Ninja clans: short history and secrets of the ninja clans in feudal Japan. Iga ninja clan and Koga ninja clan. Secret organizations of the famous shinobi warriors. History of ninja.
The ninjas of feudal Japan were known for their skills in their trade and the utter secrecy with which they completed their tasks. However, many legends and stories have cropped up about the ninjas which have given these warriors a mythical status worsened by the lack of reliable information about them. However, the fact remains that there were ninja clans.
It was in the 15th century that the ninjas, or the shinobi as they were known, began to be trained for their trade. Their trade, of course, was assassination, espionage and arson among other things. Quite a few schools and clans grew up during this time. Out of them, two became very well-known, the Iga and the Koga clans.
The Iga clan originated in the region, which is known today as the Iga City, Mie Prefecture. The region is mountains which helped in ensuring the secrecy of the clan from the warring states in the rest of Japan. The ninjas from this clan were considered to be one of the best during those days.
Since the Nara period of Japanese history, Iga was mainly a supplier of lumber for the various temple shrines in the country. That changed in the Kamakura period when the temple shrines began to lose their influence to the administrators and governors. Soon, these administrations also began to lose their influence leading to the rise of the warriors. Iga became divided into smaller domains which were constantly at war with each other.
Due to the mountainous geography of the region, guerilla warfare became necessary. Soon, special tactics and skills began to be developed that were suited for this kind of war. The arrival of the Muromachi or Ashikaga era also brought about a change in the political scenario of Iga. The people overthrew their feudal warlords and established a sort of republic.
In order to protect themselves from foreign invasion, they began to teach and learn ninjutsu. This resulted in the birth of the Iga-ryū or the Iga clan of shinobi. The first historical mention of the Iga shinobi is from 1487 when they fought against Shogun Ashikaga Yoshihisa with the Koga clan.
The origins of the Koga clan took place in the region called Koga which is now known as Koka City of the Shinga Prefecture. The origins of the Koga-ryu are similar to that of the Iga-ryū.
By the end of the Ashikaga period, the Koga region was enjoying a degree of autonomy even though it was under the jurisdiction of the Rokkaku clan. Ninjas were already being trained but there was no central school overseeing it.
The Rokkaku clan was increasingly ignoring the Ashikaga Shogunate and building up their military power. In 1487, Shogun Ashikaga decided to put an end to their rebellion by bringing an army to their region. In the ensuing battle, the leaders of the Rokkaku clan managed to escape barely. They enlisted the help of the Koga clan to fight against the Shogun.
The warriors from Koga used guerilla tactics which proved to be very effective against the Shogun’s army. By the end of the war, these shinobi became famous for their tactics and skills. This also paved the way for the creation of the Koga-ryu, the school of the Koga shinobi.
Famed Historical Battles Featuring the Shinobi
There have been many wars during the period when the ninjas were known to be active. However, the true extent of the role played by the ninjas in those battles is not known.
This might be due to the nature of the shinobi’s role in warfare. After all, the ninjas were mainly hired for scouting the enemies and discovering their weaknesses. They might have been hired for gathering information on the enemies through espionage. As such, ninjas were rarely at the forefront of battle. Be that as it may, there have been some historical battles of note where the shinobi did take an active part in the battle.
After the 1560 Battle of Okehazama, a group of 80 Koga shinobi was hired by Tokugawa. With Tomo Sukesada at the helm, these ninjas were given the task of raiding an outpost held by the Imagawa clan. According to historical records, the shinobi managed to infiltrate the castle and burn its towers. The castellan and 200 warriors of the garrison were also killed by the ninjas in the attack.
The ninja were also a part of the Battle of Sekighara in 1600. Hundreds of Koga ninjas helped the soldiers defend the Fushimi Castle under the orders of Torii Mototada. Tokugawa’s victory helped the ninjas. The Koga ninjas became the police force and helped guard the outer gate of the Edo Castle. As for the Iga ninjas, they became the guards in the inner compounds of the castle.
As expected from the best shinobi clans, the training provided by the schools in Iga and Koga was comprehensive. The training encompassed all the skills that a ninja might require during a job. The fact is that the training details were a closely guarded secret. The traditions and the training were passed down from generation to generation in families.
However, the Koga and the Iga clans had similar training programs due to the nature of the ninja’s job. All ninjas were required to be trained in a variety of arts and display competence in each of them. According to the Koga training program, a shinobi needs to possess 18 different skills. The Iga clan did not separate them as such but these skills were also inculcated in their ninjas.
The skills that the shinobi were taught include signaling, horsemanship, military strategy, espionage, camouflage, information gathering techniques, water survival techniq