Ninja History

“Ninjutsu did not come into being as a specific well defined art in the first place, and many centuries passed before ninjutsu was established as an independent system of knowledge in its own right. Ninjutsu developed as a highly illegal counter culture to the ruling Samurai elite, and for this reason alone, the origins of the art were shrouded by centuries of mystery, concealment, and deliberate confusion of history” The Historical Ninja by Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi

When you begin to look at the history of ninjutsu you quickly realize there is no easy place to begin. The earliest roots of ninjutsu don’t exactly look like the ninjutsu we all think of as ninjutsu and that doesn’t look anything like the ninjutsu practiced in modern times. The earliest ninjas, or proto-ninjas, were links in a changing martial arts history just as we Homo sapiens sapiens are links in a changing human history. To make the task more difficult, there were a variety of ninja schools (known as ryu) and each has its own place in the history. In fact, some of the schools were at odds with some of the other schools. In each case, we will attempt to reach as far back into a ryu’s history to its basis in proto-ninjutsu. As the timeline advances and each ryu is described as it forms, we will attempt to weave them together into the comprehensive ninja wars that take place in the late 1500s and early 1600s, before ninjutsu vanished. It is not our desire to pursue the history of ninjas into their most hidden times.

Nara Period: 710 – 784 AD

It is widely accepted that ninjutsu is not native to Japan, but rather that it has its origins in China. During the Nara Period, China was in a state of constant civil warring. Many Chinese warriors, scholars, and monks expatriated to the sanctuary of Japan. They brought with them the accumulated wisdom of Chinese religious philosophies, folklore, culture, medicine, and military strategies. Many of them traveled across Japan, pollinating the land with their knowledge.

One of the monks that fled to Japan was En no Gyoja, the founder of shugendo. Shugendo is a philosophical lifestyle whereby its practitioners (called shugenja or yamabushi) lead a rural, sometimes hermitic life in the mountains, seeking spiritual fulfillment through austerity and trial. Shugenja are thought to be the forefathers of ninjas because many of the ways of shugenja are also the ways of ninjas. It is thought that En no Gyoja was a Lin Kuei, or forest demon. During this time period, the Lin Kuei were a loose band of Chinese forest bandits who lived by theft, threat and cunning. According to some, the Lin Kuei were responsible for developing ninjutsu. En no Gyoja is often credited with having formed the Fuma Ryu ninjas during the 710s or 720s AD.

Heian Period: 794-1185 AD

The earliest ninjas are often seen as being not very ninja-like. They were clever warriors or mountaintop mystics who taught philosophy. You can see ninja traits in them, but they are obviously not complete ninjas. In the Heian Period you begin to see the combining of fighting techniques with stealth, movement, and disappearing techniques that really characterize ninjutsu. It is also during this time that different ryu develop.

While the Fuma ninjas evolved from shugenja, the one of most famous clans was the child of a kenpo monk. In the early Heian Period, the Tang Dynasty was collapsing in China. In the late 890s and early 900s there was a princess named Yao Yu Hu in the imperial court of Chang’an (the capital of the Tang Dynasty, sometimes written as Xian). She was well known for her dancing and for her martial arts prowess. In fact, her martial arts skills were so great that according to legend she fought a tiger and killed it with one fist strike, earning her the nickname Koto Oh, or “tiger battling princess.” When the Tang Dynasty collapsed in China in 907 AD, she, along with much of the deposed nobility, fled from the new regime by traveling to Japan. The Japanese version of her name was Yo Gyokko, more commonly referred to as Cho Gyokko.

Gyokko had already adapted her kenpo to work for a woman of her size, and once in Japan she further changed her styles to reflect what she was learning from the Japanese. She allowed her training to become so frequent that she was viewed more as a monk than a princess. In fact, she became so focused upon her art that she even allowed her appearance to degrade and she was often thought to be a man. She continued to alter and formalize her style until it became part of the core of Japanese martial arts. Near the end of her life, Gyokko took a pupil named Cho Buren and transmitted the style on to him.

