As far back as time can tell, people have been in love with the myth and lore of ninjas. I know countless people who idealize them. I also know people who believe in the older ways of the samurai, and the respect they get. I’ve always loved them both, but wondered what the real difference was between a ninja and a samurai.
First, let’s examine our said ninja.
The ninja or otherwise known as, ‘shinobi’, first started to appear in the Sengoku period in the 15th century. The most written about training that was used in reference to ninja training is ‘Ninjutsu’, which’s mainly a training in survival skills and in avoiding detection. Ninjas didn’t always work alone, as it was common for them to use teamwork, climbing walls or surprise attacks. Their espionage came in to play by using what they’d learned to complete advantage.
Ninjas had an arsenal of stealth weapons at their disposal. The preferred weapon was the katana, but shorter swords and daggers were used. Darts, spikes, and knives were all highly important for them. Customized bows where made for the sharpshooting ninja, and a frequent weapon used was the Kusarigama, a chain and sickle that could be claimed as tools for gardening if caught.
Now, let’s examine our said samurai.
Samurai warriors where much less shadow and deceit. It was during the Heian period that they began to show. Regional leaders began to combine their personal guards into groups that would become samurai. Unlike the ninja, the samurai were expected to be aristocrats and educated like one.
Samurai have gone through a variety of weapons, from the straight edged blade of the basic Japanese sword, to the katana. They also had companion swords, and were usually seen wearing a long sword with either a Tanto or Wakizashi. This became a symbol for the samurai as their prestige grew. The Yumi, Niganata, Yari, and the Tanegashima, Japanese matchlock, were all weapons the samurai was expected to master and train with at great lengths.
The stealthy ninja, spy and assassin of the wealthiest lords. The honorable samurai, trained and adapted to the command of their liege lord. Both a trained killer, paid by the warring ancient ruler of Japan. But completely different in skill and purpose. Which would you prefer to have on your side, the silent ninja or the well trained samurai?