Feudal Japan Shinobi

Honor among thieves...

The Dishonorable Assassins


That is the question that I will be attempting to answer.

But first, we need to understand that the ninjas in feudal Japan were covert agents or mercenaries, and they undertook tasks such as guerrilla warfare, infiltration, assassination, sabotage and espionage. This means that they were essentially Japans version of a medieval James Bond.

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The Emergence of Shinobi

In the 15th century Sengoku Period, the word shinobi began to clearly identify the ninjas as a group of secretive agents. Before than, in the early 15th century, ninjas were recruited as mercenaries for activities that were deemed dishonorable by the samurai. For the right price, you could hire a skillfully trained stealth master for missions that include arson, spying, raiding and even terrorism. When the high demand of men willing to commit unconventional crimes rose during the unrest of the Sengoku era, the shinobi climbed above all other warriors to dominance and had became an actual business, although they were legally questionable.


After their rise to fame in the criminal underworld, the ninja families organized into larger guilds and each owned their own territory. A system of ranking was created and comprised of three simple yet meaningful titles. The Jonin was highest rank, they hired mercenaries and represented their group. Next was the Chunin, they were simply assistants to their respective Jonin. Lastly was the Genin. The genin were field agents that carried out actual assignments. The translation of these are Jonin - upper man, Chunin - middle man, and Genin - lower man.

Roles of the Ninja

"They traveled in disguise to other territories to judge the situation of the enemy, they would inveigle their way into the midst of the enemy to discover gaps, and enter enemy castles to set them on fire, and carried out assassinations, arriving in secret."

- Historian Hanawa Hokinoichi

The ninjas were hired mostly by daimyos for two main branches of specialty, espionage and sabotage.

Now, you may be thinking "Connor, what the hell? I thought ninjas were assassins?" and you would be right, although they didn't focus on that.

Espionage was the most popular role of the ninjas. Using disguises, the ninja learned information on enemy territory and building plans, also obtaining passwords while on their mission.

Arson however, was the primary form of sabotage practiced by the ninja, who targeted castles and camps.

Assassination is an iffy topic. This is because the deaths of famous historical figures have been said by the public to be the doing of ninjas, but the secretive nature of them make it difficult to prove.

The link below will take you to the wiki page that I copied. Just kidding. I didn't. I promise.

Shinobi Combat

The video below will show you the exact way the ninjas took down their opponents, plus commentary. As you will see, they struck swiftly, with great force and determination.
Karate Fail
Sadly, the ninjas did not fight like this. Although it would be hilariously, they didn't...


They actually used an insanely efficient style of fighting called ninjutso. It encompasses the guerrilla warfare and espionage tactics used by the shinobi. In modern times, ninjutsu is combined in practices of other fighting techniques.

What have we learned?

While doing this project, I have discovered that the feudal Japan shinobi were originally hired mercenaries that were disapproved by the samurai who commit un-noble deeds that soon became the daimyos first choice for espionage and the gathering of information from the enemy. and with that last note, I am done.