The truth of Ninja -Ninja Encyclopedia-

Ninja on the Kite

Ninjas and kites

You may have seen a scene where a ninja is floating in the sky carrying a kite on his back. Did this actually take place? If so, for what reason was the ninja flying in the air with a kite? At first, what I can say is that we can find a reference of a flying ninja with a kite in a certain historical document but it is doubtful that such kinds of ninjutsu was something used often. The code of ninjas relied on an existence in the shade so conspicuously flying in the sky for all to see was certainly the opposite to this code. Indeed, why would ninjas go up in the sky in such a manner? We are going to find the real records about the matter.

Ninja, falling sparks

The name of the book that refers to such scenes as ninjas flying in the air with kites was " Koga Ninjutsu Gokuhi ". It means " the secret arts of Koga-ninjutsu ". This book belongs to the Akutagawa (ŠHμ) family, whose ancestors worked under the Matsumoto - domain (Ό–{”Λ), Nagano prefecture is a place where forefathers of Koga ninjas used to live a long long time ago. Nagano prefecture is a mountainous place and since the prehistoric ages, it has been the sacred place for Shugendo. As described many times, the ascetic style of shugendo is considered to be one of the foundations of the code of ninjas. In passing, the origin of the globally famous Togakushi ninjutsu whose master was Mr. Hatsumi, Masaaki (‰Œ© —ǏΊ) was in Nagano prefecture. In the book it was written that ninjas of Akutagawa school could rain sparks from the sky. Long ago, when a famous military commander Minamoto Yoshiie (ŒΉ ‹`‰Ζ 1039`1106) raided a certain castle, a ninja named Hattori, Genzo (•ž•” ŒΉ‘ ) who belonged to Akutagawa school made a huge paper kite and on the windy night he dropped the sparks onto the castle from the sky while hanging from the kite and set off a big fire there. According to the ancient book, the fact became a secret in Akutagawa school but in the same book, it is said that ninjas could control the sparks kite unattended. When there was no one to hang from the kite, ninjas drew red circle on the center of the kite and set the fire right there. After that, ninjas raised the kite into the sky above the target and dropped fireballs onto enemies. It is said that ninjas carried out this operation in the day to not attract attention. Of course, the exact mechanism of this weapon cannot be found even at present. In accordance with the document, the secret was transmitted by oral instruction in Akutagawa school.

What could ninjas do with kites for others?

Ninja on the Kite

A big kite in Yokaichi town

We cannot prove the military utilization of kites by ninjas anymore but it is true that in Iga (ˆΙ‰κ) and Koga (b‰κ) which are the hometowns of the ninja - there are legends about kites connected to flying ninjas. In Yokaichi (”ͺ“ϊŽs) which is a town very close to Koga - the festival of big kites takes place every year.
How may have kites be used in other situations by ninjas?
First of all, they were used to transmit information. In accordance with the color, form, and the combination of kites, it was very useful sending messages to companions of ninjas through kites. In this case, you may think that kites just ordinary toys for regular people only. This is true but it this worked in their favor because around Koga, kites were played with by kids so it is possible that children of ninjas raised kites with codes to transmit information to their comrades.
Secondly, what we can assume is that ninjas used kites as a vehicle for escaping known as Tonso - Jutsu (“Ω‘–p). The concept is hard to believe though because a kite is too unstable to use as a vehicle. When a kite with a Ninja attached is flown, a kite with one ninja would demand at least three or four people get it off the ground. Such a scene is unrealistic. A more probable situation is that ninjas used kites as dummies. Ninjas would prepare a kite and big doll before their mission, when they were being chased by enemies, they would raise the kite with the doll attached to it. Their pursuers would be distracted by the kite allowing the ninjas to escape.
The idea of ninjas flying in the air through kites is a hard one to accept because it directly contradicts the code of ninjas style of remaining hidden and itfs hard to imagine how it could work practically. Even if they were to fly at night to remain hidden, they wouldnft have been able to see where they were going and to fly by day would have drawn a lot of attention.

kamen no Ninja Akakage

Shirokage on a kite

Shirokage on a kite

Well, how did the image of a flying ninja on a kite spread around the world? It came from a certain manga and film whose author was Yokoyama Mitsuteru (‰‘ŽR Œυ‹P). The title was " Kamen no ninja akakage " which attracted many children and people in 60's. Incidentally, Yokoyama Mitsuteru was also the author of " Iga-no-Kagemaru". In this story, a ninja named " Shirokage (”’‰e) " flies abroad on the kite. The popular image of " a ninja on a flying kite " is not so old.