Ninja Biographies

Mochizuki Chiyome

Chiyome was the wife of Mochizuki Moritoki, who was killed in the Battle of Kawanakajima in September 1561. Chiyome’s husband Moritoki was the ruler of Mochizuki Castle in Kitasaku Province in Nagano, and his family tree included Kōga Ninja.

After the death of her husband, Chiyome retired to an old house in Nezu village in Nagano Shinshu’s Chiisagata province. She was asked to become the leader of the Miko (female Shintō shrine members) spy ring that operated in the Kai and Shinano areas. Chiyome gathered orphaned and runaway girls from various areas around her and trained them as Miko virgins and also as kunoichi (female Ninja) Ninja agents for the Takeda family. The kunoichi jōnin (head of a Ninja Ryū) evaluated the talents, traits, and character of her girls in order to use them in the right place.

Fuma Kotaro

Born in Sagami Prefecture, Kotaru was a fifth-generation jōnin of Fuma-Ryū-Ninjutsu. He and his 200 retainers, called rappa or suppa (battle interrupters), worked as a guerrilla gang in support of the Hōjō family of Odawara. Fuma Kotaro’s most famous battle took place in March 1581, when the large forces of Takeda Shingen’s son Katsuyori attacked the Hōjō fortress. Takeda built his fortress at Ukishimagahara, and the Hōjō established their camp opposite, on the other side of the Osegawa River. The Fuma groups crossed the river and attacked the Takeda forces several times during the night, throwing the Takeda camp into chaos and disorder with their Ninja tactics.

The story of the battle is described in the Hōjō Godaiki volume. By the time of the Tokugawabakufu, the Fuma group was nothing more than a band of pirates roaming the inner seas.

Saiga Magoichi

Born with the surname Suzuki, Magonichi was the leader of the Kishu Saiga Ninja group. A master of Tsuda-Ryū and Saiga-Ryū, with skills in explosives and firearms, he established his headquarters on the Saiga headland, recruiting his men from the ji Samurai (local Samurai) from around Saiga Castle. They had 2000 rifles, a large collection at the time, and they had many good snipers. Because of this, they received a lot of support and goodwill from the regional rulers.

Magoichi was involved in the battle of Naniwa Kanzakigawa alleys, in which Oda Nobunaga, the archrival of all Ninja also participated. Saiga Magoichi developed the tactic shaki no jutsu (flag throwing) to win the battle. The Saiga group left their own flags behind and took their new position with fake flags of Nobunaga. Nobunaga’s troops saw them as allies. In those days, such tactics were considered scandalous and cowardly. But the Ninja were forbidden to fight anyway, so they could use any tactic. Magoichi’s strategy was surprising attacks combined with highly effective firearm attacks.

A devout Buddhist, Saiga Magoichi continued his fight against Oda Nobunaga, the oppressor of Buddhism, until his death.

Suginobo Minsan

Born Tsuda Minsan Kanmotsu, he took the monk name Suginobo Minsan. Legends say that he was the founder of the Negoro Ryū and was a talented firearms expert.

Minsan’s brother was also a famous figure in the history of the introduction of firearms in the late 15th century. Minsan had heard rumors of a firearms demonstration in Tanegashima and traveled to the place. Suginobo Minsan was shown a koshizashi (hip-held cannon), which he took to the blacksmith to have a copy made for him. Thereafter, the sōhei (Buddhist fighting monks) prided themselves on their shooting skills and were known as capable marksmen.

In March 1585, Toyotomi Hideyoshi attacked the Negoro Temple with 25,000 men because he had been defeated by the Negoro group the previous year. Minsan fought bravely, but he had to fight Mashita Nagamori, who defeated and killed him.

Sugitani Zenjubo

Zenjubo was the eldest son of Sugitani Yototsugu, who was the jōnin of the 53 Kōga Ninja families. Zenjubo was talented in the use of firearms and was recruited by Rokkaku Takayori as a sniper against Oda Nobunaga. On May 19, 1570, Zenjubo lay waiting to kill Nobunaga with two bullets, but the bullets only hit his shoulder butt and did not wound the cruel general. Sugitani Zenjubo then fled to the mountains of Omi Prefecture to hide.

