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Legendary sourcebook of ninja secrets discovered in Japan

5 Comments
By Ben K, grape Japan

On June 19t, municipal government officials in Koka City, Shiga Prefecture, famous for being a center of ninja heritage, announced that a manuscript of the Edo period ninjutsu book 間林清陽 Kanrinseiyo had been discovered.

The book is said to be the basis for the 万川集海 Bansenshukai, a representative ninjutsu book that served as a dictionary of the ninja arts of the Koka and Iga regions. The Bansenshukai clearly stated that it used the Kanrinseiyo as a reference point. However, neither the existence nor the contents of the legendary ninja sourcebook had been confirmed until now.

The image below shows the title page of the 40-page manuscript, which indicates on the left: 軍法間林清陽巻中 meaning "Tactical Strategy (Book) Kanrinseiyo, Middle (Second) Volume." Penciled in on the right is the date when this manuscript is believed to have been transcribed, 延享五年, the 5th year of the Enkyo in the Edo Period, which corresponds to 1748.

Kanrinseiyo_0.jpg
Photo: Reproduced with permission from the Tourism Policy Planning and Promotion Division of the Koka City Office

According to Sankei News, the manuscript contains 48 articles on ninjutsu including practical teachings such as how to make 撒き菱 makibishi caltrops out of bamboo, how to fight when dealing with multiple enemies, how to discern faint sounds and how to make silent footwear.

As for 呪術 jujutsu (spells), for example, it contains a spell to stop guard dogs from barking which involves writing the character 鬼, meaning demon, and "cutting nine syllables" (the nine ninja hand gestures).

Another spell contained within the manuscript is for quickly hiding oneself from someone. This may be familiar to those who have seen ninjas in films, manga or anime. If you ever wondered about the powder that ninjas throw down on the ground to hide themselves, this could be it. According to this spell, you should throw down a powder made of charred owl and turtle in the direction of the person you wish to hide from, cut the nine syllables, then hide behind the nearest object.

Kanrinseiyo_1.jpg
Page 19 of the Kanrinseiyo, showing the above-mentioned spells Photo: Reproduced with permission from the Tourism Policy Planning and Promotion Division of the Koka City Office

福島嵩 Takamasa Fukushima, 37, a member of Koka City's regional development volunteer brigade who has been researching ninja, discovered the scrolls last December in a district-owned warehouse in the city's Kazuraki district. It may have been a document handed down in the home of a descendant of the Yoshikawa ninja clan that served the Owari Domain and lived in the same area.

According to the official in charge of cultural property at the Koka City Office, "now that Kanrinseiyo has been featured in the media, some citizens of Koka may search for the other volumes in their own homes or warehouses. Expectations are high that the other volumes will also be discovered."

As for the significance of the discovery, in addition to confirming the existence of the sourcebook known to be the basis for the Bansenshukai, ninja fans and researchers are "particularly excited that it was discovered in Koka City, the home of the ninja, that it contains a great deal of practical knowledge and that it can now be considered to be one of the oldest ninjutsu books in existence."

Although there are no plans to publish the Kanrinseiyo, the city plans to display a reproduction of the manuscript at the 甲賀流リアル忍者館 Kokaryu Real Ninja-kan tourist information center.

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© grape Japan

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5 Comments
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Nin Nin!!!

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Underground/covert works like this often circulated in manuscript rather than print. Both print and ms. books were often copied in their entirety (wooden printing blocks for books produced by pasting down the leaves of a surviving copy and using them as a template), so an early date may simply have been copied too. It looks a bit fresh for 1748 but may have been well cared for. Japan's environment, wooden homes and insect life give books a hard time. Washi paper is tough, but gets nibbled. The benefit of this tradition of book reproduction is that texts do tend to survive, in either ms. or print, rather than being lost. Some are edited (you may find leaves numbered something like '39/44' indicating that a bit has been missed out). That attention to detail may infer that texts are otherwise expected to be complete. It is always exciting when a lost book reappears. If it has been checked and determined to be authentic (fakes of equally collectible shunga [erotica], for example, are legion), then it would merit reprinting and translating. There are dealers in Japan with stacks of unsorted Edo era books. It is possible that the other two volumes will turn up. They should look very similar to the one pictured, but with 上 or 下 to indicate 'first' or 'last' volumes, instead of 中.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Incorporate some into Japanese special forces if they prove to be accurate and practical?

Spells aside, quiet footwear would be useful in conjunction with using a smoke grenade to hide from an enemy. Throwing stars and other devices to take out an enemy quietly could also be a useful and unexpected skill set that could assist.

Perhaps there is nothing a modern soldier could use, but it could be looked into. Martial arts are still taught and are still relevant. Some Ninja skills may also be usable in the modern context.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The charred owl and turtle powder might definitely work... Monty pythonesque.... Lupins!!!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

sounds like complete bs, along with much of the ninja myth.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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