8 Unusual Facts About Ninjas

Did you know that the Shuriken, also known as Ninja Star, was not actually used by ninjas? It was a weapon mainly used by samurai.

When people talk about Japan, one of the most common things that come to mind is ninjas.

However, most of what we know about ninjas is not entirely factual and is heavily influenced by 20th-century literature, comics, and movies.

Their mysterious reputation has made them popular in the western world, but how much do we really know about them?

We have uncovered some of the strangest facts about ninjas to help shed some light on their enigmatic past.

Ninjas Were Not Called Ninjas.

The main word used in Japanese historical documents to describe ninjas was Shinobi or Shinobi-no-mono.

The word itself predates ninjas and means “to steal away” or “to hide,” with “mono” meaning “person.”

The term “ninja” was derived from how the Japanese kanji characters were read in Chinese and was not used until much later in the 21st century.

The First Records of Ninjas Date Back to 1375.

The use of espionage was frowned upon in Japanese society for a long time, and any earlier attempts were not recorded.

The earliest explicit reference to ninjas comes from the Japanese war epic Taiheiki, in which highly-skilled ninjas destroyed a castle.

By the 13th century, espionage gained popularity in Japan, and ninjas were at the forefront.

Ninjas Often Fought Alongside Samurai.

The questionable practices of ninjas were not approved by true samurai, who valued honor above all else.

However, there was always covert work that needed to be done, and samurai were glad that someone else was willing to do it.

In fact, it was not uncommon for samurai to hire ninjas directly for jobs that would have otherwise brought dishonor to the samurai.

The Most Professional Ninjas Came from Two Clans.

In the 15th century, two regions, Iga and Kōga, specialized in the ninja ways.

Multi-generational ninja families emerged, and soon they became known as the most professional ninjas in the region.

The ninja clans were so skilled that anyone claiming to be a ninja appeared to be a common thug.

The Iga and Kōga clans supplied ninjas to Japan’s lords for almost a century until a rival warlord almost wiped them out.

The Golden Age of Ninjas Lasted from the 15th to the 16th Century.

This was a particularly violent period in Japan’s history, with warlords fighting to gain control of the country and unify it.

It’s no coincidence that this period also coincided with the rise and fall of the Iga and Kōga clans.

Even after the fall of the ninja clans, they were still highly sought after as specialists in covert operations.

During a time of peace in Japan, the number of ninjas began to decline. Although throwing stars or shuriken were used during the period of historical activity, there is little evidence to suggest that ninjas used them, as surviving ninja manuals do not mention them. Specialized tools were used by ninjas, but throwing stars were more commonly used by samurais. However, throwing stars were mostly used as a distraction and not in the way depicted in fiction today. Guidelines on what ninjas should wear existed, but they were sensible and not restricted to black clothing. The outfit worn by ninjas depended on the circumstances and needs of the mission. They also disguised themselves as merchants, monks, and beggars to accomplish their missions. Mie University has built a research center devoted to ninja history in Iga, which focuses on the history of ninjas, but not on becoming a ninja. Finding accurate information on ninjas is difficult due to their secrecy and less scholarly attention paid to them because their specialization was less honorable than samurais. Nonetheless, hopefully, more information will be discovered about ninjas in the coming decades.


1. What were the origins of the ninja?

The ninja, also known as shinobi, originated in feudal Japan during the 15th century. They were a group of highly trained spies and assassins who specialized in unconventional warfare tactics. The exact origins of the ninja are unclear, but it is believed that they were originally farmers or peasants who were forced to develop these skills in order to protect themselves from warring samurai clans.

2. What weapons did the ninja use?

The ninja were known for their wide range of weapons, including shurikens (throwing stars), katanas (swords), bo staffs, and even bombs. However, they were also skilled in using everyday objects as weapons, such as umbrellas, fans, and even chopsticks. They were trained to adapt to any situation and use whatever was available to them as a weapon.

3. What was the purpose of the ninja’s unique clothing?

The ninja’s clothing was designed to help them blend in with their surroundings and remain unseen. They wore dark, unassuming clothing that allowed them to move silently and quickly through the night. They also wore masks and hoods to conceal their identities and to prevent the enemy from recognizing them.

4. Did all ninjas have the same skills?

No, not all ninjas had the same skills. There were different types of ninja, each with their own specialties. For example, there were ninja who specialized in espionage and intelligence gathering, while others were trained in combat and assassination. Some ninja were also skilled in medicine and healing, and were often used as field medics during battles.

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