WHAT IS THE NINJA?
A person who uses Ninjutsu is a Ninja. Ninjutsu is not a martial art. Ninjutsu is an independent art of warfare that developed mainly in the regions of Iga in Mie Prefecture, and Koka in Shiga Prefecture, Japan.
Do you know what kind of job Ninja was involved?
Most people imagine that Ninja flew through the sky and disappeared, like supermen, waving Ninja swords around, sneaking into the enemy ranks and assassinating generals. This is a mistaken and fragmented image of theNinja introduced by movies and comic books and other parts of the popular culture.
.The jobs of a Ninja are divided into the two main categories of performing espionage and strategy. The methodology for performing espionage and strategy isNinjutsu. Espionage is similar to the job of modern spies, wherein one carefully gathers intelligence about the enemy and analyzes its military strength. Strategic activities are skills that reduce the enemy’s military power and effectiveness. Ninja did not fight strong enemies by themselves. Ninja fought enemies after they had weakened the enemies’ military power.
In times of peace, Ninjutsu was called an art of “entering from afar”, while in times of war, Ninjutsu was called an art of “entering from “nearby”, wherein Ninja would constantly gather intelligence concerning the enemy, thinking of ways to overcome the enemy, but not fighting the enemy directly. Ninja, who thought rationally, thought of war by intellect as great, and war by military strength (weapons) as foolish. Therefore, Ninja who swing their ninja swords about can be called the lowest of the Ninja. The Ninjutsu of Iga-Ryu and Koka-Ryu stem from the same source, and are said to be the highest of the Ninjutsu traditions.
When from, did Ninja, who worked in the world of shadows, exist?
Those roots are found in the “art of warfare” that began around 4000 B.C. in Indian culture (India), was passed to the Chinese mainland, and around the 6th century, passed through the Korean peninsula and crossed over to Japan.
In that period, a man name Otomono Sahito, who was used by ruler Shotoku Taishi, is said to be the root of theNinja.
It is said that Shotoku Taishi could hear the words of ten people at once. Actually, there is also a theory that he used ninja to obtain intelligence beforehand.
However, it was view as magical and amazing thatShotoku Taishi could remember all that intelligence.
The continental military strategy that was brought from China was developed in conjunction with Shugendo, a practice involving mountain training, and adapted to Japan’s extremely hilly, narrow geography, becoming a unique Japanese strategy. Ninjutsu emerged from this body of strategy. There were Shugen practice halls in theIga and Koka regions.
Also, the houses of Todaiji and Kofukuji in the Iga region had most of the country’s warriors, and the lords of these houses adopted guerilla-like tactics, and kept the peace by containing one another. From this, Ninjutsu was further adopted into daily life and developed.
The most famous group of Iga Ninja were Hattori,Momochi, and Fujibayashi. Hattori Hanzo, Momochi Tambanokami, and Fujibayashi Nagatonokami are the threeIga Ninja Grandmasters of most prominent names.
Hattori controlled western Iga. There was a famous person who supported Tokugawa Ieyasu, named Hattori Hanzo Masanari. The Hanzo name was inherited.
Momochi controlled southern Iga. The Oe party had originally prospered in the south, and Momochi was one of the supporting families to it, but joining forces withHattori and riding its wave of strength, Momochi was able to keep its position until the Edo period.
Fujibayashi controlled northeastern Iga. Fujibayashi Yasutake, the author of traditional Ninjutsu text “Mansen Shukai” was a member of this group.
Amongst the existing traditional Ninjutsu books, “Mansen Shukai”, “Shoninki”, and “Shinobi Hiden” are called the Three Great Books of Ninjutsu.
Many traditional books were written in the Edo Period, and before that traditions were passed on orally. It is assumed that they were written to pass on traditions and commit them to record as has always been an important Japanese custom. There are traditional texts in which the words “there is an oral tradition” stand out, and this may indicate that oral tradition was of greater importance.
Mansen Shukai, by Fujibayashi Yasutake, integrated Iga andKoka Ninjutsu, and a few types of copies were passed down in both Iga and Koka.
Shoninki, by Fujibayashi Masatake, is a traditional text of the Kishu-ryu.
Shinobi Hiden, by Hattori Hanzo is a traditional text of Igaand Koka.
Nowadays we use the unified term “Ninja”; however theNinja were also called Kusa (grass), Shinobi and an array of other names depending on the era and region.
THE ERA AND REGION
- Asuka Era － 志能便（Shinobi)
- Nara Era － 伺見（Ukami）
- Sengoku Era － 間者（Kanja）・乱破（Rappa）
- Edo Era － 隠密（Onmitsu）
- Taisho Era － 忍術者（Ninjyutsusha）・忍者（Ninsya）
- Kyoto ・Nara － 水破（Suppa）・伺見（Ukami）・奪口（Dakkou）
- Yamanashi － 透破（Suppa）・透波（Suppa）
- Niigata・Toyama － 猿（Nokizaru）・間士（Kanshi）・聞者役（Kikimonoyaku）
- Miyagi － 黒はばき（Kurohabaki）
- Aomori － 早道の者（Hayamichi-no-mono）・陰術（Shinobi）
- Kanagawa － 草（Kusa）・物見（Monomi）・乱破（Rappa）
- Fukui － 隠忍術（Shinobi）
There were many other names utilized in the different regions, but the aforementioned are the most representative and widely used. There are various ways to call a Ninja, depending on their relation to being secretive, the jobs they performed, and the reading of the Chinese characters with which their names are written.
Are there heirs to the art of Ninjutsu today?
There are several researchers of Ninjutsu history, but as for a Ninjutsu heir, Kawakami Jinichi (honorary director of the Iga Ninja Museum) claims to be the 21st Soke of theKoka-Ryu Hanto, and is considered the last Ninja. You be the judge!