The truth of Ninja -Ninja Encyclopedia-

Ninjas as Fiction in Japan

What the image that we have towards ninjas is

Itfs hard to know what exactly ninjas and ninjutsu were as there are so many falsehoods surrounding the truth. Ninjas have attracted people through its mystique. After all, ninjas have been written about as a fiction in novels, comics and movies to great effect. The result of this is that the real image of ninjas has been distorted. I would like to look at how the ninja has been adopted in the fictional world.

It began from "Kodan" in the Edo period

Kodan-shi telling a story

A Kodan-Shi telling a story

In the 17th century in Japan, the Warring States period, when ninjas had been active was over and 260 years of the peaceful Edo period was starting. In the Edo period, various popular cultures bloomed like "Kabuki (‰Ì•‘Šê) ", " Ukiyoe (•‚¢ŠG) " , " Rakugo (—ŽŒê) " and " Kodan (u’k) ". Kodan is kind of a storytelling. A story teller sits on the stage and he talks about war mostly chronicles and political stories in an amusing and interesting way to the audience. Right there, kodan storytellers spoke of activities and actions of ninjas such as "Sarutobi and Sasuke (‰Ž”ò ²•) " with much passion.

 

The appearance of ninja novels

In 1868, the Edo period ended and cultural enlightenment came to Japan, so Japan became a modern nation. In 1911, "Tatsukawa Bunko (—§ì•¶ŒÉ) " began being published. Until then, the mainstream way of enjoying Kodan was to listen to the story which a kodanshi told. A way of appreciating military histories by reading books had been discovered. Tatsukawa Bunko had been supported mainly by teenage boys especially his works on "Sarutobi, Sasuke" and " Kirigakure, Saizou (–¶‰BË‘ ) " got great popularity. Both, Sasuke and Saizo were ninjas whose public biographies are not well known. Authors of these books took advantage of that fact and they dramatized the ninja stories on a large scale as fiction. For instance, in the novels, Sasuke could control any kind of Ninjutsu like witchcraft only by making symbolic signs with his fingers.

After the pacific war,a ninja boom started!

In 1945, Japan accepted a lost battle of the Pacific War to the Allied Forces. The GHQ (General Headquarters) didnft allow Japanese culture to blossom but in 1952, the direct control by the GHQ ended and around 1955, period novels came to be popular among Japanese people. At first, Samurai stories were enjoyed by a lot of people. In the aftermath, ninja novels attracted many readers. In this time, the big difference between the ninja boom in prewar days, was that a lot of grown]up people were also fans of those works, not only young boys.

 

 

Kamui-den, a hero Kamui

Kamuiden
a hero "Kamui"


Various novelists who described about ninja and ninjutsu appeared, for instance, " Yamada, Futaro (ŽR“c •—‘¾˜Y) ", " Shiba, Ryotaro (Ži”n —É‘¾˜Y) " and "Ikenami, Shotaro (’r”g ³‘¾˜Y) ". From then, the image of ninjas who use mysterious ninjutsu, and who conducted espionage with supernatural abilities was established for ordinary people. As you may know, one of the great cultures which arose from Japan after WW2 was the cartoons called "Manga". In this new media, the authors who created works about ninjas came to appear. " Shirato, Sanpei (”’“y ŽO•½) " presented many ninja mangas and got favorable receptions. Among his works, especially "Kamui-den (ƒJƒ€ƒC“`) " was well known and enjoyed. " Visually, this manga is superior to movies and the story surpasses novels ". Actually, " Kamui-den " still remains at present a classical piece of work, not only as a manga, but as a piece of literature. " Kamui-den " described life of lots of people who belonged to various social hierarchies in the Edo period so vividly.

 

Iga No Kagemarui

"Iga No Kagemaru"
a book


I can present one more magnificent Ninja-Manga. It is " Iga No Kagemaru (ˆÉ‰ê‚̉eŠÛ) ". " Iga No Kagemaru " was created by " Yokoyama Mitsuteru (‰¡ŽR Œõ‹P) " and had been serialized in the " Shonen Sunday Magazine (­”NƒTƒ“ƒf[) " 1961-1965. The story is that, " Kagemaru " is a ninja who belongs to "Iga (ˆÉ‰ê) " in the Edo period. He struggles with his enemies all over Japan by order of his lord " Hattori Hanzo (•ž•” ”¼‘ ) ". "Iga No Kagemaru" established the appearance of the ninja, especially the costume, with the black dress and hauberk seen in this series. In terms of the story, " Iga No Kagemaru " is almost the first work that a main character and another minor character possess various abilities and they fight with their enemies with their combined power.

 

This kind of story style has been inherited by not only subsequent ninja mangas, but also to many combat mangas, " anime " and movies, like " Saint Seiya " , " Naruto ", " One Piece " , " Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon ", " Dragon Ball ", " Bleach ", " Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles " and countless other works. Among continuous TV costume dramas of ninjas, I want to introduce " Onmitsu Kenshi (‰B–§Œ•Žm) ".
" Onmitsu Kensh i" was aired between 1962-1965. It is the story of a hero traveling around Japan in the Edo period as a secret swordsman in order to beat bad ninjas who try to disturb the peaceful world. As the content is an orthodox costume drama, ninjas and ninjutsu in the program had a great reality as a fiction. Sword battles in this drama gave a big influence to later fictional ninja dramas and other costume dramas. "Onmitsu Kenshi" received overwhelming attention in south-east asia and Australia. This program is a pioneer in the ninja fictional works, which stirred up the ninja boom all over the world at present.

How ninja as an object of entertainment is in Japan today

As you have seen so far, today in Japan, ninjas have been applied to almost all media. You may be interested in the status of ninja in Japan at present. The answer is that ninjas are already no more than one of the standard materials of fiction. In other words, if a ninja entered the stage of some fiction, he would not necessarily be a hero but may be only one of the characters. In short, ninjas no longer receive special treatment only because they are ninjas. Also, fiction about ninjas is not especially watched. For instance, in " Dragon Ball ", " Ninja Murasaki " appears but he is only in a supporting role. Furthermore, the category of "Ninja" has changed in fiction. It means that "Pure Ninja Fiction" has diminished. For example, in "Kagaku Ninja-Tai Gatchaman (‰ÈŠw”EŽÒ‘àƒKƒbƒ`ƒƒƒ}ƒ“) ", although the main characters are almost all " Modern Ninja " , the theme of the work does not have a strong relationship with " classical ninja". In short, in Japan, the concept of "ninja" has been penetrative enough to be hybrid. It is like the age of John Wayne where the Gunman of justice was a special existence. Today, you can find cool gunmen in so many movies so ninja at present in Japan are no more than one of the heroes like Samurai, Kung-Fu masters, Karate-fighters, boxers, wizards, and so on.