Meanwhile, there was another Chinese transplant sowing the seeds of ninjutsu. Tatsumaki Hoshi was a Buddhist monk who had left China during the collapse of the Tang Dynasty too. Tatsumaki was a member of the Black Tong Society, which was a Chinese fraternal band of outlaws. Upon his arrival in Japan, he took up residency in a stretch of mountains and began involving himself with the local people and climate. The people he lived with were common, and as such they were not allowed to be trained in certain arts. Tatsumaki was never too concerned with unjust laws, so he began to train the local families in the martial arts he brought from his homeland. One particular student of his was the son of Mochizuki Saburo Kameie.

In 939 AD, Mochizuki had distinguished himself in battle against Taira no Masakado and was rewarded with a parcel of land in the southeast of the Omo province. The land was named Kogagun (map), and when he took up residency he changed his name to Koga Oni no Kami Kameie. His son was named Oni no Kami Iechika, and he studied with Tatsumaki. He was an impressive student in martial arts, military studies, literature arts, and genjutsu (or the art of illusion). Sometime between the years of 939 and 946 AD, Iechika would bring together fifty-three of the local families and begin the Koga Ryu. Iechika’s offspring would be soke, or headmaster, of the ryu for seven generations beyond him before finally spreading to other families.

A few decades after the Koga Ryu was founded, another Chinese notable settled in the mountains near Koga. Ikai i Chan Busho (also known as General Ikai) was a Chinese warlord from the Shitio Province. In 986 AD, his forces were defeated by the warlord of the So Province, and so he fled to Japan. He carried with him his war strategies and his foreign philosophies. Even though he lived out his life in the Ise region, he was not idle. He had encountered Cho Buren, the now-aged pupil of Cho Gyokko, and studied the arts of this new master. General Ikai mixed his own knowledge with that of Gyokko and Buren and developed their martial arts further.

General Ikai taught many people his martial arts, but one student was exceptionally prolific in reteaching them. Gamon Doshi and his pupil, Garyu Doshi, traveled all of Iga teaching the families there the arts that General Ikai had left behind. They taught arts that within a decade would be formalized into the ninja schools of repute. Gamon Doshi is considered by many to be the founder of Iga Ryu in 1065 AD. Iga Ryu is really a gathering of many ninja schools into one term, as the term “liberal arts” refers to many subjects under one heading.

Only a few years after his instructor passed away, Garyu Doshi founded the Hakuun Ryu in 1074 AD. Hakuun Ryu is one of the many schools of Iga Ryu. Garyu taught Hachiryu Nyudo – an expert of kosshijutsu, which is the art of attacking muscles and nerve joints. Hachiryu taught Tozawa Hakuunsai, who formalized Gyokko Ryu in 1156 and is credited with being the first soke. Gyokko Ryu is also one of the schools of Iga Ryu.

In 1178 AD, Lord Hattori Ienaga founded the town and monastery of Iga (map). The monastery was used for training men in the arts of the Iga Ryu.

In 1184, Minamoto no Yoshinaka was in control of the Japanese capital city of Kyoto (map). It was that year, though, that Minamoto was driven from the city by his rival cousin’s forces. As he fled across a frozen rice paddy, the ice gave way under his horse and Yoshinaka was brought to his end. Daisuke was honor-bound to commit seppuku (ritual suicide). The warrior chose not to, instead heading into the hills to live a life of willed hardship. While exiled, he encountered a Chinese yamabushi warrior monk named Kain Doshi, who had been a pupil of Garyu Doshi. Kain taught Daisuke philosophies and their practical applications and changed the way that the once-samurai viewed martial arts. Daisuke changed his name to Togakure Daisuke, after his hometown (map), and adopted the title of ninja. Togakure is credited with being the founder and first soke of the Togakure Ryu sometime in the late 1180s or early 1190s AD.

