group, namely secretive group of agents.

During the unrest of Sengoku period or Warring States period (1467-1568), mercenaries and spies for hire arose out of the Iga and Koga regions of Japan, and it is from these clans that further knowledge and use of ninja mercenaries expands. Rather than bushido, ninja are more related to ninjutsu, described as ninja’s art and a wide variety of practices related to ninja.

Why is there the need for ninja?

ninja scrollsWell, the answer may seem a little arguable and controversial. During the Sengoku period, all states and daimyo or Japanese lords were fighting with each other and all wanted more power and lands to govern. Of course there are the samurai warriors but they were very much attached to certain guidelines and protocols. Actions such as ambushing, stealth attack were seen as unrespectable war deeds, especially for conventional warriors. Thus the need for people who are willing to commit secret missions and that is none other than the ninja soldiers.

Want to learn more about ninja? Perhaps you should take some time of and enjoy anime or manga such as Naruto, Basilisk and Ninja Scroll where much of the concepts, information and scenario pretty much reflect what ninja soldiers are. There are also several ninja movies like Shinobi and The Ninja Dragon for you to watch.

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3 comments so far

  1. japchuck34

    I find Japanese weapons interesting given that these swords have history written all over them. Thanks for this post! :)


  2. antony

    Hi, alot of the info here is wrong. For a really good book on the ninja you should read Shinobi Soldiers or some of turnbulls work. The shinobi soldiers book rips apart what we know about the ninja.


  3. unbealiableprankster

    I wish we all were born in the ninja era so that we could become ninjas but it is too late!


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