When it comes to Japan: the "Samurai" and "Ninjas"

When it comes to Japan: the "Samurai" and "Ninjas"

"Japan = Samurai and Ninjas" has always been the people's first impression of Japan no matter the generation. The level of recognition is so high that almost all foreigners are aware of the existence of the Japanese "Samurai" and "Ninjas"!

Although they existed in Japan hundreds of years ago, why do they make such a strong impression both in Japan and abroad? Here we will examine the history of the samurai and ninjas and the mystery behind their popularity.

The History of Samurai

First, let's unravel the history of the Samurai!

It was around the 9th century. At that time, there were many "warriors" who fought with a single sword, but only a handful of them were called "Samurai." Among the warriors, only those who served people of high rank and guarded their personal belongings were called Samurai. In other words, Samurai were what we call bodyguards today! Only those warriors who possessed special skills to protect their masters could be called "Samurai," a superior status.

As the warring age arrived, the role of the samurai became less about protecting and more about defeating the enemy on the battlefield. And now, those who were active in warfare came to be called "Samurai"! For example, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who unified the country during the warring age, was originally just a farmer. By playing an active role in warfare, he rose to the rank of samurai and rose to become the most powerful man in Japan.

Therefore, the meaning of the word "samurai" has gradually changed according to the time period. However, what has not changed is the fact that in every generation, brave Japanese who risked their lives to master the sword and throw themselves into battle for the sake of those they were supposed to protect were called "Samurai."

The History of Ninjas

The history of the ninja begins in the 13th century. Around this time, bad guys who rebelled against the rule of landowners began to appear in various parts of Japan. Although they were troublesome, because of their high fighting ability, they soon came under the control of warring feudal lords and came to be valued as fighters in war. This is the original form of the ninjas.

Now, when it comes to ninjas, we imagine them using swords and ninja stars to strike down their enemies one after another! You may have such an image as well. However, that is a misunderstanding. It is said that actual ninjas avoided confrontations as much as possible, even though they were trained fighters.

The most critical task of the ninjas was to gather information about the enemy and report it to their lord. Therefore, they did not like unnecessary battles, and their first priority was to return home alive. The art of walking without making a sound, the art of disguise to deceive the enemy...all of these techniques can be said to be unique to the ninjas, who disliked confronting the enemy directly.

After the unrest of the Warring States period settled down, the ninjas gradually disappeared, but because of their conspicuous existence, they were frequently the subject of novels, plays, paintings, and other works. Although they preferred to act in secret, it seems that it was difficult for them to erase their existence from history because they were too active and effective during that time.

The Two Major Groups in the Ninja World

Did you know that there are different schools of Ninja in the world? There are 71 different schools! Here, we will introduce you to the Iga and Koga schools of ninja, which were two of the most powerful groups in the world of warfare.

Iga School Ninjas

The greatest characteristic of the Iga School Ninjas are their overwhelming fighting ability, which sets them apart from other schools! They are so skilled that some shoguns gave up fighting once they realized that they were up against Iga ninjas. In addition, the Iga Ninjas had a dry side where contracts with employers in terms of money were made and after, never had any further relations with the employers. For the sake of money, they served multiple masters, and it is said that at times they were even willing to fight amongst themselves.

Koga School Ninjas

Surprisingly, the Koga school ninjas usually spent their time as farmers and merchants, despite the fact that they were the oldest school of ninja in Japan! Whenever there was a command, they transformed themselves into ninjas and rushed to the battlefield. It is said that because they were well versed in medicine, they conducted covert surveillance activities behind the scenes while selling medicines.

Although the Iga and Koga school ninjas with their major characteristics, did they ever clash with each other? Historically, it would be interesting, but the style of the ninja was to avoid combat as much as possible. It is said that the two major forces never conflicted with each other, but rather had an amicable relationship.

Secrets Behind the Popularity of the Samurai and Ninjas

The worldwide interest in the Japanese samurai and ninjas is attributed largely to such media as movies, TV dramas, manga, and sports.

Because the samurai and ninjas have many fascinating legends and anecdotes, numerous productions have been created to recreate their way of life. For instance, have you ever heard of "The Last Samurai," one of the most popular films about the samurai? This Hollywood movie was released worldwide, and many foreigners must have had a strong impression of Japan as a Samurai country because of it. The story, of course, and the powerful battle scenes are a must-see! It made many foreigners fall in love with the Samurai.

The sport SASUKE, which is currently very popular all over the world, was actually inspired by the ninjas! The sight of the ninja moving with agility to clear obstacles within a time limit is truly ninja-like! The name "SASUKE" is said to have come from the fictional ninja Sarutobi Sasuke, who was inspired by a novel.

There is no end to the number of works with the samurai and ninjas as motifs. That's why they have such an appeal capturing people's interest and fascination.