This is a true story.
My friend is from Tokoname, a small city south of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture renowned for its ancient ceramics industries. My friends’ father sat the family down around him about 2 years ago, and told them he had two important things to tell them. They were expecting something dreadful, like he’d been diagnosed with cancer, and that he only had a few months to live, or something like that.
Instead he told them, “We have to move. The government is going to build a new road through here, and our home is to be demolished to make way for it.” That was enough of a shock for them, but what he told them next completely knocked their socks off.
“The other thing is,…” he said, “is that our family are ninja!”
The family stared at him for a few moments expecting him to burst out laughing. He didn’t!
He finally explained that since the Sengoku, or Warring States period, the family had worked as pottery merchants, however, that was a cover up for their true profession. Up until my friend’s grandfather’s time, the family had been ninja.
Another ninja story involves an old gentleman I interviewed for a TV shoot a few years back. He was born in Iga, but went to Tokyo in his late teens. Just before he retired about 4 years ago, a ninja researcher came to him to ask him about his ninja roots. He had no idea what the guy was talking about, but the researcher showed him family records, linking him directly to a family of active Iga ninja! It turns out his family had been ninja in the employ of the lords of Nagoya Castle, their alibi being that they were in the gunnery corps! Also, just north of Nagoya Castle is a sign marking the spot where a ninja house, destroyed in the air raids of WW2, once stood.
Aichi Prefecture was at the center of the Sengoku period, and so it is only natural that there would have been quite a few ninja in active service throughout Aichi. One of the more famous is Hattori Hanzo, born and raised in Mikawa, (eastern Aichi) he would often return to his native Iga Province for training.
Hattori Hanzo fought his first battle, a night attack on Udo Castle at the age of 16, in 1562, he rescued the daughters of Tokugawa Ieyasu held hostage by the Imagawa at Kaminogo Castle in Gamagori, and laid siege to Kakegawa Castle in 1569. Hattori Hanzo also fought at the battles of Anegawa (1570) and Mikatagahara (1572). In 1582, Hanzo and his team led Tokugawa Ieyasu across Iga province, and back to the safety of Mikawa immediately after the assassination of the nation’s ruler, Oda Nobunaga.
There’s actually a Hattori Hanzo and the Ninja performance team touring Aichi and other regional events, putting on entertaining ninja action shows, and detailing Aichi’s ninja history. Hope you can catch them when you come to Aichi.
If you’ve ever looked into the ninja at all, then you’d have heard of the Iga Ninja, and read of Koga Ninja, but you wouldn’t have seen anything about Aichi Ninja. So, if you haven’t seen anything, then the ninja of Aichi have done their job well!
Chris Glenn is a bilingual radio DJ, TV presenter, producer, narrator, MC, copywriter, author and columnist, and Japanese historian, specializing in samurai castles, battles, armor and weapons. He is an inbound tourism advisor, and is often called upon as a lecturer and speaker on Japanese history and topics. He was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1968, and has spent over half his life in Japan, most of that time in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Chris is dedicated to promoting and preserving Japans’ long history, deep culture, traditions, arts and crafts.