Numerous mysterious ninjas have appeared in Japanese history, and their legends and skills are inspiring to many.
If you've been watching Naruto or other ninja-themed works, you may have noticed that similar names are commonly used(ex. Sasuke, Hanzo and so on). You may be wondering, "Are the real ninja names used?"
In these articles (part 1 & 2), we present ten of Japan's most famous ninja and their stories.
Ninja are professionals, like spies, hidden in history.
The mysterious aspect of the ninja culture is one of the most interesting aspects of the culture.
Let us ponder the ancient times in which they lived and the footprints they left behind in the present day!!
#1 Otomono Hosohito
According to a Japanese history book written in the Edo period, Otomono Hosohito, a close associate of Prince Shotoku, was a ninja.
Prince Shotoku was a prince of an emperor who existed around 600 AD, which is roughly 1,400 years ago.
One day, Otomono Hosohito was given a scroll on ninjutsu by a mysterious old man and taught it to him.
He utilized his skills to assist Prince Shotoku in his political struggles and was given the name "Shinobi".
He lived in Koga, Shiga Prefecture, and is considered the founder of the Koga Ninja.
The roots of Koga and Iga, which are still famous today as ninja villages, go back to this period.
#2 Fujibayashi Nagato
Fujibayashi Nagato, active during the Sengoku period, is known as one of the "three great Ninjas of Iga".
The other two are Momochi Sandayu and Hattori Hanzo, who will be introduced later.
Although he was the leader of a group of ninja in Iga and his name has been handed down to posterity, few records remain concerning what he did.
It is said that he taught ninjutsu to Kansuke Yamamoto, the military commander of the famous samurai Shingen Takeda.
His descendants wrote books summarizing their knowledge of ninjutsu and passed on the ninja of that time to the present day.
#3 Momochi Sandayu
Momochi Sandayu, like Fujibayashi Nagato, is one of the three great ninjas of Iga.
Fujibayashi Nagato led the northern half of Iga, while Momochi Sandayu led the southern half.
During the Sengoku period, the Iga operated independently, not belonging to any one warlord, until they came into conflict with Oda Nobunaga, who was seeking to unify Japan.
Nobunaga Oda is one of the most popular samurai even today, and you may know him from the game "Nobunaga's Ambition".
In the first battle, he defeated Oda Nobunaga's army, but in the second battle, he was defeated by a large army.
One can only imagine what a war between a large army of samurai and a large group of ninja might have been like.
#4 Ishikawa Goemon
After the unification of Japan by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a subordinate of Oda Nobunaga, there were fewer and fewer troubles in the world.
Then, the ninja, who had made their living by fighting, gradually had to look for other jobs.
Some of them became blacksmiths because of their skills in sword and shuriken making, and others became merchants because of their spying activities disguised as merchants.
One such person was Ishikawa Goemon.
He is said to have been a disciple of Momochi Sandayu, one of the three greatest ninjas of Iga, and used his superb ninjutsu to sneak into the residences of powerful and rich people and extort large sums of money from them.
He was finally captured after stealing into the castle of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the powerful man of the time.
In what seems cruel, he was punished by boiling in a cauldron of simmering oil.
In Japan, the name "Goemon-buro" (bathtub for standing) is said to be derived from his name.
#5 Hattori Hanzo
Hattori Hanzo is the last of the three great ninjas of Iga.
He was a ninja who served a warlord and is different from the ninjas introduced so far.
He was in the service of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who created the Edo period, a period of stability that lasted for more than 200 years.
Having served the Tokugawa family, which was based in Aichi Prefecture, from his father's generation, Hattori Hanzo was actually not born and raised in Iga and is said to have never had sufficient opportunity to receive training as a ninja.
Therefore, it may be more accurate to say that he was a "samurai from a ninja family".
However, the Hattori family had established itself as a powerful family in Iga, and by taking advantage of this connection, it greatly helped Tokugawa Ieyasu in his efforts to unify Japan.
The Imperial Palace, where the emperor resides in Tokyo now, was once the Edo Castle, where Tokugawa Ieyasu lived.
One of the important gates of that Edo Castle, Hanzomon, was guarded by Iga ninjas under the command of Hattori Hanzo, and his name continues to remain.
"Hanzo" is also the name of a station and a subway line.
When sightseeing in Tokyo, please visit Hanzomon and feel the breath of the ninjas of that time.
Experience ninja training at the Ninja Experience Cafe!
If you are going to visit Japan, why don't you not just visit the places famous for their ninjas, but why don't you become one yourself?
We recommend you and your family and friends to visit the Ninja Experience Cafe.
Not only will you get to pose in a ninja outfit and take lots of pictures, but you will also learn how to throw a shuriken, blow a blowgun, and use a sword directly from the ninja staffs.
There will also be plenty of other fun things to do, such as desserts using ninja techniques, so be sure to check it out.
What are we?
We run Ninja Experience Cafe in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, Japan.
Here you can immerse yourself in Japanese culture through experiencing ninja training.
Both adults and children are welcome to try their hand at defeating the ninja master inside the cafe.
The cafe is an indoor interactive zone, so it can be enjoyed even on rainy days.
If you are thinking, "I want to be a real ninja too!” If you are interested in becoming a real ninja, please visit us.
Reservations can be made here.
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