bureaucracy, under the leadership of Prince Shotoku ( a . d . 574–622). The mainland culture that the Japanese adopted included the Chinese writing system (kanji), as well as the Buddhist religion. However, the introduction of a strange religion immediately caused friction with the priests and followers of the native Shinto faith, leading to a struggle that endured for the next two centuries. Along with political institutions and religion, the Japanese imported other aspects of Chinese culture, including the martial arts and classic Chinese military texts, such as Suntzu's Art of War (c. 400 b . c . ). This military manual describes two types of war: the tactics of battle and open warfare, and what would now be called “covert” operations, agitation, and espionage. It is likely that the ninja families obtained copies of the Art of War and used it as the basis for their operations. Another version of ninja origins claims that they learned their techniques from exiles escaping from the collapse of China's T'ang Dynasty ( a . d . 618–906). These escapees hid in the mountains south of Kyoto, where they passed on their secrets to the yamabushi, mountain warrior- ascetics who practiced an occult form of Buddhism called Mikkyo (or Shugendo). With as many as 50 ninja clans, it is highly unlikely that there is a single explanation for the emergence of ninjutsu. Some ninja may have been the descendants of yamabushi or of Chinese exiles; while others were probably samurai who had lost their status after their lords had been defeated in battle, and they themselves had become ronin Right: The ninja's trademark black outfit and fearsome arsenal of weapons, which seems so exotic to us today, was developed in feudal Japan. Many of the ninja's weapons were the agricultural implements of the day.


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