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Momochi Sandayu

Momochi Sandayu Tensho, also known as Momochi Tanba no Kami and Momochi Tanba Yasumitsu
(c. 1525 – c. 1585)

Sandayu is known as one of the founders of Iga ryu ninjutsu, and trained many of the most famous ninjas of the day (among them are Hattori Hanzo and Ishikawa Goemon). He used many aliases and thus his history is as mysterious as a ninja leader’s history should be. He is thought to have had three homes, each with a different family. He is also thought to have gone by the name of Fujibayushi Nagato, thus making him master of the Koga ninjas as well as the Iga.

Momochi was the head of many households, but his main home was at Ryuguchi in Nabari City, Iga Province, where he was a leading man. He is also thought to have had a home in Takiguchi-Jo and to have had a home and ninja training camp in Hojiro in Ueno City.

Iga Province was said to be controlled by three ninja clans with Fujibayushi in the north, Hattori in the center, and Momochi in the south. It was in his camp at Hojiro that Momochi trained his famous Iga ninjas and controlled the southern end of the province. However, ninjas weren’t passive and as the Christian warlord Oda Nobunaga began his ascent to power, he found he was challenged by Momochi and his ninjas.

The Iga ninjas had been working secretly to affect the future of Japan. Oda Nobunaga, in his efforts to gain control of the warring nation, had felt the military power of the Iga ninjas. He knew of the success of their operations, and saw the Iga ninjas gaining in popularity. However, the Iga ninjas had exposed themselves, having shed their secrecy to affect change in Japan. Determined to defeat them, in 1579 he sent his son Oda Nobuo into Iga on a mission to destroy all ninjas. It was a battle between the most powerful force in Japan and the most powerful ninja family. The Iga region is humid and mountainous, and the ninja lair was so far and deep into the region as to make it virtually inaccessible. In addition, Nobuo saw the ninja hideouts as being so remote as to make them politically and militarily insignificant. Oda Nobua suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Iga ninjas.

Mortified at having lost face to the ninja clan, Nobunaga launched an extermination campaign in 1581, known as the battle of Tensho Iga no Ran. He sent in 10,000 soldiers to annihilate the Iga ninjas. The sheer number of attackers and their use of fire to burn their foes into the open was more than the Iga ninjas could handle. The ninjas fought as hard as they could, and wounded Nobunaga with a cannon shot, but ultimately the ninjas lost. The Iga ryu were decimated. Those who didn’t die fled instead. Momochi Sandayu managed to cheat death. The survivors scattered to the wind. Many of the remaining Iga joined forces with Tokugawa Ieyasu.

After the invasion, Momochi went east to the Kii Province, where he took up a disguise as a farmer until he heard word of Nobunaga’s death on June 10, 1582. Upon his return to the Iga region, he found the Iga ninjas so terribly fractured that there was no brining the Momochi supporters together with the Hattori supporters. There was infighting between the two groups and the situation grew dire. It led to a duel to the death between the two jonin – master versus student. The duel ended with youth beating experience. After his victory, Hattori had his master and his lodging burned and his remains buried. In the 1960s Momochi’s grave was discovered on a hill near the Nabari village, on the old family grounds, at the foot of Oka-One Mountain.

During his life, Momochi was the founder of the Iga Ryu, as well as the soke (leader) of the Momochi Ryu, Koto Ryu, and the Gyokko Ryu. He fought with unorthodox styles designed to make his opponents think he was unskilled. When fighting he would reflect light into opponents’ eyes, strike them in a pressure point, then maneuver in for a kill or a lock. If in fact he was also Fujibayushi Nagato, he would have been soke of the Koga ninjas, and thus responsible for even more famous ninja deeds.

The name of Momochi Sandayu does not appear on any historical documents, but it is known that the Momichi families did participate in the battle of Tensho Iga no Ran in 1581.


Ninjutsu is not something which should be used for personal desires. It is something which should be used when no other choice is available, for the sake of one’s country, for the sake of one’s lord, or to escape personal danger. If one deliberately uses it for the sake of personal desires, the techniques will indeed fail totally.


Quotes attributed to Momochi Sandayu

“Ninjutsu is not something which should be used for personal desires. It is something which should be used when no other choice is available, for the sake of one’s country, for the sake of one’s lord, or to escape personal danger. If one deliberately uses it for the sake of personal desires, the techniques will indeed fail totally.”

“Beware of those who would seek to divide, for all of us have more that is alike than not. Those who would seek to divide have darkness in their heart.”

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