Ninjas (For those of you who have no interest in pirates.)

Zach – Yes, you read that title correctly and it should explain it all. Today we’ll be discussing ninjas or as they’re sometimes called, Shinobi!
Anna – Wait, is this a legitimate topic of history?
Zach – Absolutely! Ninjas were real, they took part in historical events, were documented and kicked serious booty.

Ninjas are a universal symbol for awesomeness. They even survived the outbreak of those horrible 80′s ninja movies with their coolness intact.

Tomoe Gozen – Yes, ninja were very useful in certain roles, but they had no honor.
Zach – We’ll see about that. But before we get to that, let’s introduce our panel. As you can see we have Anna Komemne, first woman historian, Tomoe Gozen, woman samurai. Buffalo Calf Road, woman warrior and killer of Custer. Von Clausewitz, author of “On War.” And then we have Napoleon.
Napoleon- Where is my proper introduction?
Zach – Um…you don’t need one.
Napoleon – And rightly so!
Anna – Ninja were such mysterious warriors. I do not even know where to begin!
Clausewitz – Vay, fraulin, Ve begin vith ze definition. What is this ninja?
Tomoe Gozen – Ninjas were cowardly spies and assassins that snuck around and struck from the shadows instead of facing their opponent in honest combat.
Zach – A biased definition but it does get to the heart of the matter. Ninjas were highly trained professional spies, assassins, saboteurs and raiders. They mastered the art of disguise in order to sneak into enemy territory and accomplish their mission.
Napoleon – They sneak around in the black pajamas?
Zach – Not quite, though at some times they may have. Most times they were wearing costumes that would allow them to blend in and move about in the open and without suspicion.

There’s a ninja in this picture. Can you spot him? These zen monks went around playing flutes with baskets on their heads. Perfect cover for a ninja.

Though they did sometimes wear black clothing like this:

Ninja taking a pleasant stroll. It’s part of their training. One girl ninja and two male ninja? It’s a Ninja romantic triangle!

Zach – Ninja did the jobs that samurai were too honorable for. They would sneak into enemy castles and gather intelligence. During the Shimabara revolt when the peasants were trapped inside a castle, ninja were sent in to find out how close the rebels were to starving. The ninja slipped in dressed as peasants, captured one of their Christian flags and escaped in a hail of gunfire and arrows in a truly awesome manner.
Tomoe – Yes, but in that same revolt, it was the ninja that stole most of the rebels’ food!
Anna – I do suppose that was their skills at sabotage at work.
Zach – That’s right. They’re famous for going into enemy castles and causing confusion and setting fires.
Buffalo – Oh, I do like these ninjas! They understand the importance of stealth and surprise. Sometimes attacking head on isn’t the best option.
Clausewitz – They fulfilled a military role that is necessary in any var. They are like your Special Forces, yes?
Zach – In a way, yes. They fulfill a similar role as our Navy Seals do today.
Anna – I’ve been researching this a little. In the fourteenth century Chronicle, Nanbokucho Wars, it talks about Shinobi setting fire to a shrine where the enemy were held up.
Zach – That did become their specialty, sneaking into fortified locations where Samurai couldn’t get to and creating openings for the army.
Napoleon – Yes, yes. I did a little reading also. These ninja, they from two different clans?
Zach – Mostly. Some samurai clans trained their own ninja-like warriors, but there were two great ninja clans in the mountains that owned land and had a noble hierarchy just as any samurai clan would. When the other clans developed their bushi into samurai, these two clans, the Koga and Iga, developed into ninja. Also, they didn’t owe loyalty to any Shogun or emperor, they were mercenaries, the only example of mercenaries in mainland Japan.
Buffalo – They hired out their services to whoever was willing to pay, but the Koga and Iga were rivals. So when one group joined one side, the other joined the other side. Like the Lakota and Crow, bitter rivals.

Inside a typical ninja village. Everything seems normal, but you tick off the locals and they’ll break out with all kinds of mad weapons. (Why so many ninja weapons look like farming tools.)

Tomoe – The cowardly ninja even tried to assassinate Lord Oda Nobunaga! They failed of course. No ninja could assassinate a warrior such as him! Nobunaga then in 1581, he invaded the lands of Iga and destroyed them. They had field battles where the ninja fought as samurai and lost.
Zach – He didn’t destroy the Iga, he chased them off and into the open arms of Ieyasu Tokugawa. The Koga, also seeing that their future wasn’t bright with Nobunaga, joined up with Tokugawa and so he had both mighty ninja clans watching his back.

