Ninja battle at entrance to castle (Photo: Rey Waters)

Ninja Facts Versus Fiction

The original covert spy operation

Ninja battle at entrance to castle (Photo: Rey Waters)
Rey Waters   - 5 min read

On a very cold Sunday morning a group of 21 inquisitive people boarded a vessel at Haneda Airport Harbor with the objective of learning about the real Ninja of Japan.

The trip would take us under the flight path of landing aircraft, across Tokyo Bay, to our disembarkation point in Chiba.

This was an experiment to gauge the interest for cruises from Haneda Airport to Chiba.

Haneda is undergoing massive construction efforts to be completed prior to the 2020 Olympics. There will be a direct walkway from the harbor to the terminal buildings. Residents of Chiba will be able to avoid the busy highways by taking a boat directly to and from the airport. Tourist will be encouraged to check out the many attractions available in the Chiba area while enjoy an entertaining cruise.

The theme of this particular cruise was Ninja. Mr. Yoshimi Hara, a direct descendant of the Musashi Ninja Clan provided a one-hour live presentation of real Ninja life.

His clan started with the Shinobi-Samurai of the Tokugawa Shogunate during the 17th to the 19th centuries. There were over 2000 active Ninja.

The clan’s current head is Shibata Suzak, whom we later met at Chiba Castle.

Hara-san along with several costumed figures presented live action depicting the differences of the Samurai versus the Ninja as night and day. The Samurai were very visible honorable warriors with a specific code of ethics. On the other hand the Ninja were in the shadows with no rules and a directive to provide results.

These men and women were the ultimate spies dressed in disguises. Each disguise provided a specific purpose for gathering information or eliminating an enemy.

Street Performers, Mountain Priest, Priest, Merchants, and Farmers provided out-in-the-open recon and information gathering. The Noh Actor and Komuso Monk wore face- masks and hid the identity of the Ninja.

The disguised Ninja carried a container of rice dyed various colors with each representing a different message. They would leave the specific color rice at a predetermined spot where another Ninja would pick it up knowing what to do next.

The Ninja conducted espionage, sabotage, guerilla warfare, abduction, and assassination.

Next, our on-board Ninja presented their tools of the trade. When you think back in history these people were way ahead of their time with multi-purpose tools. For example the famous star was not only used as a last resort offensive weapon, but also was kept inside their garment over the heart to protect against a sword wound.

The training of a Ninja began at 3 years old using bamboo type weapons and by 13 they were practicing with the real thing.

We ended the session with sampling a Ninja emergency biscuit, which provided many healthy nutrients and was easy to carry.

Before departing Chiba we all had an opportunity to wear a Ninja costume for some memorable photo shoots.

After a brief lunch at the harbor we headed to Chiba Castle Museum for a hands-on Ninja experience. Dressed in black Ninja outfits we were given instructions by the clan head and her assistants on properly walking, running, and carrying various weapons. Ninja carried their weapons on the left and a law was passed that all people had to walk on the left side. The reason was that if two people passed each other with a weapon on the right and they clashed, a deadly battle would take place.

By the way, the movies made the black Ninja outfit famous when in reality they wore solid blue or brown clothing.

Next, we broke up into two groups and learned how to properly use the poison blow dart and throw the star.

Suzak-san was a very interesting lady. She spoke excellent English and talked to my wife in Spanish. She had to wait 50 years after her grandfather’s death to reveal the family history, which she was permitted to do starting in 2007.

We finished the program with a group photo shoot and headed to Chiba Station for our return trip home.

This tour was an experiment to find out the level of interest for such activities between Haneda Airport and Chiba. My wife Miwa and I wholly endorse this effort and hope to see many and various tours become available in the near future.

You can experience the Ninja lifestyle in Tokyo at the Musashi Ninja Clan studio near Tokyo Tower, which includes hands-on Ninja and Samurai programs, and a Martial Arts School. They also provide a Ninja certification program.

This is another great activity to enjoy during your visit to Japan.

Getting there

Access: For the Ninja Program, visit for access to the Tokyo Studio.

Rey Waters

Rey Waters @rey.waters

Born in the U.S.A. - Worked 30 years in executive management high tech Industry, owned a management consulting firm and a wildlife art publishing company.  In 2012 completed the Ultimate Travel Writer’s course and published my first article Tower Hopping in Japan with Travel Post Monthly.  Since ...