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The Ninja unmasked


            Ninja, known as the silent warriors, are shrouded in mystery. Many false ideas and myths have arisen from lack of knowledge of ninja history, “peer into the murky shadows of ninja history, separate fact from fiction”. Are ninja the subjects of supernatural suspicion, or is there truth behind the mask? 

Some myths about the ninja were that they were “7 feet tall, able to fly, Able to become invisible, able to walk through walls, Shape shifters, three-headed, and Ghosts”.  In the past due to the secretive and deceptive ways of the ninja, historians left out the evidence of the ninja in many documents.  If written about, they were merely portrayed as terrifying supernatural beings, or described with contempt and disgust.

            “The actual term ninja derived from the word shinobi, an alternate reading of the Japanese character for nin; Which Literally, means one who is concealed, or one that endures’”.  “The first recorded appearance of ninja activity dates from about the mid-10th century in Japanese history”. “The Japanese legend of Prince Yamato is often considered the first ninja story… he used deception, dressing as a woman to attract two barbarian chieftains. When the chieftains had been lulled into a false sense of security, Yamato drew a hidden sword and killed them both”.  In an affair of the successor of prince Yamato; a man was clutched by the collar, dragged out, and slew with a sword.  These are examples of “the primary role of the ninja, and the one for which they are most well known and feared, was that of an assassin

            “The regions of Iga and Koga in Japan are considered by many to be the birthplace of the ninja as a major force in Japanese warfare” (  There the ninja would work for hire; “their skill demanded high prices” (Perry). “Almost all famous daimyo [which are feudal lords] had ninja, or a ninja-like group under his control and they served as their eyes and ears, sometimes as their hands. Some daimyo were reportedly ninja themselves”

 Unlike the samurai, who lived by a code of honor, ninja conducted missions free from restraint of such morals. They worked for whoever paid them the most.  It wasn’t uncommon for the ninja to work for a clan that they were assigned to attack years before.  This disloyalty became a trademark of the ninja.

“It is popularly believed that the ancient ninja were peasants, who were forbidden under law from studying the samurai swordplay techniques because of a restrictive caste structure. However, most ninja were also samurai, operating as spies in the service of their daimyo.

Back in Japanese history ninja lived in villages which appeared normal; however traps, fake walls, trap doors, and secret passageways protected their houses.  Getting into a ninja’s home was no easy task.  In most ninja homes there were also special floor boards that were meant to squeak, signaling an intruder had entered the house.

 Ninpo means “laws of ninja”.  The severest crime is leaving a ninja family without authorization and never coming back. He or she would be called nukenin and his or her family members would be tasked to bring him back, dead or alive” . The ways of the ninja were secret and sacred.  Often the skills were passed down from father to son. Not just anyone could become a ninja; it was rare for anyone who wasn’t of a ninja descent to be taught the secrets of the clan.  Every clan had their own secrets and style of ninjutsu.  Even other ninja couldn’t be told.  During missions if a ninja were caught, he would kill himself rather than divulge any information. Such secrecy kept the nature of ninja in the dark, making researchers documents on the ninja detailed in haze.