The Ninjato Sword Myth and Mystery

The Ninjato Sword

During the warring period of Japan, the Ninja or Shinobi worked in stealth and accomplished their tasks with the help of different weapons including the Ninjato sword. These warriors had highly exceptional skills yet were required to live in secrecy and concealment. This created a sense of mystery around them.

Because of their way of living, only a few documents and resources were retrieved. These are considered genuine proof of information about the skilled Ninja. Even the information regarding their weapons cannot be accurately determined.

All the mystery about the ninja and their weapons resulted in having the ninja sword with great speculation. This also led a numbe of experts to believe that they used the shinobigatana and even the katana. Those studying about the ninja’s history found that they also used a variety of other weapons to fulfill their tasks.

History of the Ninjato

The existence of the ninjato during the much earlier times still remains unclear. Most elements regarding this sword is also a mystery. It is a fact that the Ninja made use of swords to complete some of their missions, but the blades referred to as “ninja swords” were all created during the Edo period. Real ninja swords that were utilized before the said period still haven’t been found.

Since ninjas aim to keep their identities a mystery, it would be a complete failure if they were recognized especially by their enemies. This is a possible reason why they did not carry swords that revealed their true identities. This is the opposite of the samurai. Their swords featured characters that displayed which clan they belonged to.

Unfortunately, there is lack of physical evidence coming from the Sengoku to the Edo period that matches the depiction of the Ninjato. The history of this blade can only be clearly chronicled from the 20th century onwards.

Ninja silent killer waits in ambush in forest undergrowth

Characteristics of the Ninjato

The ninjato can be described as having a short and straight blade. It is claimed to be similar to the shikomizue, a concealed sword that is often disguised as a cane or walking stick. The difference between the two swords is that the ninjato has a square-shaped guard.

Generally, its blade is thick, straight, and measures less than 60 centimeters. It is believed that these weapons take this specific form since ninjas were not skilled smiths. Many of them could not afford to have their own swords made.

Due to their lack of forging abilities, it was easier for them to create straight-bladed swords made from scraps of metal. This was compared to the refined curved blade of a Katana. Plus, the materials that they might have utilized only consisted of iron slabs or steel. It was highly possible that the sword’s cutting edge was only ground on stone.

Certain studies have also claimed that it was highly possible that the ninjato had a straight blade due to a certain deity. This is because the ninjas may have copied the sword used by Fudo Myo Oh. He was known as the ninja family’s patron Buddhist deity who is said to wield a straight-bladed, chokuto-like sword.

Certain historians who specialize in the military history of Japan claims that the most vital weapon of these warriors was their sword. This was also said to be the standard weapon utilized for fighting and completing a variety of tasks or missions. Additionally, they claim that the ninjas preferred using a shorter-bladed weapon since it was more convenient and beneficial.

How the Ninjato was Worn

The classic ninja carried his sword diagonally and positioned across his back. This was compared to how a samurai wielded the sword – it was tucked at his side in a sash. The image of a ninja warrior with his sword behind him is a highly popular image. However, it was a very inaccurate view when it comes to history.

When the sword protrudes from a person’s back, it would become a deadly obstruction for effective concealment, escaping via tight or narrow spaces, or climbing on tree limbs or rafters. There are times when ninjas would roll on the ground as a part of concealed escapes. If they positioned the sword on their back, it would be difficult to execute such movements.

The ninja utilized his sword for clubbing, cutting, scouting, and as a climbing aid. And since he was a carrier of binding materials, the ninja would often carry the sword in hand. Sometimes, he would tuck this into his sash specifically on his left.

Generally, the shinobigatana of the ninja incorporated a lengthy sageo. This was necessary for tying the sword across his back for situations like underwater progression or long-distance running.  When it was carried across the back, the sword was usually worn with its hilt above the shoulder blade. This was to facilitate an easier and more fluid motion of drawing when necessary.

Other Ninja Swords

A lot of historians believe that the shinobi utilized other swords to complete their work. These included the wakizashi and the katana. The latter is known as the main sword of a samurai and it became a symbol of the aforementioned class. It was highly possible that the shinobi used these weapons when necessary, especially when they were in disguise. The katana usually measures over 60 centimeters while the wakizashi was shorter at just 30 to 60 centimeters.

Proper Usage

Since the appearance, construction, and even the beginnings of the ninjato still remain unclear, the proper usage of this weapon is still speculative. These are only based on the references that experts have regarding its appearance and make.

As mentioned previously, it is said that the ninjato sword was shorter than the katana. This is because it was much easier to use when completing a variety of tasks. It was also necessary when executing different kinds of attacks especially in small spaces. Additionally, the main purpose of the ninjato was to stab an opponent, not to kill them. This was another reason why the sword featured a straight blade.

A Multifunctional Weapon

An interesting fact about the ninjato is that it is not only useful for stabbing. Despite this, it still functions as a great tool for a variety of tasks.  One notable aspect of the sword was its tsuka since. It could be utilized as a snorkel when the shinobi was engaged in underwater undercover activities. They often used this when they needed to secretly listen to an enemy’s conversation.

The tsuka is said to be longer than the actual weapon. This is to provide space for a variety of items like dust and chemicals that were used to blind opponents.

El tsuba was another notable element of the sword. It featured a squarish shape and was bigger compared to the usually rounded tsuba. It had this specific shape since the shinobi utilized it as a step when they were required to extend their regular reach.

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Warring Ninja Clans – The Koga and Iga Ninjas

There were neighboring ninja clans during the feudal period of Japan and were known to be bitter enemies. These were the Kouga and Iga clans whose battles between each other continued for centuries.

The Iga ninjas were from the Iga province in the area close to the towns of Ueno and Iga in the Mie prefecture. They were highly trained in the art of stealth and honed their skills in the local forests and mountains. They were trained in the arts of concealment, disguise, escape, poison, unarmed combat and a wide range of weaponry. The most famous ninja from the Iga clan was Hattori Hanzo, the warrior who saved Tokugawa Ieyasu from death.

The rivaling clan was the Koga clan. They were located in the Shiga prefecture and were not as well-known as their enemy. However, they were also just as skilled in both deception and stealth. The Koga region was said to be strategically vital and the area was known to have a large number of hidden ninja villages deep within the mountains.

These ninja clans were said to have been skilled in a variety of weapons: this included their use of the ninjato blades. Other weapons that they may have used was the bow & arrow, shurikens, the jutte, kusarigama, and more.

The Ninjato Today

Today, the ninjato are being sold as decorative pieces. Yet there are pieces that can be used to practice certain martial arts. These are crafted with a short or long blade, and one can choose to have a regular kissaki or the kiriha zukuri kissaki with it.

There are numerous sword makers who continue to pay tribute to the classic swords from the past, yet is said to conform to the standards and style of a Hollywood piece. Craftsmen who are talented at decorating can continue to produce pieces of art that will surely catch the attention of every sword enthusiast.

You can build your own custom Ninjato in this page

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