300-Year-Old Ninja Master’s Oath Alludes To The Secrets Of The Masked Deadly Assassins
Historical researchers in Japan have uncovered a rare, three centuries-old, ‘Ninja Oath’ in which one of the famed ancient warriors pledged “never to divulge the secrets” of spying, sabotage and the martial arts, for fear of retribution from “60 gods, for generations.”
The team of Japanese researchers based in Iga, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) southwest of Tokyo, cooperated with engineering and science departments of Mie University in a project which aims “to reproduce Ninjas’ legacy including their food and tools,” according to an article on Inquirer. The ancient Ninja oath was found among “130 ancient documents left to the university by the 16th head of the Kizu family,” and it was written “in cursive calligraphy.”
Containing ‘six promises’ the oath was signed 300 years ago by “Inosuke Kizu,” a Ninja from an Iga mountain clan located near the ancient imperial capital of Kyoto. The Ninja Inosuke, who submitted the oath, was the fifth head and last Ninja from the Kizu family and it was believed that the document had been returned to his family after his death. In the oath the Ninja offers gratitude, to his master, for having successfully passed his training in the secret arts of “ninjutsu.”
This picture of the contents of the 300 year old oath was distributed by the International Ninja Research Center. (International Ninja Research Center)
Kizu also pledged that “he would never” give away any of his prized knowledge, not even to his children or brothers, and he vowed that he “would never use it to steal unless so ordered.”
An Oath To 60 Vengeful Gods
The reason scientists are so impressed with this particular rare document is because it illustrates in detail just how strict the Ninja community was about keeping their skills and techniques within the body of the clans. The text tells specialists that if a Ninja’s oath was broken, even by the slightest misdemeanor, they’d be punished by “big and small gods in more than 60 provinces across Japan” for generations. While this means little today, back then, in a world where honor was everything, that was a fate worse than death.
In a recent research article on Ancient Origins titled Ancient Psycho Secrets of Ninja Assassins I explained that Ninjas were called ‘shinobi’ ("to sneak”) and these deadly mercenary spies of the Sengoku period in 15th century feudal Japan were highly skilled in: espionage, sabotage, infiltration, assassination and guerrilla warfare. Ninja masters compiled these skills in systematic learning blocks in “shinobi manuals” based on Chinese military philosophy, most notably the Bansenshukai (1676).
Drawing of the archetypical ninja from a series of sketches (Hokusai manga) by Hokusai (1817). (Public Domain)
Yoshiki Takao, associate professor at the state-run Mie University’s International Ninja Research Center told reporters that, “Thieves and Ninjas did the same thing, sneaking into other people’s houses, but Ninjas prized morality highly.” Takao added, “Ninjas were ‘public servants’ in today’s terms, providing security services and collecting information.” Also of interest to scholars was a singular vow within the oath that meant Ninjas were obliged to report, to their masters, any new skills, tools or firearms that were not in the “Bansenshukai.”
A Daily Mail article explains that standing testimony to the secrecy shrouding the lethal arts, Ninja Kizu noted that he could “show only three chapters of the “Bansenshukai” to top-ranking samurais who employed ninjas and vowed not to disclose the book’s contents in other writings.” Takao said, even though it left crucial points vague, the oath is of great importance to scholars because “it shows that Bansenshukai was actually becoming used as a textbook.”
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The Bansenshukai book contained knowledge from the ninja practicing Iga and Koga clans. (Tenryo Dojo)
If you really want to top up on your Ninja secret knowledge you can read the translated Bansenshukai here where you can learn such brilliant skills as making “silent sandals” and the “everlasting fire, the immortal torch,” “sleeping medicine” and “blinding powder.” But be prepared for frustration, in the section ‘Ninja Tools IV, Fire tools I’ an entry says “The Powder of Immediate Death.” Unbelievably, perhaps the most interesting line in the book is marked [missing].
This mortal secret, like the other core, inner-secrets of the Ninja traditions, were only passed on by word of mouth and still remain hidden from the public domain.
Top image: A 300 years old scroll bearing a ninjas oath has been discovered in Japan. Source: metamorworks / Adobe
By Ashley Cowie