She can have my back any day. (smack!) What? What did I say? (Anna glares at Zach)

Napoleon – It would seem foolish to me to anger such professional killers.
Clauswitz – Like you angered the Russians?
Napoleon – That was not the same! I took Moscow!
Buffalo – Enough you two. Back to Ninjas. Tokugawa used his ninjas like the U.S. Cavalry used Indian scouts. During the Sekigahara campaign, the ninja helped hold a castle against the enemy, gathered information on enemy troop movements, harassed besiegers and even saved general Naomasa’s life when he was wounded by a gun shot. Tokugawa was so impressed by them that he held a special memorial service for the dead ninja. I wish the Americans treated their Indian allies half as well.
Anna – I found an interesting story. A few years later after Sekigahara, Tokugawa’s last enemy was held up in Osaka Castle, the one that keeps getting destroyed by Godzilla, and the Samurai were attacking the castle. They were loosing badly because of the defenders’ gunfire. A ninja commander by the name of Miura Yo’emon ordered his own gunners (ninjas liked guns) to open fire on his ally samurai. This caused the pinned down samurai to attack to their rear and get out of the deadly crossfire.
Tomoe – This saved face because a samurai does not retreat. They succeed or they die. Ninja do not have this belief.

They’d do all kinds of crazy stuff to accomplish their mission like jumping off of castles and drinking a gallon of milk in a minute.

Zach – Now let’s be fair. Ninja did have a code of honor. They would do anything to get the mission accomplished and they went on suicidal raids for the honor of their clan. Their honor depended on getting the job done, now how it was done. When a ninja went on a mission, they went prepared to die. They didn’t follow Bushido, but they did have a similar code.

Ninja doing their thing: which is kick butt and take names.

Clausewitz – I must say that I am very interested in vat veapons and equipment they used.
Zach – They used katanas like the samurai, but they also used shorter, straight swords called a “ninjato.” The hilt was broad and square so it could be used as a step to get over walls. The ninja would plant the sword in the ground and tie a chord from the sword to his foot. Then when he was up over the wall, he would pull up his sword with his foot. Also the sheath had a hole at the end to use as a breathing tube for hiding in the water or blowing darts. Ninjas loved to use poison, gas, black powder bombs and guns.
Tomoe – They used such toys to avoid an honorable fight!
Anna – But remember Tomoe, it was the samurai who hired them to do those things.
Tomoe – I would never resort to such low acts.
(Mulan sticks her head into the room.)
Mulan – You guys done talking about those lame ninja and those even lamer samurai?
Tomoe – When I am done here I will fight you for this dishonor!
Mulan – Bring it.
(Mulan leaves.)

Ninja also wore armor under their clothing. They weren’t fools. This is an example from one of Japan’s Ninja museums. Yes, Japan is so cool they have friggin’ ninja museums.

Zach – Ninja also had all sorts of equipment such as portable rope ladders, grappling hooks, shurikens (ninja stars) and whatever else the mission might need.

The Kusarigama, a weapon that they’d use to trip or catch your arm with the chain and then stab you with the sickle blade. It was tricksy and not very nice.

Anna – So, in closing, ninja were professional, special forces, mercenaries that specialized in infiltration and being where they shouldn’t be.
Tomoe – They had their uses, but no honor.
Buffalo – I like ninjas! I think we’d have a lot in common. Me and Hattori Hanzo sneaking into an American fort and setting off their gunpowder!
Clausewitz – Who is this Hattori Hanzo?
Napoleon – Pfff! You do not know? Ha! I laugh at you.
Anna – Okay, who is he, Napoleon?
Napoleon – Umm…well…he is…He’s a ninja?
Zach – So sad. He was the most famous ninja ever.  Go look him up everyone. Well, I hope you all now have a better idea just how cool ninjas were. They weren’t some anime freak with large hair and tons of buckles in his outfit, they were real men and women that were highly trained and excelled at what they did to a degree that their legend isn’t just continuing, it’s growing.

Alien vs Ninja, that’s how awesome they are.

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6 comments on “Ninjas (For those of you who have no interest in pirates.)

  1. [...] to minimumwagehistrorian.com So you should check up with me there. I just did a post about Ninjas! http://minimumwagehistorian.com/?p=3 Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in [...]

  2. cthulhu says:

    A whole army of ninjas….pure awesomeness!

    • Joe in PNG says:

      Not really- according to the Law of Conservation of Ninjitsu, more ninjas are less effective than one ninja. So, an army of ninja can be defeated by a 5 year old kid with a wiffle bat.

      • zacharyhill says:

        How right you are! Conversely, one ninja can take out a hundred pirates, but a hundred ninjas can’t take out a hundred pirates. (But Ninja are cooler.)

  3. Paul Genesse says:

    My sources tell me that ninjas do not exist now or then. . . or so my clan leader tells me . . . as it would be dishonorable to be a ninja . . . but very lucrative, or so I’m told. ;)

    P.S. Pirates and ninjas have an epic battle in Larry Correia’s novel, Hard Magic, which is totally awesome.

  4. Oh, so Machiavelli and Malcolm X were secret Ninjas, since they lived by the mantras of “The end justifies the means.” and “by any means necessary”? Of course, Malcolm X borrowed his famous slogan from the French intellectual Jean Paul Sartre from his play Dirty Hands. So maybe Malcolm X was wanna be ninja. Not that I’m knocking him. He was a very misunderstood man.

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