The word ‘Ninja’ has interesting connotations in most Western countries; however, Ninjas have a long and fascinating history as secret agents or mercenaries in Japan. Here, Captain Max Virtus (aka Adrian Burrows) returns to the site and, in a light-hearted way, tells us what you don’t know about Ninjas…
Everyone loves a Ninja! I know that I, Captain Max Virtus, and the rest of planet Earth certainly do. But what do we really know about those Shinobi?
Not a lot. And what we do know is usually wrong. And what we don't know is mostly right.
The problem is that information is scarce due to Ninjas being so mysterious and secretive. Which was the whole point - after all they were the feudal Japanese equivalent of a Secret Agent. Each Shinobi was trained in espionage, sabotage, infiltration and assassination (although not necessarily in that order). Ninjas saw most activity during the Sengoku (or Warring States) period of Japan in the 15th century, which is when local lords vied for power and land, but had pretty much ceased to exist by the 17th century when Japan was unified. They were at the height of their powers for approximately 200 years, a drop in the historical ocean, yet we still fondly remember them today.
Now thanks to my warehouse of Bizarrchaeology, I have learnt a great deal about the ways of the Ninja. Sure, they more than likely spent a lot of time doing the things you would expect a ninja to do; setting explosives, tree climbing, making poisons, throwing shuriken and eating pizza in their sewer layer. But what are some things that you don't know about Ninjas? Glad I asked myself that question!
Ninjas love Cricket(s)
As I discovered when trying to sneak up on an owl whilst covered in bells (don't ask, I've set myself some fairly strange and highly unnecessary challenges during my time as a Captain of Bizarrchaeology) even the stealthiest of Ninja's footsteps can be heard. The best way to avoid this? Simple, bring a box of crickets with you wherever you go. Those chirp chirping chappies are heard throughout Japan, so a roaming Samurai won't be alerted by hearing their familiar stridulation (that’s a fancy word for chirp but seeing as I had already used the word chirp in the previous sentence, I thought I had better use a different word. I wouldn't want to type chirp again now would I?). A skilful Ninja can release the crickets from their containment into the wild and then continue with their sneaking, safe in the knowledge that they will not be heard.
Ninjas had fake feet
It makes sense, after all, the last thing you want that roaming Samurai to notice is a trail of footprints belonging to a highly skilled and deadly ninja. So instead Ninja footwear would have 'ashiaro' (fake footprints) affixed upon them, making it appear that the feet belonged to an elderly woman or a young child rather than a trained Ninja carrying a deadly Kunai (which was actually a simple gardening tool, it's going to look much less suspicious if a Ninja is caught carrying some hedge clippers rather than a skull split-tingly sharp Katana and a yumi long bow). In actual fact, Ninjas rarely used the weapons that you'd expect them to.
Real Ninjas don't wear Black
Yes, I know, I was shocked and saddened by this discovery too. When I think of a Ninja I like to imagine a man of shadow, clad in the distinctive Shinobi Shizoku, dressed from head to toe in an awesome looking black onesie of death (or a giant mutant turtle, either or). But that is exactly the point - the last thing a secretive Ninja would want is to LOOK like a secretive Ninja. Instead a Ninja should look like everyone else.
What would a Ninja have most likely worn? I’m glad you asked. A loose fitting Gappa travel cape that conceals light armour worn in layers beneath it (loose parts of the clothing would be tied with rope to prevent the total embarrassment of tripping out of a tree and ending up incapacitated in front of a startled would be victim). It's still worth wearing dark colours though, the last thing you would want is a red blood stain on your chest for everyone to see.
So there you have it, several things that you probably didn't know about Ninjas. Whilst reading this escapade you have also discovered how you can be a Ninja. Because the best way to be a real Ninja is to be absolutely nothing like a real Ninja. After all that is exactly what a real Ninja would do.
We do hope you enjoyed the article! You can read another of Max’s articles on the three most bizarre tanks ever here. You can also read Max’s new book Escapades in Bizarrchaeology: The Journals of Captain Max Virtus - available in both print and electronically.
Blurb on Escapades in Bizarrchaeology
The History Book For People Who Don't Like History - Yet!
Captain Max Virtus has spent his life Excavating the Extraordinary and Unearthing the Unusual. Gathering the history of the Bizarre to exhibit in his Warehouse of Bizarrchaeology.
Now you have the opportunity to take a guided tour of his life's work, in this, his personal journal.
Discover why bats were used as bombs, how an emu can defeat a tank, the reason why guns were installed in cemeteries ... and how you can get shot with an arrow ... and survive.
All this ... and then things get really weird!
Take History To The Max.