Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Iga vs Koga Shinobi

Iga vs Koka Shinobi

   Shinobi existed throughout Japan but these two villages of Iga and Koka (now called Koga) became the breeding centers for the history's most furious ninja including Hattori Hanzō, Fujibayashi Nagato, Momochi Sandayu, Fuma Kotaro and Natori Masatake. The reason for this is that the two regions were independent of the shogunate rule and didn't have a shugo (governor appointed by Shogun) to oversee them (if existed then only by name). Hence in these villages, respective clans formed alliance to have free rein and appoint their own leader by mutual consultation. Thus they were independent to form their own armies and strong fortresses as per way they wished.
   These two villages were among the first one to receive the teachings of ninjutsu. They also had geographically the best location and environment for the growth of ninja and ninjutsu. On top of all, it was all for the wonders of ninjutsu that two villages enjoyed independence from the discriminant law and taxes that other villages faced and gained such importance which otherwise could not be achieved due to regions' small population and limited resources, thus it became their way of life. 
   The two villages had long lasting rivalry and they often fought against each other for various reasons which further helped them improve in their skills. Ninjas from the two villages competed in whose tradition is the older and whose skills are the best and also in gaining the trust and acknowledgement of the higher ups quickly and more. This post presents a comparison of the way of ninja of the two villages. Here are some of the interesting differences to see:

1. Inheritance of ninjutsu: This was always a matter of debate between Iga and Koga that 'Who was the first between the Iga and Koka clans to receive the teachings of ninjutsu?' and/or 'whose tradition of ninjutsu is much older?'. Iga shinobi said that Iga was the first one to adopt ninjutsu and that their (Iga's) tradition of ninjutsu is much older than Koka tradition while Koka shinobi claimed the other way and they both made hard efforts on proving the other wrong by linking the history of ninjutsu to the Age of Gods -myths from Shinto Bhuddism. However the truth is that both shared the same lineage of ninjutsu through Minamoto no Kanesada who was also the second grandmaster of Togakure-ryu and although he (Kanesada) received his training in ninjutsu in Iga region from the monks of Hakuun-ryu, he moved to Koka to teach their his teachings of ninjutsu. Thus even if this event occured in Iga region, Koka people were the first one to receive ninjutsu training between the two. This is also the reason that we find the 5th grandmaster of Togakure-ryu named 'Koga Kisanta' who was from Koka region. It was through Koka that these teachings transferred into Iga. Actually, it happened that the people of Koka were mostly low level soldiers and farmers with small independent lands, upon which multiple attempts were made by some warlords and generals to gain this independent land to their name. Thus to seek protection for their families and property, Koka shinobi made an oath of 'Ichigun Ichimi' (One Force, One District/Clan) with Iga which shared similar conditions but some of the Iga people were eminent samurai having good ranks in the office of the Shogun and/or Daimyó. Through this oath, the forces of Iga would provide security and assistance to Koka, in the hour of need, while, Koka shinobi taught them in the art of ninjutsu and while this art was still reforming, any progress made by Iga would also be taught to the shinobi of Koka village and similarly by Koka to Iga. This has also been quoted by master Natori Sanjurō Masatake as, "If I come to where you are, you should show me everything of your province, and if you come to where I am, I will show you everything about my province". Part of this written oath list was lost and forgotten by the later generations.

2. In the Use of Tools: Iga shinobi would carry many tools with them while Koka shinobi criticized this. Rather, Koka shinobi would prefer carrying one or few multipurpose tools which can be handy at several points of a mission. Koka shinobi preferred to depend more on personal skill rather than using tools for every single purpose. Rokugu-The 6 Basic Shinobi Tools were still given equal importance by both Iga and Koka shinobi and differences existed between the design and size or extent of the same type of tool not only between Iga and Koka but even between families in the same village.

3. Divine Arts: This is one more aspect of the art in which that the shinobi of Koka differed themselves from the shinobi of Iga probably because of the differences between the beliefs. Most of the Koka people followed Shinto Bhuddism while the Iga people followed Zen Bhuddism and also Confucianism. That's why when it comes to divine arts i.e gaining empowerment or help through belief or worship of God(s), Koka shinobi used such techniques as to pray to a deity for help and Iga people would depend on the use of psychic abilities they may have gained through enlightenment from meditation and since it takes a lot of time, many would use shortcuts such as black magic (adopted from Chinese manuals based on teachings from India which in themselves have origins in Babylonia) to get help from the invisible forces of nature and those who failed even at this would use other deceptive techniques. Iga shinobi felt no shame in its use, however Koka shinobi claimed to despise the use of magic and conjuring though they can still be found using it in somewhat manner.

4. Physical Techniques: Unlike common depiction, it's mandatory for every shinobi to avoid fighting without raising attention however sometimes you may get detected and fighting may become inevitable. When detected, a Koka shinobi would prefer to flee at all costs and depending on the contents of contract and importance of the mission, he may even prefer to commit suicide thus avoiding capture by burning himself along with items of evidence of his ninja activity and affiliation, when there's no way out. They (Koka shinobi) did have fighting techniques at hand but it was common for them to not fight since this may leave further tracks of evidence. However, Iga shinobi may call for an open fight and would prefer to die an honorable death if the situation called for it, since they had the honor of being a samurai too. This was common behavior and not true to every individual. In physical techniques, Iga shinobi were good with many weapons and tools, while Koka shinobi were good at unarmed fighting, reason of which is already given above that Koka shinobi used to depend more on their personal physical skills; another reason was that Iga had more samurai than Koka. Koka shinobi were also better in evasion techniques than Iga. However, what I have said above doesn't mean that Iga shinobi didn't know unarmed body skills (Taijutsu) and Koka shinobi didn't have armed or swordsmanship skills. In unarmed combat (Taijutsu) Iga shinobi mostly practiced Yawara-jutsu (now Jujitsu) aimed at subduing an armored enemy while the unarmed combat of Koka shinobi implemented quick striking methods to quickly knock down an opponent. In armed combat, Iga shinobi were masters of swordsmanship while Koka shinobi were masters of bōjutsu, sōjutsu (spear techniques) and nawajutsu (rope techniques -in latter periods).

5. Shinobi Activities: Mostly Koka ninja were used by contractors to do most of the dirty work (because many Iga ninjas had family affiliations which wouldn't allow them) and prefer them for night activities because they were good at it and they would use Iga ninja for information gathering and likely activities since they were better at it and had far more researching sources and relations in comparison to Koka ninja. The style of carrying out shinobi activities differed from one school or clan to other and much of it was dependent on the situation and prior experience.


  1. Honestly, please just take this down and don't try to write anything more about the subject matter. I can't even begin to count the number of idiotic flaws in what you wrote.

  2. You would do well to listen to Don’s comment above.

  3. i'm wondering how you typed all that and got to click the post button without laughing.


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