Often considered as the ‘shadow warriors’ of feudal Japan, Ninjas have been characterized as not only being able to infiltrate the most heavily guarded fortresses without being detected but also managing to trick their pursuers by ‘mysteriously swapping places’ with a log. They may be portrayed as cutting down any position in superhumanly fast manner or may be dressed in black bodysuits with black masks to hide their faces. They are the ultimate spies and assassins, gifted with their own deadly magic and martial arts. Born in hidden villages, they are trained from birth to show no pain, feel no emotion, and remain extremely loyal to their clans under pain of death.

But to what extent is this true? While Ninjas did indeed exist, their reputation for invisibility and infiltration has most likely stemmed from their willingness to dress as members of a lower social class, especially when no one else in Japan would even consider doing such a thing. Their ‘invisibility’ was part psychological in nature – by dressing as a peasant, they were often ignored and dismissed, or perhaps not even noticed at all, by the upper classes. A popular myth states that ninjas came from lower classes, at least compared to the samurai, because of their willingness to do the dirty deeds that honorable samurai would never do. However, the assassination and fighting skills needed to become a ninja suggests that they were usually samurai or, in some rare cases, mercenaries who work for samurai. Ultimately, given that the nature of the Ninja’s work lied in assassinating and escaping, their multipurpose kunai trowel became their symbolic weapon of use. Though it is unclear, from an academic point of view, why Ninjas have become so popular in modern media (Naruto, Mortal Kombat, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), one cannot deny that their physical abilities and skills are extremely badass.

The warrior learns of the spiritual realm by dwelling on the cutting edge of the sword, standing at the edge of the fire pit, venturing right up to the edge of starvation if necessary. Vibrant and intense living is the warrior's form of worship.

Additional Resources
Ninja Museum, Igaryu, Japan