The School of the Hidden Door

In 637 Gyoja E’no founded the mikkyō sect on Mount Hiei zan. His disciple Dengyo Daishi founded the Tendai shugendō sect of Buddhism and established its Enryakuji monastery on Mount Hiei zan. These monks still exist today and still practice shugendō or mountain asceticism: purifying one’s self through trial and suffering.

Near Mount, Hiei zan was a small place called Togakure in Shinano Province. Around 1161, Nishina Daisuke was born here into a Samurai family. He studied early at Tendai Monastery on Mount Togakure (Mount Hiei zan) near his village.

These early experiences played an important role as Daisuke later established a system of combat, survival, and infiltration.

It is important to understand the reasons that led to the establishment of Togakure-Ryū ninpō. Nishina Daisuke’s father was Nishina Yukihiro, who was a high-ranking Samurai in the service of Prince Minamoto Yoshinaka, cousin of the first Shogun of Japan.

When Minamoto Yoshinaka was a young child, a Samurai was sent by one of his rivals to kill him and his mother. Yoshinaka’s mother escaped with him and secretly went to the home of a farmer loyal to her family. Later, Yoshinaka was taken to Kiso Village in Shinano, not far from Togakure Village.

Togakure’s Nishina Yukihiro came into his service. Years later, Yoshinaka’s family had defeated their rivals and became rulers of Japan. But Yoshinaka was seen as a threat to leadership and many turned against him. Minamoto Yoshinaka had changed his name to Kiso Yoshinaka, the name of the place where he lived, which was common in the past. In 1184, Yoshinaka was attacked by his half-brother’s army. Sixty thousand Samurai met Yoshinaka’s army near Kyōtō. The battle was called Awaze no Kassan and Kiso Yoshinaka was killed by an arrow in the eye. On his side had fought Nishina Yukihiro of Togakure, who was also killed, and his son Nishina Daisuke, who survived.

Because he was on the losing side, Daisuke had to flee from persecution to distant Iga. He fled to the far-off places hidden in the mists of high mountains and dense forests. He changed his name to Togakure Daisuke, named after the place of his birth.

When he was in Iga, Daisuke was found by Kain Doshi (Kagakure Doshi). Kain Doshi was a shinobi, the third sōke of the Hakuun-Ryū, who was one of the original Ninjutsu systems created from the teachings of the Ikai (Yi Gai, who brought the roots of koshi jutsu from China).

It’s quite possible that Doshi was Daisuke’s uncle and that Daisuke fled to Iga to find him.

Daisuke learned Doshi’s warrior teachings and added them to his own shugendō beliefs, the beginnings of Togakure-Ryū were found. But Daisuke did not study alone under Kain Doshi. With him was Minamoto no Kanesada Shima Kosanta. He was a high-ranking Samurai retainer who had also fought in the Battle of Awaza no Kassan and had become friends with both Daisuke and his father. Shima had been wounded in the battle and was taken to Iga by Daisuke. He was to become the second sōke of the Togakure-Ryū. After Daisuke’s death, he took the name Togakure Daisuke II. His son Togakure Goro, the third Soke, changed the teachings of Togakure into the Ninjutsu system that is still taught today. The 11th, 12th, and 13th sōke of the Ryū were named after the capital of Iga Ueno.

It is said that the members of the Hattori clan practiced the Togakure-Ryū. Hattori Hanzo is the most famous of all Ninja. The members of the Momochi family also practiced this system, and the 21st sōke of the Togakure-Ryū was Momochi Kobei, a descendant of Momochi Sandayu, the second famous Ninja and a leading figure of the Iga region.

As in most martial arts, control remained within the family that invented the style and was passed down from father to son. The Togakure-Ryū followed this custom until the 16th century. When the immediate kin died out, it was Toda Nobutsuna, the system’s foremost member, who was put in charge of the Ryū and became the 24th sōke.

When the Toda took control around 1625, they added their Ninjutsu system, the Kumogakure-Ryū. They also controlled the Gyokko-Ryū and Koto-Ryū, and from then on these systems were inherited together.

The 32nd sōke of the Togakure-Ryū, Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu, was a swordsmanship instructor of the Tokugawa bakufu in the mid-19th century.

He resigned from this post when he realized that the men he taught swordplay would later kill other Japanese. This was against the law of Togakure-Ryū. The 33rd sōke, Takamatsu Toshitsugu, was the last member of the Toda family to control the Togakure-Ryū. Almost a millennium has passed since the founding of the Tendai shugendō sect.

Sanpo Hiden

The Three Secret Treasures of Togakure-Ryū

  • Senbanshuriken – The throwing star had four points. It was also used as a tool. Carpenters used it to remove the nails.
  • Shukō – These claws were used for both climbing and fighting.
  • Shindake – A bamboo cane, a little over a meter long, used for underwater breathing or as a blowpipe.

Code of the Ninja of Togakure

Alex Lokanov, a dan wearer from Russia, researched the following saying:

The stars are my eyes,
The wind is my ears,
The night is my clothing,
The cold is my mind,
The shadow is my essence.
My strength is my persistent striving,
Deferential courtesy with teachers is my inner warmth.
My violence is myself,
The iron is my body,
My decisions are my law!
My mind is my only friend,
Disgust is my enemy
The freedom to take and give life is my strategy.
Seizing a moment is my opportunity.
The law of the universe is my only treasure.
Adaptability is my basic law.
The unassailability of the wind is my way of fighting.
The resourcefulness of the mind is my happiness.
Feeling at home is my armor.
Serenity is my fortress.
Understanding the essentials without reflection is my sword.

Sōke of the Togakure-Ryū

  1. Togakure (Nishina) Daisuke
  2. Minamoto no Kanesada Shima Kosanta
  3. Togakure Goro
  4. Togakure Kosanta
  5. Togakure Kisanta
  6. Kaneko Tomoharu
  7. Togakure Ryuho
  8. Togakure Gakuun
  9. Kido Koseki
  10. Iga Tenryu
  11. Ueno Rihei
  12. Ueno Senri
  13. Ueno Manjiro
  14. Iizuka Saburo
  15. Sawada Goro
  16. Ozaru Ippei
  17. Kimata Hachiro
  18. Kataoka Heizaemon
  19. Mori Ugenta
  20. Toda Gobei
  21. Kobe Seiun
  22. Momochi Kobei
  23. Tobari Tenzen
  24. Toda Nobutsuna Seiryu
  25. Toda Nobuchika Fudo
  26. Toda Kangoro Nobuyasu
  27. Toda Eisaburo Nobumasa
  28. Toda Shinbei Masachika
  29. Toda Shingoro Masayoshi
  30. Toda Daigoro Chikahide
  31. Toda Daisaburo Chikashige
  32. Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu
  33. Takamatsu Toshitsugu
  34. Hatsumi Masaaki
Togakure Ryû Taijutsu no Kata: Bujinkan Budô Densho

Text: Stefan Imhoff