Ninja: Unmasking the Myth

Ninja: Unmasking the Myth

by Stephen Turnbull


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The ninja is a well-known phenomenon in Japanese military culture, a fighter who is widely regarded as the world’s greatest exponent of secret warfare. He infiltrates castles, gathers vital intelligence and wields a deadly knife in the dark. His easily recognizable image is that of a secret agent or assassin who dresses all in black, possesses almost magical martial powers, and is capable of extraordinary feats of daring. He sells his skills on a mercenary basis and when in action his unique abilities include confusing his enemies by making mystical hand gestures or by sending sharp iron stars spinning towards them.

That is the popular view, but it is much exaggerated, as this exciting new book explains. Ninja: Unmasking the Myth is a revealing, fascinating and authoritative study of Japan’s famous secret warriors. Unlike all previous books on the subject the author, who is an expert in the subject, does not take the ninja for granted. Instead he examines the entire phenomenon in a critical manner, ranging from accounts of undercover operations during the age of Japan’s civil wars to the modern emergence of the superman ninja as a comic book character. The popular ninja image is shown to be the result of several influences that were combined to create the world’s greatest secret warrior.

Many well-known features of the ninja tradition such as the black clothes and the iron stars are shown to be complete inventions. One important feature of the book is the use of original Japanese sources, many of which have never been translated before. As well as unknown accounts of castle attacks, assassinations and espionage they include the last great ninja manual, which reveals the spiritual and religious ideals that were believed to lie behind the ninja’s arts. The book concludes with a detailed investigation of the ninja in popular culture up to the present day including movies, cartoons and theme parks.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781473850422
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 04/19/2018
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 507,819
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Stephen Turnbull took his first degree at Cambridge and has two MAs (in Theology and Military History) from Leeds University. In 1996 he received a PhD from Leeds for his thesis on Japan’s ‘Hidden Christians’. In its published form the work won the Japan Festival Literary Award in 1998. Having lectured widely in East Asian Studies and Theology he is now retired and holds the honorary positions of Lecturer Emeritus at Leeds University, Research Associate at SOAS and Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at Akita International University. His expertise, including an extensive picture library, has helpedwith numerous media projects including the award-winning computer strategy game Shogun Total War, and in 2010 he acted as Historical Adviser to Universal Pictures for the movie 47 Ronin. Tanaka 1587 is his 80th book to be published.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

1 The Universal Ninja 1

2 The Elusive Ninja 21

3 Iga and Koka 36

4 Koka and Iga 57

5 The Pacification of Iga 62

6 The Shaking of Koka 77

7 The Shogun's Shinobi 87

8 Ninjutsu in Black and White 96

9 The Magic of Ninjutsu 115

10 The Enduring Ninja 122

11 The Shinobi Awakes 137

12 Enter the Ninja 151

13 A Star is Born 166

14 Selling the Shinobi 173

15 The Exemplary Ninja 182

Notes 193

Bibliography 217

Index 227

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