Historians know a lot about ninjas. In fact, they might be the foremost experts on the subject! They have studied them for centuries and are now able to tell you everything there is to know about these elusive warriors.
But what do historians actually know about ninjas? We interviewed an expert in this field of study, and she gave us some interesting insights into their history:
– Ninja were most active in Japan during the Sengoku Jidai (1467 – 1603) where warfare was rampant between feudal lords.
– Ninjas had just as many female members as male members; however, it’s been speculated that women only enrolled in ninja clans if they were born into one of those families.
Let’s roll it down…..
The secret spies’ assassins in black robes with magical abilities concealed in dark clothes and specialized in unorthodox skills… That’s the initial exposure that most of us have had growing up and watching ninja films. The first time most of us saw ninjas was either from video games, movies, or animations. Unfortunately, most of the media representation of the same doesn’t depict a realistic picture.
In essence, Robin Hood in the English world is similar to the ninja in traditional japan folklore. Primarily, Ninjas were assassins, but they did not kill for fun; for the most part, ninjas engaged in warfare as a survival tactic during the feudal time in Japan’s history. “Ninjutsu” translates into Japanese as the “art of stealth.” “Nin” is a Japanese character with multiple connotations, including sufferance, endurance, and perseverance. Ninjutsu is a term used to refer to a combination of skills and techniques that Ninjas use. Ninjutsu developed over the years, though the name appeared years after the Ninja lifestyle had begun.
It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly ninja popped up in Japan, though it is popularly believed that ninjas date back to ancient china back in the 15th to 17th century in the period of Sengoku. Over time conflicting stories have been depicted, though legitimacy over the same is questionable. Perhaps this is because ninjas were masters of secrecy and stealth and because historical accounts were made by the affluent in the society while the Ninjas were of a lower rank.
Probably ninjas began within a group of “mountain ascetics” who practiced Buddhism and lived in Nara and Kyoto. These groups of people had a mixture of private practices that involved the Chinese way of hand fighting, occult superstitions, and vulgar ideas. Most young men were inducted in secret orders and performed magical cures through a mixture of tricks, medicines, and formulas. Ordinarily, most ninjas were not noble; they were primarily farmers and villagers who learned fighting to self-preservation. Women were also part of Ninjas, Famously known as the kunoichi, who mostly disguised themselves as dancers infiltrating the enemy castles as concubines and servants. They acted as assassins and spies.
Nonetheless, in subsequent periods, miracles were not enough to save this sect. As such, the priests turned into guerrilla warfare, acquainting themselves in the bujutsu. This martial art technique combined 18 tactics, including the famous karate, to protect their temples and shrines. Ninjas were categorized depending on their grades that involved the leaders, middle class, and the lowest class. In the period of civil war between the 14th and 16th centuries, ninjas become increasingly helpful during this time. Most were recruited as arsonists, terrorists, and raiders.
Unlike the Samurais, who had to adhere to specific formalities, the Ninjas were not in any way restricted in their tactics. Though Ninjas are depicted to be dressed in black clothes, in reality, ninjas mostly wore dark blue clothes; nonetheless, as an espionage agents, most ninjas blended their clothes to match their targets. They dressed as peddlers, farmers, or foot soldiers. Ninjas employed a wide variety of equipment, some of which have been popularized in video games, comic books, and movies.
Ninjas were utilized in several conflicts in Japan, the Nanbukucho Wars around 1336 – 1392, the Onin wars and the civil war, and the Sengoku Period. However, in the “Iga Revolt, ninjas who were then seen as threats to the ruling clan were defeated in open battle and scatter over the county. The power base was dominated though Ninjas did not eminently vanish. Legends of ninjas and skills survive to date; such have been embellished in video games, movies, and comic books.
In summary, Ninjas have been shrouded in mystery for centuries. Legends of ninjas are found all over the world, and they often share common features like superhuman strength, invisibility to enemies, and mastery of weapons. But what do historians know about ninjas? The history behind this ancient profession is more complex than you might think!