These are some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about ninja.

Q. How did one become a ninja?

A. As a general rule, the profession was hereditary, with the skills being passed down from parent to child, generation after generation. In most cases, if you were born into a ninja family, you received the training to become a ninja. Training began around the time that children learned to speak. The more talented of the trainees would begin professional duties as early as age 12.

Q. What do ninja eat?

A. Their staple was mostly grains such as foxtail millet, barnyard millet, and proso millet. They ate this together with umeboshi, boiled daikon and tubers, pine and kaya nuts, and tofu. The weight limit for a ninja was about 60 kg. They intentionally ate low-fat, high-protein foods.

Q. What do ninja wear?

A. Ordinarily they wore the work clothes of farmers so as not to draw suspicion. These work clothes, together with a facemask, made up the ninja “uniform.” They were mostly of dull colors such as navy blue and dark orange. Black clothing was avoided because it projects an outline when light is shone on it, making it easier to find.

Q. Were ninja allowed to marry?

A. Ninja were of course allowed to marry, as they needed to produce offspring. However, the oniwaban, who were ninja in government employ during the Edo period, had restrictions applied to contact with outsiders and could only marry within their profession.

Q. Is there a retirement age for ninja?

A. There was no fixed age for retirement, but they did retire when they were no longer physically able to do their job due to age. Ninja of advanced age would retire and go on to train the younger generation.

Who were the ninja?

The origins of the ninja

There are various theories as to the origins of the ninja, including the theory that they originated not in Japan, but came from the Asian mainland. It is said that Prince Shotoku was the first Japanese ruler to make use of ninja when, with the backing of Soga no Umako, he subjugated Mononobe no Moriya. The name of the ninja the prince employed was Otomo no Hosohito, and he was referred to as a shinobi. The ninja, however, did not suddenly emerge in the form that we think of them today. Rather, they evolved gradually with the times. The roots of the ninja most familiar to us, i.e. the spies and assassins active in the Sengoku or Warring States period, can probably be traced back to groups and bands of criminals who rebelled against the shogunate and feudal lords in the Nanboku-cho or Northern and Southern Courts period.

The “Specs” of the Ninja

The ninja had amazing physical abilities. It is said that they could jump over obstacles 2.7 meters tall (a little higher than a soccer goal) and 5.4 meters wide (the width of three cars). The modern world record for the running high jump is 2.45 meters, so if the accounts are true, the ninja exceeded this by 25 centimeters. The world record for the running long jump is 8.95 meters, which is longer than the record of the ninja, but some say that this is just because modern athletes wear special spiked shoes and get a sufficient running start.

ABOUT: JAPAN NINJA COUNCIL

Purpose: The purpose of the Japan Ninja Council is to position ninja as a part of Japan’s cultural heritage in tourism strategies such as the Cool Japan strategy, which focuses on the period leading up to 2020, and to use Japan’s ninja culture and history to encourage tourism, promote culture, and revitalize local economies by cooperating with the national government as well as with local governments, universities, tourism associations, private organizations, offices, etc. nationwide that are associated with ninja culture and / or history in order to collect and disseminate information for the purpose of attracting domestic and international tourists.

I found this awesome guide about ninja inside of the Ninja Nippon Guidebook, a tourist travel guide for visiting ninja sites in Japan.

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