Prominent Japanese Ninja

Ninja, also known as shinobi were secret agents of feudal Japan during the Sengoku period (15th to 17th century). Their stealth, weaponry, and cunning skills continue to hold fascination for many. Their covert methods of waging irregular warfare were considered dishonorable compared to the honorable ways of the samurai.

Japanese Ninja. | Joey Gannon

The unique training of the shinobi in ninjutsu covered a wide scope in mercenary combat that included military strategy, armed combat, meteorology, breathing synthesis and specialized weaponry among other things. Their unique training was passed down from one generation to another within the family or from a teacher to a selected group of disciples. Ninja throughout history have been romanticized, idealized, and remain a popular subject for pop culture.

Here are just a few of the popular ninja in history:

Hattori Hanzō (1542 – November 4, 1596) also known as Demon Hanzō, was a famous samurai of the Sengoku era and is believed to have saved the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu, helping him to become ruler of united Japan. He is credited for planning a brilliant defense of the ninja homeland Iga province during the Tenshō Iga War in 1579 against Oda Nobukatsu, second son of Oda Nobunaga.

Hattori Hanzō

Even if Hanzō’did not succeed in winning the war, his valiant efforts and strategical tactics live on throughout history.

Hattori Hanzō was given the title of Iwami no Kami and his Iga men acted as guards of Edo castle. Hanzō’s legacy lives on.The Tokyo Imperial Palace has a gate called Hanzō’s Gate (Hanzōmon), and the Hanzōmon subway line that runs through Hanzōmon Station in central Tokyo is named after the gate.

Ishikawa Goemon (August 24, 1558 – October 8, 1594) In the 1642 biography of Hideyoshi, Goemon was simply referred to as a thief. As his legendary status grew, it was attributed to many different anti-authoritarian exploits. Ishikawa Goemon was a hero who stole gold and other valuables and gave them to the poor. He and his son were boiled alive in public after their failed assassination attempt on Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Ishikawa Goemon

His story lives on in contemporary Japanese pop culture; he is considered a folk hero by many.

Mochizuki Chiyome was a noblewoman and poet of the 16th century. She created an all-female group of ninja agents known as Kuniochi who served the Takeda clan. She was a descendant of the 15th century ninja Mochizuki Izumo-no-Kami and was the wife of Mochizuki Moritoki, a samurai lord of the Saku District in Shimano. After her husband was killed in the Fourth Battle Of Kawanakajima in 1561, Chiyome became the ward of daimyo Takeda Shingen. He asked her to recruit women and create an underground network of ninja women warriors and employ them against the rival warlords.