16 Things You Didn't Know About the Origins of Ninjas

Ninja Mission, a popular image of a ninja. Primitive Gallery/world.time.com.

11. The Sengoku Period Was Also Known As the Ninja Golden Age

The Sengoku era, which lasted from the 1467-1477 Onin War until Japan’s reunification in 1598, was a period of lawlessness and political upheaval that is often referred to as the “Warring States Period.” Daimyo warlords constantly fought each other for control of different areas of Japan, creating a ripe atmosphere for the fighting style that the ninja had developed to become widely employed. They were regularly used in the service of the warlords or their opponents and were hired to serve as spies. They became especially adept at breaching castles.

The ninjas of the Warring States Period are typically memorialized in popular culture, such as in manga and anime. Some of the figures that are remembered today are actually based on real-life ninjas of this time who, despite the stealth and secrecy required by their work, rose to achieve a degree of prominence. For example, Fujibayashi Nagato was a leader of the Iga ninjas in the sixteenth century. Following the defeat of the ninjas at Iga, some of his descendants, who were forced to go into hiding, were the ones to compile the Ninja Encyclopedia, which preserved the fighting style for posterity. Other ninjas who survived the Battle of Iga, which spelled the beginning of the end for the Sengoku era, helped write down the art to preserve it.