This week, we’re going to discuss the ninja, or at least what we can discern about them from the limited information that’s out there. We’ll discuss their origins, historic exploits, and the mythologization that turned them into the pop culture warriors we know and love today.
Listen to the episode
A History of Japan, Vol II: 1334-1615
Ninja: The True Story of Japan’s Secret Warriors.
Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)
Yamato Takeru, the imperial prince who dressed as a woman to assassinate his enemies.
The location of Iga province.
A Sengoku-period travel garment with secret armor worn beneath it. This kind of gear would be utilized by Iga or Koga ninja.
Hattori Hanzo, the samurai who brought the Iga ninja into Tokugawa service.
The ninja archetype as we understand it dates to the mass culture of the Edo Period. This image is from the Hokusai Manga, and dates from the early 1800s.
A villain from a kabuki drama utilizing ninja talents to escape. The mythologization of the ninja dates back to the Edo Period low-brow entertainments of ukiyo-e and kabuki.