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The Art of Invisibility
November 28, 2012 6:18 AM   Subscribe

The vanishing Ninja.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (36 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
And walk on water: CIA intelligence says they used "water shoes" - circular wooden boards or buckets - and a bamboo paddle for propulsion, but doubt remains over their effectiveness

Man, this myth was totally busted! These guys have not done their homework at all!

However, I expect that the ninja clans really just want us to think they have gone extinct.What better cover could there be?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:28 AM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


All this means is that ninjas have finally hired some PR people.. nice try ninjas.
posted by pwally at 6:30 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


They will disappear or, in the UK, be renamed heroes.

I have no idea how many people will get that joke but there it is.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:34 AM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh no! Who will defeat the Jacquio now?
posted by Cash4Lead at 6:35 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Last chance to not see.
posted by The River Ivel at 6:37 AM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


So I guess the answer to lifes greatest question is: Pirates.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:45 AM on November 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


Not certain if they're a dying breed, or just getting better at what they do...
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:52 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't believe they forgot the greatest of all ninjas.
posted by arcticseal at 6:54 AM on November 28, 2012


These guys have not done their homework at all!

Yes, because they miss the all important Ninja FACTS!, which are totally true; and by true, I mean sweet:

1. Ninjas are mammals.
2. Ninjas fight ALL the time.
3. The purpose of the ninja is to flip out and kill people.
posted by FJT at 6:55 AM on November 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


There is some doubt on whether the ninja ever actually existed, or whether they (as in the stealthy, black-clad warriors) were invented by Japanese popular fiction authors, and modelled on the stealthy, black-clad scenery changers in Japanese theatre.
posted by acb at 6:56 AM on November 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


I figured the black suit was actually underwear. They'd wear some suitable disguise and strip down when they had to disappear proper.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:57 AM on November 28, 2012


Not a single mention of Sho Kosugi? You'd better just.... Pray For Death.
posted by orme at 7:01 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one appears to have asked these last ninjas whether they have killed anyone.
posted by brain_drain at 7:02 AM on November 28, 2012


Using... the fukiya blowpipe, they were silent but deadly.

My blowpipe is widely feared.
posted by Segundus at 7:14 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


brain_drain: "No one appears to have asked these last ninjas whether they have killed anyone."

Are you sure that's something you want to know?
posted by Krazor at 7:17 AM on November 28, 2012


Interesting dichotomy between those two articles. The BBC was was more staid and attempted to be academic, while the Guardian link was all movie-ninja love. Way more fun when read in succession.

Nice fpp, thanks for posting.

(Ninjas are awesome and, as a child of the 80s, they had profound impact on my play-time)
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 7:21 AM on November 28, 2012


"We now have guns, the internet and much better medicines," Jinichi Kawakami told the BBC, "so the art of ninjutsu has no place in the modern age."

These dudes they found to interview? Obviously not ninjas.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:24 AM on November 28, 2012


This is just what they want you to think!

... also, "Professor of Ninja History" is the second coolest job title ever.... to "Ninja" of course.
posted by ph00dz at 7:39 AM on November 28, 2012


Using... the fukiya blowpipe, they were silent but deadly.

Named after the combat cry of the user when he strikes, accent on the ...YA!
posted by mule98J at 7:44 AM on November 28, 2012


I tried attending Ninja Tech, but that did not really work out so well for me. But, for these guys, it turned out rather awesomely.
posted by andreaazure at 7:51 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


"No one appears to have asked these last ninjas whether they have killed anyone."

He mentioned guns and better medicines, but combat is part of it as well. The ninja 'fighting style' is both highly scripted and stylized(skill demonstration) and is largely ineffective against trained opponents (Ninja fighter vs MMA fighter). Unless you're into the traditional training style for the cultural and historical aspect, if you wanted to be a 'modern ninja' you'd probably be better served by spending your time learning MMA and parkour.
posted by anti social order at 8:10 AM on November 28, 2012


It would be fascinating if the holders of these "family ninja scrolls" would allow them to be examined by historians and book experts.

I mean, if they're not naming successors and are content to let the tradition die out as a living practice, it would be really cool of them to let modern researchers do some physical analysis, get some linguists involved, see how much of this is real Sengoku Jidai tradition and how much of it is Bunraku

Because I'm an ex 80s-kid-martial-artist and I remember when you had to explain to the squares what a ninja was. I want deep down in my heart for the "Ninja Scrolls" to be just like the movie. Or ever just an authentic feudal tradition.

But I gotta admit, I'm kinda in the "Hmmm, this utter lack of period documentation about their existence thing..."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:10 AM on November 28, 2012


I think this guy will be pretty surprised to hear it.
posted by blurker at 8:36 AM on November 28, 2012


Nice try ninjas, but I'm not falling for this again.
posted by justkevin at 9:10 AM on November 28, 2012


But I gotta admit, I'm kinda in the "Hmmm, this utter lack of period documentation about their existence thing..."

Well, they would have been commoners, so that would limit their visibility in official documents, plus their use would be seen as underhanded at best, and scandalous at worst, so there's that as well. One would expect that official documents would make reference to use of nija by certain people's political rivals, however.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:14 AM on November 28, 2012


It's funny that the guys claiming to be ninja are dressed in a style that was most likely derived from uniforms of stagehands in 18th- and 19th-century kabuki.

