Fujibayashi Nagato, also known as Momichi Tanbo
(c. 1560 – c. 1610)
Fujibayashi was jonin (leader) of the Koga ninja family that dwelt in a region controlled by the daimyo Sasaki Rokkaku. He and his ninjas were known to have fought alongside their daimyo in his warring with Oda Nobunaga. However, in the early chronicle of ninjas known as the Bansenshukai, there is a record of Momichi Sandayu having fought against Nobunaga during his 1581 invasion of Iga Province, but there is no record of Fujibayashi having also fought. Curiously, the Bansenshukai was edited by a descendant of Fujibayashi and so omission was either intentional or Nagato was not a ninja. Also, in other records of ninja families there is no mention of the Momichi clan. This confusion leads people to believe that Fujibayashi was an alias of Momichi, thus making one man the head of both the Iga and the Koga ninjas.
Gamon Doshi, also known as Fujiwara Tikata (sometimes spelled Fujivara Tikata)
(c. 1030 – c. 1100)
There are few facts known about Gamon Doshi. He was a yamabushi (Chinese mystic priest) who traveled to Japan, where he encountered General Ikai (also of China). He trained under Ikai, absorbing his knowledge of warfare, combat methods, strategy and military technology. He was also taught the arts of koshijutsu(striking muscle and nerve points) and hityo no kakuregata (“flying bird” camouflage method). Gamon received all of this knowledge and transmitted it to his own student, Garyu Doshi. Gamon Doshi is considered to be one of the fathers on ninjutsu for his part in transmitting the arts to the generation after his own.
Doshi means “moralist” and it is present in the names of many early ninja: Garyu Doshi, Kakuun Doshi, Karakure Doshi, etc.
(c. 1100 – c. 1155)
There is little known about Hachiryu Nyudo other than he was a link in the early ninjutsu lineage. He was taught by Garyu Doshi, and in turn he taught Tozawa Hakuunsai, the first Soke of Gyokko Ryu Ninjutsu.
Hachiryu is given credit for inventing the secret ninja weapon known as a kyoketsu-shogei, meaning “running the mountain” or “a high jump.” The weapon was a length of cord attached on one end to an iron ring and on the other to a knife. The knife could be spun out or launched at opponents, yet never leave the ninja’s control, while the ring could be used to block incoming attacks. The original idea was that the kyoketsu-shogei allowed a ninja to strike further than a sword’s length, making those weapons less useful against them, while providing a further method of defense.
Kato Danjo, also known as Tobikato or “jumping Kato”
(c. 1530 – c. 1575)
A master of Kumogakure Ryu Ninjutsu leaping and jumping methods, Danjo was nicknamed “jumping Kato” or Tobikato. He is legendary for his attempts to gain a high position with the warlord Uesugi Kenshin. He first demonstrated his genjutsu, or arts of illusion, for Kenshin, but the warlord wanted a further test. He sent the ninja to steal a scroll and a serving girl from one of his top generals. Upon successfully returning from the task, Kenshin still wasn’t satisfied, so Danjo went to find work for Takeda Shingen, a rival warlord to Kenshin. However, Shingen was afraid that Danjo was a double agent and he ordered the ninja assassinated.
The name of Kato Danjo has been associated with the Iga Ryu ninjas because his name is included in a short history of the Omi Province. It is also said that he was employed by the Oda clan and was married to an aunt of daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Kumogakure Hoshi, also known as Heinaizaemon Ienaga Iga
(c. 1510 – c. 1550)
Kumogakure Hoshi was born in the early 1500s as Heinaizaemon Ienaga Iga. He grew up with close connections to the Iga Ryu and eventually reached prominence in that group (according to some he was the founder of the Iga Ryu). In 1532 he established Kumogakure Ryu Ninjutsu, or the “hiding in the clouds” school. He served as the first Soke (headmaster of the style) from 1532 until 1534.
Many of the elements of the style are said to have come about by shipboard training. One specialty of the style was use of the kamayari, which was, as the name implies, a sickle at the end of a spear and it was designed for climbing the sides of ships, but it could also be used to trap blades and control incoming swords. Another specialty was leaping while fighting. It is said that ninjas trained in this style could leap as much as eight feet into the air. The style also relied upon the use of head butts, known as kikakuken or “demon’s horn strike,” forearm striking, known as kote uchi, and double blocks and strikes. These ninjas further trained in survival techniques, such as making fire in wet weather, and parts of their training could be likened to the taijutsu and philosophies of escape and evasion techniques in Togakure Ryu. One final element that made this style unique is that its ninja would occasionally wear demon masks.
From the Kumogakure Ryu we have the expression “like a shadow behind the moon appearing after the clouds.”
Ukifune Jinnai, also known as Kempati Dzinnai
(c. 1555 – c. 1590)
Ukifune is famous for two reasons: he was a dwarf and he assassinated daimyo Uesugi Kenshin. Ukifune is rumored to have stood 2’ 11” high, or just under one meter. The legend that surrounds him is that on April 14, 1578 he hid in a toilet until Uesugi sat above him, at which point he brought a spear up and into the warlord’s rectum leading to Uesugi’s death. It is further rumored that the ninja prepared himself for the task by sleeping many nights in an earthenware jug
As the story goes, Oda Nobunaga and Uesugi Kenshin were both using teams of ninjas to assassinate each other and to sabotage each other’s strongholds. Oda sent a ninja team led by Ukifune Kenpachi, a master of fukiya (or blowguns), into Uesugi’s stronghold to slay him. Uesugi had a ninja guardian named Kasumi Danjo, an expert in the art of deception, watching over the stronghold. Kenpachi had a stratagem and on the night of April 14, 1578 he snuck his team into the stronghold and led the guardian ninjas all the way into Uesugi’s private rooms. Once in those rooms, they ambushed the guardians with a volley of poisoned fukibari (or blow darts) and killed their four pursuers. Kenpachi continued his mission and made it into the sleeping quarters of Uesugi. As he crept up to the bed of the sleeping daimyo, he was grabbed from behind and had his neck snapped. The other three ninjas were quickly defeated in their surprise. Kasumi Danjo hadn’t died from the fukibari ambush after all; he merely feigned death and managed to slay the infiltrators. However, what Kasumi and Uesugi didn’t know, though, was that alongside of the group of assassins was sent a lone assassin: Ukifune Jinnai.
While Kenpachi had the guardians distracted, Jinnai made his way to his own destination. He crept into Uesugi’s lavatory and down into his toilet, using a snorkel for air. The next morning, the warlord came in and as he was excreting he received a spear thrust into his rectum. The warlord howled with agony, for the wound didn’t kill him instantly. As Uesugi was bent in hideous pain, the ninja emerged from the excrement and found his way out of the stronghold to his hidden cache of clean clothes and to report a successful mission. Upon retelling the tale to his boss, Oda Nobunaga is rumored to have exclaimed, “Now the empire is mine.” Uesugi died four days after receiving his wound, leaving Oda one less serious challenger to the throne.