Also training with Togakure and Kain was another samurai who fought alongside of Togakure at the battle of Awaza no Kassan: Shima Kosanta Minamoto no Kanesada. Shima had been wounded in the battle. Togakure and Shima had been friends and so rather than let his friend perish, he took him into Iga during his flight. Shima would become the second soke, and his son Togakure Goro (named after his friend) would be the third soke and is said to be the one who formalized the style into what it is today.

By the close of the Heian Period, many of the martial disciplines and tactics imported from China had found their way into ninjutsu. The practice of mikkyo, a practice of some schools of Buddhist thought, was spreading rapidly amongst the ninjas. Martial prowess was trained along with stealth and innovation. The only major change the ninjas had yet to incorporate was the concept of fighting in groups or as teams.

Kamakura Period: 1192-1333 AD

There are few documents pertaining to ninjas during the Kamakura Period. Mostly the ninja families took to secrecy and lived their lives defensively, trying to steer clear of the powers that be.

It is during the Kamakura Period that the emperor, the court, and the traditional central government were deposed as the controlling power in Japan, thus beginning the Japanese Middle Ages. The bushi had begun their version of feudalism. The civil, military, and judicial matters were now in their hands, with the most powerful among them being the de facto national ruler.

With power having shifted this way, many people chose to leave their homes and move to the mountainous regions outside of bushi influence. Specifically, people moved to the mountains of the Iga and Koga regions. As seen in the Heian Period, the Iga and Koga Ryu were both either established or well on their way to being established. It is during the Kamakura Period that the ninjas really begin to metamorphose into what most modern people consider ninjas, although they don’t truly reach that plateau until the 15th century.

A main accelerator in the evolution of the ninjas was the way the bushi used their power. They established rules that made it so only they and their retainers had access to certain training and weaponry. Not only were the bushi powerful and controlling, but they were also bellicose. In response to this, the ninja families had to grow in secret. They had to conceal their training. They had to adapt their weapons so that they appeared to be common items rather than weaponry. The ninjutsu families in the Iga and Koga Regions were self-governing and in a strong geographical position, and it was these protections from the bushi world that allowed the ninja to flourish in their secrecy.

Muromachi Period: 1338-1573 AD

The Muromachi Period overlaps with the Sengoku Period of 1467-1615 AD (also called the Warring States Period). It is during the Warring States Period that ninja aficionados claim the “Golden Age of Ninjutsu” occurred. Indeed, it was the period of most intense recorded action for ninjas and included a “ninja war” and ninjas pulling back the shroud of secrecy about themselves. So while the Muromachi Period enters quietly for ninjas, who remain secretly training high in the hills, it ends with the beginning of their involvement in forging Japanese history.

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was the shogun in charge of Japan. Under his rule, he allowed the shogun’s power to be shared by three daimyo, or regional rulers. The three daimyo were intended to help him stabilize Japan but were also expected to keep the shogunate, or bakufu, hereditary, thus keeping an Ashikaga on the throne. After the death of Yoshimitsu, the ability of the Ashikagas to retain power began to dissolve. The daimyo grew in power and insolence, and eventually the shogunate ceased to follow the Ashikaga lineage. While the shogunate was losing authority the daimyo and other warlords were beginning to agitate and fight for more individual power. Japan dissolved into the Ono War, which is the also the beginning of the Warring States Period.

The individual daimyo had individual goals, but most assuredly they all desired power. As it is in modern times it was in ancient times: knowledge is power. As the daimyo grew more sophisticated in their plans and greedier for power, they sought more and more information about their enemies. Espionage and covert warfare were on the agenda. Enter the ninja. According to many modern ninja schools, almost all the famous daimyo of the time were served by ninjas acting as their spies, saboteurs, and assassins. Takeda Shingen was aligned with Sanada Masayuki and his sons, but also with the Koga ninjas to become the most powerful daimyo of his day. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the man who would later rule Japan, was aligned with the Iga ninjas. And the Hojo clan was aligned with the Fuma ninjas, as they had been for centuries.