During the Sengoku period, and during the early part of the Tokugawa hegemony, when people we might now describe as "ninja" were most active, they likely would have dressed like everyone else.

If they existed at all, they were primarily spies and scouts, so in the countryside, they would have most often dressed like peasants: in a simple happi and fundoshi.

In the city they would have worn similar outfits- a happi, with leggings, or perhaps a cheap paper or cotton kimono. Possibly, they might have dressed in a style still worn by the yobidashi of the sumo ring. The whole purpose was to blend in with the background of the town, that is, the working poor- porters, street sweepers, itinerant tradesmen, small-scale craftsmen. People that a samurai would take little notice of. A head covering might be worn, but this would be as much about fading into the crowd as it would be about concealing the face- during the Edo period, tenugui could be worn for a variety of reasons, and tied in a number of different ways.

A ninja infiltrating the imperial court, or the household of a shogun or other high-ranking samurai (if this did ever occur) would most likely dress as a servant or page.

Even in the theater, ninja were portrayed in a flashier manner than we would now expect (although, to be fair, kabuki is all about spectacle and exaggerated costumes). One of the few promotional prints that I have seen depicting an actor in costume as a ninja, shows him in an orange and black happi, with a loud geometric pattern, and leggings, as well as dramatic kesho (makeup).

Of course, as we all know from The Tick if ninja really are dying out, it is likely due to the lack of appropriate ninja-crossings in urban infrastructure.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:42 AM on November 28, 2012


Not to mention, that dressing entirely in black would have been rather impractical for a number of reasons. Not only does it stand out in any situation that doesn't involve creeping through the darkness, but dark indigo actually works better for concealing oneself at nighttime. Dressing head-to-toe in solid indigo during the Edo period would have gotten expensive.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:48 AM on November 28, 2012


Well, they would have been commoners, so that would limit their visibility in official documents, plus their use would be seen as underhanded at best, and scandalous at worst, so there's that as well. One would expect that official documents would make reference to use of nija by certain people's political rivals, however.
The most reliable reconstructions of “ninja” history suggest that “ninja” denotes a function, not a special kind of warrior–ninja WERE samurai (a term, which didn’t designate a class until the Tokugawa period–AFTER the warfare of the late medieval period had ended–before that it designated only an occupation) performing “ninja” work."
The books on Bushihdo from the post-Warring-States period have a very flowery, stylistic "Honor, perfume, and swords" air of soldiers with no war to fight anymore, whose jobs have become mostly guard duty and ceremony. Never retreating, death before dishonor, all that good stuff.

Documents from the WSP have a much more real-world feel to them, with references to "We picked up X number of Daimyo So-&-so's samurai after his army was smashed." There were no ronin during the WSP; Your master is defeated, someone else has a war to fight, so you go fight for them. Only once the Tokugawa Shogunate end the WSP and limits how many samurai a daimyo may keep on staff do masterless samurai show up.

The WSP was stacked to the gills with betrayal and back stabbing and nobody trusting that their neighbors would honor their promises. Win and your Clan gains wealth and power and can pay poets to write about how honorable you are. Lose and you all die and all you own is burned to the ground.

"Dear honorable samurai retainer; sneak into the castle, kill the boy prince his sleep, and make it out or not, your family is ass-deep in honor and rice outta my coffers. Go gettem!"
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:58 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to mention, that dressing entirely in black would have been rather impractical for a number of reasons. Not only does it stand out in any situation that doesn't involve creeping through the darkness, but dark indigo actually works better for concealing oneself at nighttime. Dressing head-to-toe in solid indigo during the Edo period would have gotten expensive.

So the ideal costume for nighttime infiltration is a jean jacket and jeans -- the Redneck Tuxedo? Oh hell yes.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 10:02 AM on November 28, 2012


Last week a student came to me to make arrangements for taking a test because she is going to Cambodia to see a cousin's wedding. She said her family is freaked because of some kidnapping worry. I was all, 'yo, text me if that happens and I'll dial up Barry and get the Black Ops to save you.'

The next day she rushed up to me and said, "I dreamt about you last night! You were a ninja!"

Not sure if I was using a wheelchair as dream ninja as I do as real life angrycat, but hey.
posted by angrycat at 10:37 AM on November 28, 2012


man i brought the party down sorry :(
posted by angrycat at 1:24 PM on November 28, 2012


"Dear honorable samurai retainer; sneak into the castle, kill the boy prince his sleep, and make it out or not, your family is ass-deep in honor and rice outta my coffers. Go gettem!"

That's pretty much the only way I could get anywhere in Nobunaga's Ambition. Man, that was a tough NES game.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:10 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice try, angrycat. We know that the chair is where you stash all of your deadly weapons.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:33 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice try, angrycat. We know that the chair is where you stash all of your deadly weapons.

I'm picturing some sort of Ben Hur contraption.
posted by arcticseal at 6:44 AM on November 29, 2012


Nice try, angrycat. We know that the chair is where you stash all of your deadly weapons.

I'm picturing some sort of Ben Hur contraption.


She stuntin' like Boudicca. Who's simultaneously a ninja. From Philly.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:43 PM on November 29, 2012


(blushes)
posted by angrycat at 4:53 PM on November 29, 2012


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