Ninja have appeared in many forms of popular culture, capturing the public’s imagination with their amazing abilities in television, movies, and anime. But while the word ‘ninja’ is widely known, the true origins of these covert warriors are rarely known.
Iga and Koka are two areas considered to be the birthplace of the ninja arts.
Multiple fortified mansions were built, making use of the area’s remoteness and inaccessibility as well as the complex village landscape.
As mercenary groups formed to coordinate rule and maintain peace over the region, the Iga and Koka clans emerged, developing special strategies and techniques for unconventional warfare nurtured through the rich local religious culture and unique way of life of the region.
In Iga and Koka, the ninja traditions of the Sengoku Era (1457-1567) have been preserved and continue to thrive to this day.
Following in the footsteps of ninja, visitors to the region will be able to appreciate the true nature of these legendary warriors.
Ninja has been known widely by TV or animation over the world today and is getting a reputation for his eccentric behavior. They have gained popularity through stories that Ninja attacks to evil enemy by the art of ninja in the world of Kabuki and novel after the Edo era. On the other side a dictionary which was compiled by the Society of Jesus introduced Ninja as Xinobi over the world. It is written as a spy who scramble up a wall of a castle or enter into a camp for grasp the situation in the night during a war.
They served to each Daimyo, search for the situation of enemy, launch a surprise attack on the enemy position. Although the name of Ninja has been widely known, it is wrapped in mystery, few knows the true figure. It is true figure of Ninja, or real Ninja which is now wanted.
Iga district in Mie prefecture and Koga district in Shiga prefecture are popular as the birth place of Ninja. A topography of Edo period says that Xinobi named Iga, Koga who is a Ninja. People from Iga or Koga had been representative of Ninja. Iga and Koga are said one country as Ko-I, neighboring each other at the border of a hill, mingle with the local people.
It is close to Nara and Kyoto, easy to get information. It was the place where a political authority has gone for exile, surrounded by Suzuka mountain range in east, Kasagi mountain range in west. It was also an important place of traffic between east and west. It is natural to know why Ninja was born in Iga and Koga.
When walking a village of Ninja, people is surrounded by strange scenery. A scenery surrounded by slightly elevated hills extends far away, finally asked into the hinter land like a maze. A village exists sticking to the foot of a hill, houses blocked by a small valley are not visible, it is suitable to be called as a hidden village. From the view of the sky, complicated villages spread into branches. This topography was borne by eroding clay called “Ko-Biwako-So” three million years ago. On the end of a hill with a fine view of the land, or at the entrance of the village there were castles. An invader was cut off the retreat when attacked from the both sides of the village. Strong defense and invulnerable, these are the village of Ninja.
Castles with out stone walls were surrounded on all sides by an earthwork. It was over 5 meters high and counts about 800 in Iga and Koga. Why it became as this style? The answer is found in the organization of Ninja.
The real image of Ninja was a provincial samurai called as “Igashu” or “Kogashu”. In warring states periods a feudal lord who has strong power was not appeared. Self-government was developed and people went hand in hand and league against the common enemy.
Provincial samurais combine with each other and called the organization as “Iga-Soukoku” or “Kogagun-Chusou”. They established a close relationship. The family was closely united and worked together with one mind, talked about various matters, decided by majority rule. “Gather together and decide by all members” was a code of Ninja village.
In the warring-states period in which a feudal system had been strengthen, there was a social upheaval where those below overcome those above. The figure that everybody cooperates together to keep peace, not by the government of one feudal lord. It differs completely from an implacable world described on TV or animation.
It indicates the distribution of castles. There were not big castles because there were no prominent authorities. The world where the same form and size of castles were packed together in a small land. But the self-organization such as this will end when a strong power such as Oda Nobunaga or Toyotomi Hideyoshi appeared.
On the other hand, the technique of stealing was found useful and Ninja served to a lord everywhere.
Let’s look at the life of Ninja. They live as a farmer in the morning, practiced the art of war in a temple in the afternoon. When a war begins, everybody including farmers, priests stand up with arms and fight against enemy.
Various occupation was born in this region apert from agriculture. Lumberjacks cut a huge tree, hop to another tree and produced wood. Mountain priests train in the mountain, grow in knowledge of herbs, go to everywhere to distribute a label and medicine.
Building up body in mountains in a vast nature, wander throughout the country to get information. A jumping power out of the ordinary, method of running, the way of hiding, recipe of herbs, concentration of mind brought out the best of usage in daily life for people. Ninjutsu was not an absurd story.
By Masa Tamura