Looking up at the white structure of Iga Ueno Castle in Iga Mie Prefecture Japan

The Secret Life of Ninja in Iga and Koka, Japan

This was a curious assignment. I had to delve deep to research the secretive exploits of the Japanese ninja. The peak of activity for these spies for hire was over 500 years ago. Authentic old documents about ninja have emerged only fairly recently, around the last 70 years.

The deeper I went, the more I was surprised by the ninja’s multi-faceted world. After the Chinese introduced gunpowder to Japan, many ninja became experts in explosives. They crafted bombs and grenades and attached rockets to arrows which could travel one kilometer.

Ninja also studied botany extensively and knew how to use plants as food, medicine and poison. They used cannabis to drug people to extract information from them. Sometimes, they administered their nefarious herbs and potions by pretending to be traveling monks selling medicine.

Here’s my latest story, written for the Japan Agency for Cultural Affairs as part of their “Japan Heritage” project for the Japanese government:

The Real Ninjas of Mie and Shiga Prefectures

I also explored this turbulent era of warlords and samurai in this story: A Race Across Japan to See its Last Original Castles


Picture of Iga Ueno Castle: baggio4ever

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