After four years of running away from his enemy, he was finally caught. Nobunaga tortured Zenjubo until he admitted and revealed the assassination. After that, the Kōga Ninja was tortured to death for six days.

Kato Danzo

It is believed that Kato was a Ninja of Iga-Ryū because his name appears in the book Omikoku Yoshiryaku (Short History of Omi Province). There is a famous theory that he was born in Ibaraki Prefecture. Danzo’s nickname as a Ninja was Tobikato, or Jumping Kato because he is believed to be a master in the Ninjutsu jumping techniques.

In order to obtain a high position in the troop of the warlord Uesugi Kenshin, he appeared to Kenshin and demonstrated his genjutsu art of illusion. Kenshin wanted to test him further, so Kato used his skills of invisibility and secretly entered a castle of Kenshin’s best general and stole a valuable scroll and a maid. When Uesugi still refused to hire him, he offered his services to rival Takeda Shingen. But Takeda also refused to hire him because he suspected he was a double agent of Uesugi. It is said that Takeda ordered his henchman Tsuchiya Heihachiro to kill Kato and solve the problem.

Kido Yazaemon

In the fall of 1579, this Iga-Ryū Ninja and firearms expert attempted a clandestine assassination of Oda Nobunaga, the enemy of all Ninja. The assassination failed, but it was mentioned in the book Iranki on the conquest of Iga.

Igasaki Dojun

Although the dates of Dojun’s birth and death are uncertain, it is known that he was born in Tateoka in Iga Province, so people called him Tateoka no Dojun. Igasaki Dojun is said to have been the founder of the 49 Ninjutsu Ryū of Iga, and his stories are recorded in the first volume of the Bansenshūkai.

Rokkaku Yoshitaka, from Sasaki in the Omi region, used Dojun’s help to defeat Dodo, who had betrayed Rokkaku. Dojun took 44 Iga Ninja and 4 Koga Ninja with him to give Rokkaku victory. It is said that to enter the fortress, Dojun and his men used paper lanterns painted with the enemies’ family crests, and also used bakemonojutsu (spirit arts).


Born in the Chiisagata Prefecture of Shinshu, Kumawaka (young bear) is said to have been a genin (performing Ninja) of the Kōga-Ryū, allied with Takeda Shingen. The Takeda family had a force of 70 suppa (Ninja guerrillas), and 30 of them were assigned in groups of 10 to Takeda’s three generals. This allowed them to better gather intelligence in their target area.

In the Battle of Wariga Toge (1561), Kumawaka’s general Idomi Toramasa divided his army in two but then realized that he had forgotten his battle banners. A master in the Ninjutsu sneaking and running techniques, Kumawaka ran all the way back to Kumawaka’s fortress to retrieve the flags, all in just four hours. In those four hours, he managed to get the flags out of the castle, even though the guards did not know him as one of their own. During the battle, Shingen’s precious book, the Kokin Wakashu was stolen, and Kumawaka was suspected. He found the real thief and returned Takeda’s book.

Ishikawa Goemon

Although neither the Iga nor the Kōga families would call him one of their own because he used Ninjutsu to steal for himself, the list of historical Ninja would not be complete without him. There have been many theories as to where he was born, but no confirmed knowledge. Three famous theories say he was born in Kamamatsu in Enshu, Oshu’s Shirakawa, or Ishikawa village in Iga province.

Originally he was a genin of Iga-Ryū, but he was scalded to death in boiling oil on August 24, 1594. Although Ishikawa Goemon’s name does not appear in the Bansenshūkai, he often appears in the novellas and in the theater as the greatest thief of all time. Today Goemon is the hero in numerous manga films and is admired by many children and young people.

Text: Stefan Imhoff