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14H01-Seppuku.jpg

Seppuku: Ritual Suicide in Samurai Japan

by Susan Spann Seppuku (sometimes also referred to as hara-kiri) is a form of Japanese ritual suicide. Many Westerners recognize this Japanese form of suicide, in which a person (often, but not always, male) slits his own stomach with [...]
14E30 Hokusai sketch (ninja)(public domain) copy

Shinobi Shuko: the Ninja’s Climbing Claws

by Susan Spann Ninjas are famous for climbing walls with the ease and grace of a spider. According to legend, ninjas could scale even impossibly high, completely polished surfaces with ease. Some myths even claimed they could fly. In reality, [...]
14H01 Seppuku

Seppuku: Ritual Suicide in Samurai Japan

by Susan Spann Seppuku (sometimes also referred to as hara-kiri) is a form of Japanese ritual suicide. Many Westerners recognize this Japanese form of suicide, in which a person (often, but not always, male) slits his own stomach with a sword, [...]
14F27 Medieval Scene

Shuriken: the Ninja Star

by Susan Spann If I asked you to name a ninja weapon, the most common answers would be a sword and a shuriken, which many people call a “throwing star.” In reality, “shuriken” translates “behind-the-hand knife” [...]
Kunoichi-Cats-Claw

Japan’s Female Ninjas: the Kunoichi

By Susan Spann The Hollywood ninja dresses in black, appears from the shadows, and strikes without warning. He’s also usually male. In reality, not all ninjas were male, and they didn’t all lurk in shadows. Female ninjas, called [...]
14F13 Yoshitoshi

The Seven Disguises Used by Real Ninjas

By Susan Spann Hollywood likes to portray the ninja in black pajamas, scaling a roof to assassinate a samurai. In reality, ninjas, also called shinobi, were more like spies. Assassinations played a role (as did those famous dark pajamas) [...]
Sandaime Onoe Kikugorō no Ōboshi Yuranosuke

Ninja Swords: Better Than Just a Blade

Real ninjas needed lightweight, concealable weapons which also served a multitude of purposes. With limited space and weight available, ninjas (also known as shinobi) generally opted for multi-use weapons, and carried only those most likely [...]
14E30 Hokusai sketch (ninja)(public domain) copy

Real Ninjas Wore Black … Or Did They?

By Susan Spann Popular culture often depicts the ninja as a hooded, black-clad man with a sword in one hand and a shuriken in the other – silent, lethal, and invisible against the midnight sky. Unfortunately, the Hollywood version of [...]
Samurai in Hakama (public domain)

Know Your Ninjas – Shinobi Spies of Medieval Japan

by Susan Spann Ninjas are a popular part of 21st century culture. We see them in films and on television, in Internet memes, and even on chocolates and coffee mugs – but how much do you know about who ninjas really were? In medieval Japan, [...]