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The Ancient Japanese Ninja

The ancient Japanese ninja Ninja or Shinobi were known as Samurai spies of ancient Japan. They developed the skills of Ninjutsu (which means the “art of stealth”). The ninja were an elite group or secret brotherhood that used their special techniques for sabotage, infiltration and assassination, as well as open combat. Origins Historians believe that the first ninjas appeared around the 14th century however it was not until the 15th century that they were specially trained as spies and assassins. The word Shinobi appeared around this time and means a secretive group of agents.

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The normal Samurai soldier fought with honour where they were expected to fight openly and face their enemy, however the Ninja had more secretive roles including spy, scout, surprise attacker and agitator. Records tell of ninja who retreated to the mountains near Iga and Koga of central japan to meditate and train. Their groups were small and formed around families and villages. Roles The ninja were stealth soldiers whose roles were of espionage and sabotage. In battle the ninja could also be used to cause confusion amongst the enemy.

Some ninja had similar roles to the samurai but they were more influential. As more and more enemy lords were killed by ninja assassins, fear of the ninja spread across the country. Espionage The main role was espionage. They used disguises and found out information on the enemy eg building layouts, terrain and passwords and codes. Sabotage Arson was the ninja’s main form of sabotage for example in 1558 Yoshitaka employed a team of ninja to set fire to Sawyama Castle then Yoshitaka’s army later over-ran the castle. Tactics

The ninja did not always work alone, some ninjas worked in teams to do techniques, for example in order to scale a wall, a group of ninja may carry each other on their backs or provide a human platform to assist a individual ninja in reaching greater heights he cant make by himself. Ninjas also used deception, where the attackers (the ninja’s side) made the army dress up in exactly the same clothes as the defenders, causing major confusion. Disguises The use of disguises is common to the ninjas. Disguises came in the form of priests, entertainers, fortune tellers, merchants, ronin (a samurai) and monks

Clothing Their clothing was chosen to blend in eg they sometimes dressed as peasants. Many historians believe that the ninja wore black robes, possibly with red to hide bloodstains. Or at night they wore navy blue. Clothing was similar to the samurai, but anything loose (eg leggings) were tucked into pants or secured with belts so they wouldn’t catch on anything. They also had a piece of cloth (a tenugui) used to cover their face, used as a belt or to help climb. Ninjas were also known to have armour designed to be worn under their clothing.

Shin & arm guards with metal-reinforced hoods are also thought to be worn. Tools Tools were used to help climb and infiltrate enemy castles etc they included * Ropes and grappling hooks were common and tied to the belt. * collapsible ladders with spikes at both ends to anchor the ladder. * Spiked or hooked climbing gear worn on hands & feet also doubled as weapons. * Chisels, hammers, drills & picks * Inflatable skins & breathing tubes allowed the ninja to stay underwater. Weaponry Short swords and daggers were used however the katana was the popular weapon carried on the back.

It had several uses eg the scabbard could be extended out of the sword and used as a probing instrument. At the top of the katana, dust or pepper could be placed so when the sword was drawn, this powder would fly into the enemy’s eyes then the ninja could stab him. Darts, spikes, knives, chain & sickle and sharp star-shaped discs were also used. Food As a ninja is a special type of samurai they would eat the same food as other samurai for example, rice, fresh vegetables like cabbage, root vegetables and fish.

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