The ninja, we all know them, we all love them. Born into assassin clans, brought up in secret and dark ways to help them fight their arch-rivals, the samurai. They are the shadow in the night, the peasant warriors, who are hired out to the highest bidder, to do the dirty deeds that the honorable samurai will not do. But what if that was all totally wrong? What if the modern image of the ancient ninja was all based on 20th century comics and fantasy literature? Today you will discover 25 fascinating facts about the real ninja of history where you will learn the truth behind their story. Watch and enjoy as an image of a more accurate and fascinating Japanese warrior emerges.
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Ninja were not called ninja
Documents show that the ideograms for ninja were correctly read as shinobi no mono in the medieval period, “ninja” which is the mock-Chinese reading of the same ideograms became popular in the 20th century.
The first mention of ninja
The first historical record of ninja comes from the Taiheiki war chronicle written around 1375. It states that ninja were sent out on a stormy night to infiltrate and burn down enemy buildings.
The ninja golden age
The ninja thrived during the 15th and 16th centuries when Japan was torn apart by wars. After the year 1600, peace arrived in Japan and so began the decline of the ninja.
The historical record
There are very scant records for the ninja in the warring periods and it is only after peace arrived in the 1600’s that some peacetime ninja began to record their skills. The most famous of these is the colossal “ninja bible” known as the Bansenshukai which was written in 1676. There are an estimated 400 – 500 ninja manuals spread across Japan, many of which are still kept secret.
The enemy of the samurai was not the ninja
Popular media often portrays the samurai and ninja to be enemies. In fact the term ninja often refers to a warrior of any class within a samurai army and the position of ninja was akin to modern day Special Forces attached to the main force. Many samurai were trained in ninjutsu – the skills of the ninja – and a lord would keep his ninja close.