What were a ninja’s throwing stars called?
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Though today we think only of the iconic bladed stars as shuriken, the word could actually describe all manner of thrown weapons, including knives and darts as well.
What made the Iga and Koga regions of Japan effective ninja strongholds?
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Eventually, the most skilled and famous ninjas in all of Japan would come from guilds based out of these two isolated regions.
What was one of the infamous Hattori Hanzo’s nicknames?
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Also sometimes called “ghost,” Hanzo wasn’t technically part of a ninja clan, but he used similar techniques to brutal results. He was feared across Japan, and has become something of a legendary figure, even getting referenced in the film Kill Bill.
According to legend, how did Mochizuki Chiyome secretly train her army of ninja assassins?
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Chiyome has become a legendary figure in Japanese lore, but sadly it is now believed that her legendary orphanage and legion of ninjas are merely fiction. That hasn’t stopped her from making frequent appearances in films and video games, though.
How was Ishikawa Goemon, the ninja Robin Hood, killed?
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Though much of what we know about Goemon is likely mythical, he was said to have been a ninja apprentice who ran away from his clan to become a heroic outlaw before he was finally captured and brutally killed, along with his son.
What strange method did ninjas use to pass secret messages?
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Different colors of rice had different meanings, so ninjas could get important messages across to their allies.
What simple accessory could be a female ninja’s most deadly weapon?
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These ornate hairpins, called kanzashi, could be sharpened for use as a weapon, or dipped in poison for assassinations.
Neko-te, or “cat hand,” is the Japanese word for what kind of hidden weapon?
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Female ninjas might wear their neko-te to defend themselves while undercover, or to deliver a deadly blow when an enemy least expects it.
What strange technique did ninjas use to tell the time?
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Cats' eyes are very sensitive to light, and their pupils change shape depending on the time of the day. Ninjas called the art of telling the time through a cat’s eyes nekome-jutsu.
Where was a common place for ninjas to hide poison, needles, or small weapons?
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A writing case, or yatate, could be used to conceal weapons, but also, since a ninja’s primary role was often to gather information, a simple pen and paper were often an extremely important part of their arsenal.
What were some of the disciplines that a fledgling ninja trained in?
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Ninja training wasn’t all sneaking and killing—they needed to be extremely well-rounded warriors to do their job properly. They would also gain at least a cursory knowledge of various professions, because they might end up needing to take all kinds of guises in their work, and they needed to be able to pass.
What insects would Ninjas use to help them move secretively?
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Ninjas were able to make their captive crickets chirp using a special mix of chemicals, which could cover up the sound of their footsteps while they were infiltrating an enemy position.
What were some of the abilities that have been attributed to ninjas over the years?
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Ninjas themselves perpetuated many of the rumors about them to use people's fear of them to their advantage.
How would ninja families begin training their children?
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Ninjutsu usually stayed within the family, to protect its secrets. If a ninja’s child was found worthy, they would start playing games that began to teach the young ones important techniques.
Ninjas didn’t actually wear black. Why would an all black outfit have been a bad idea?
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Ninjas were spies first and foremost, often hiding in plain sight amongst their enemies, so they tended to dress like simple commoners, or perhaps like enemy soldiers. If they’d worn all black, they’d have stuck out like a sore thumb.
What were some of a ninja’s most important duties?
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Ninjas were often hired mercenaries, holding no allegiance to any specific lord. They were turned to when it came to the dirty work that respectable lords wouldn’t touch.
What common tool would ninjas commonly use as a deadly weapon?
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The sickle and chain was one of the most common and deadly ninja weapons. It was developed because a ninja dressed as a farmer could carry it around without arousing suspicion.
The word ninja only started being used in the 20th century. What were ninjas usually called instead?
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The word shinobi came to mean “covert agent,” and was derived from a word meaning “to steal away” or “to hide.”
What was one of a ninja’s most common guises?
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Ninjas were very frequently tasked with gaining important information about enemy property. While posed as a gardener, ninjas could stake out a house or fortification for future attacks.
Why would ninjas rarely use a large sword like a Samurai’s katana?
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Forgoing the intimidating katana, ninjas would use more compact blades for a variety of purposes, not just killing—kind of like a Feudal Japanese multi-tool.
What would ninjas use to create their smoke bombs?
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Ninjas would hide the ash in eggshells, or sometimes in the sheath of a weapon, and would release it to confuse their enemies.
What were female ninjas called?
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Kunoichi would frequently pose as maids or servants to infiltrate an enemy estate. Once inside, they could work to smuggle people or items in or out, or even act as an assassin or saboteur.
Why did samurai hire ninjas?
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Samurais held to an extremely strict code of honor. There were some things that they simply wouldn’t do, and they would turn to ninjas at these times.
Which of the following was one of a ninja’s methods of infiltration?
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The ghost technique involved making lanterns adorned with the enemy’s crest to fool their guards. In at least one recorded instance, a group of ninjas used it to infiltrate an enemy castle then burn it to the ground.
Why did very few historians or poets write about ninjas?
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While the samurai were aristocratic warriors akin to European knights, ninjas were often from the lower classes, so many writers didn’t consider them worthy of recording.
How did the legendary Yamoto Takeru kill two enemy chiefs?
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Takeru, also known as Prince Osu, lived centuries before true ninjas existed, but he’s sometimes considered their forerunner because of the similar methods he’s said to have used.
Which of the following were ranks in ninja guilds?
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Jonin, Chunin and Genin mean “upper men,” “middle men,” and “lower men,” respectively. Ninja guilds followed a very strict organizational structure, and the different ranks all had very different roles.
What was a countermeasure that people used to fend off ninja strikes?
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As ninjas become more of a threat, people started planning for them, leaving traps to make sure ninjas couldn’t sneak into fortifications unnoticed. Some households even hid weapons under the floorboards in lavatories in case a ninja tried to strike when their target was most vulnerable.
How did ninjas at the Siege of Osaka get their own forces to retreat?
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When the attacking force during the siege needed to retreat, the commanders ordered ninjas to fire at their own men from behind. The army turned and charged at a nonexistent foe, and the retreat was underway.
What did a ninja use to treat an injured general at the Battle of Sekigahara?
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Ninjas knew a lot about medicine, but they were very secretive with their knowledge. Sources of the battle make reference to the ninja’s “black medicine,” but with no indication as to what it actually was. However, it did successfully stem the general’s bleeding, saving his life.

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If you infiltrated an enemy castle, you would probably make such a racket that you’d wake the entire place. You’ve got some training to do before you’re a true shinobi.

Ninja in Training

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Pop culture is obsessed with ninjas, but a lot of what we know about them is seriously inaccurate—partially because real-life ninjas were intensely secretive about their methods. Do you think you really know about these agents of chaos? Can you separate fact from fiction? Then prove it and ace our quiz on Japan’s hidden warriors.

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