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We are ninjas: What ninja is and the origin

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/20 Traditional Culture , , , , , ,

What is “ninja”?

From “Mansenshuukai” a.k.a. “Bansenshuukai” (a famous ninjutsu-sho, a book about ninja’s tricks), an excellent ninja is described as one who makes a great success but;

  • Makes no sound
  • Has no odor
  • Remains nameless
  • Never win a name for himself / herself
  • Makes outstanding achievements just like creating this world

About the expression “creating this world”, there is an explanation in the same paragraph;
In spring, the world is peaceful, plants grow and flowers bloom.
In summer, it’s hot and plants grow thick.
In autumn, it’s cool, leaves turn into red and yellow, then fall to the ground.
In winter, it’s cold, the world becomes white with snow and frost, and plants die back.
A lot of things happen in a day as well as in a season, but nobody knows who makes those happen.
An efficient ninja is similar to this – he / she has an intelligence which is vast like the sky, so nobody can detect it.
That’s why he / she looks like unintelligent.
His / her wisdom is as thick as the earth and as deep as the stream pool, so it’s beyond people’s thoughts.

Space

-Space-
The final frontier

Ninja were spies at that time.
Their duties were collecting information, protecting information, deluding enemies and fighting a guerrilla war.
Of the four duties, collecting information was the main one.
Thus, they had got to be mentally / physically invisible.*

When they exposed themselves for undercover investigations, they disguised as nobody – just one of the common people.
They made full use of their knowledge and intelligence to attack their target when they had a chance.
This kind of ninjutsu (ninja’s tricks) was called “you-nin” in “Mansenshuukai”.
Sneaking into enemy’s territory without being seen was called “in-nin”.

 

Kanji for you-nin and in-nin

"You" means sun.
"In" means shade.

 

*Note:
For another ninja group, “you-nin” meant revealing his / her identity as a ninja and “in-nin” meant hiding it.
If there was a very famous ninja known as the best of the best, few enemies dared to take risks to infiltrate and challenge him / her.
This was the trick of “you-nin” for them, and in this case, ninja hadn’t got to be “invisible”.

In addition, as I wrote in “the word ninja” post, a ninja has to be a “right” person.
To be a ninja, you must have a right mind because lots of ninjutsu can be used for thefts.
If you use ninjutsu for your own (evil) purposes, you are not a ninja any more, you are just a thief.

 

The origin of ninja

There are various opinions about the origin of ninja.
One of them was that it was from China.
In the book entitled “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu (pronounced as “Son shi” in Japanese), there are descriptions about spying, and in the ninjutsu-sho called “Shouninki” or “Seininki”, it is said this idea was named as “shinobi” in Japan.

In “Nihon Shoki” (The Chronicles of Japan) which was finished in 720, there is a story of a man named “Michi no Omi no Mikoto” who is considered as the origin by some people;

In 663 B.C., he was ordered by the Emperor Jinmu, “Build a huge house and hold a party to seduce a hostile force and kill them”.
He chose strong men and sent them to the opponent’s territory.
At the party, the targets got drunk, then he stood up and started to sing.
His men were ordered to attack the enemies when he sang a song at the party.
All the members of the force were killed.

Sake and edamame

-Sake and edamame-
Photo from a mail for members of Photo AC

 

Some say this was the first ninjutsu used in Japan, but the Emperor Jinmu is a legendary person, so you cannot say “Michi no Omi no Mikoto” truly existed.
So, it seems “Ootomo no Sabito” (or “Ootomo no Sainyuu”) is much more often considered as the first ninja in Japan.
He is said to have worked for “Shoutoku Taishi” (Prince Shoutoku) as “Shinobi” (Consisted of three characters. See the “Asuka” era in “How was ninja called?” image in “the word ninja” post), and played an important role to win the battle against the Mononobe clan in 587.
The Ootomo clan is thought to be descendants of “Michi no Omi no Mikoto”.

Also according to “Nihon Shoki”, a spy called “Kamata” from Silla (In Japanese, “Shiragi” or “Shinra”), one of the kingdoms of Korea, was caught in Tsushima in 601.

 

Test your comprehension

You are a modern ninja.
One day, your master gives you an undercover mission to an opponent IT company.
What do you wear for the interview at the company?

1)
A business suit as others do.

Suit and tie

Illustration from Illust-ya

 

2)
A ninja uniform! I always show my pride to be a ninja!

Ninja

Illustration from Illust-ya

 

3)
Nothing!
I shave my head too!
Because I want to show the target I have nothing to hide, and can be trusted!

Not available image

 

 

 

 

If you chose 2, please read this post again.
Seriously, if you are an employer, would you hire the person dressed like that?

If you chose 3, please read this post from the beginning really carefully again.
It is highly probable you get arrested before you arrive at the company.
There is always something you’ve got to hide, you see.

 

Related posts:
#The word “ninja”
#Walk like a ninja!
#Run like ninja!

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kara

A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

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