Sengoku Period: 1467-1615 AD, also known as the Warring States Period

With the end of the Ashikaga shogunate, Japan slipped into civil war. Some of the daimyo established their own independent domains, while others were conquered by their own retainers who in turn became daimyo. The peasants and monks formed their own autonomous groups, called ikko-ikki. It is during the Sengoku Period that some ninja groups abandon their secrecy and war openly in alignment with the daimyo they serve, making for the most exciting portion of ninja history.

The Iga Ryu was dominated by three families. The Fujibayashi clan controlled the northern parts of Iga, the Hattori clan controlled the central parts, and the Momochi clan ruled the southern parts of Iga. Sometime in the first quarter of the 16th century Momochi Sandayu, the famous Iga ninja, was born. His early life is lost to history, but he was known as a distinguished ninja who opened a ninjutsu training camp at Hojiro, and he would train two of the most legendary ninjas of all time.

The first of Sandayu’s famous pupils was Hattori Hanzo, born around 1541 in Mikawa (map). Hanzo was born into a samurai family under the Matsudaira clan (later to become the Tokugawa clan) and was trained as such. However, since the Hattori clan had its familial roots in Iga, Hanzo was sent there as a boy to spend time with that family and to further train. It was on his trips to Iga that he learned the ways of ninjutsu and studied under Momochi Sandayu. It is said that he was so adept that by the age of twelve he was a full-fledged ninja and by the time he turned eighteen he was a master of ninjutsu.

Around the time that Hanzo was first considered a trained ninja, his greatest rival was born. Fumo Kotaro was born in the Sagami province in the early 1550s. There is little information about his early years, but his family was closely aligned with the Hojo clan. As Kotaro grew he would become jonin, or leader, of the Fuma Ryu.

Mochizuki Moritoki was a samurai from Shinano Province and lord of Mochizuki castle (map). In the early 1550s, the daimyo Takeda Shingen conquered Shinano, expelled Murakami Yoshiharu and Ogasawara Nagatoki and brought the Mochizuki clan under his rule. Yoshiharu and Ogasawara turned to the daimyo Uesugi Kenshin for aid. Uesugi brought his armies to the province and over the course of many years his men clashed with the men of Takeda on the plain of Kawanakajima in northern Shinano. The most ferocious battle at Kawanakajima was fought on September 10, 1561, in which Mochizuki Moritoki was mortally wounded. Takeda placed his nephew, Nobumasa, in charge of the Mochizuki clan, but he was defeated in battle and so too was his son. With the death of Nobumasa’s son, the Mochizuki clan’s 600 year history essentially came to an end.

By 1557, Hattori Hanzo was already fighting alongside of his lord, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Hanzo was only sixteen years old and the future shogun was a mere fourteen, but together they were part of a night raid against Uzichijo of Migawa. Hanzo distinguished himself on the battlefield and received the nickname “Hanzo the ghost” and he was recognized by Ieyasu for his exceptional skills.

The next year another legendary ninja was born. In 1558, Ishikawa Goemon entered the world. He was a boy with a liking for mischief, and he took quite well to petty crimes. Goemon was trained by Momichi Sandayu, who would eventually refute that Goemon was part of the Iga Ryu or even that he was a ninja. In fact, Goemon’s name does not appear in the written record of the Iga Ryu.

Lady Mochizuke Chiyome had been the wife of Mochizuki Moritoki and became his widow on September 16, 1561. She was originally from the Koga region and had connections with the ninja clans there. While she was aware of female ninjas, they were a rare breed of strong-willed women who were willing to fight as men for their families and beliefs. After the death of her husband, Chiyome was approached by Takeda Shingen and challenged with the idea of creating a force of female ninjas that were different from those already known. Takeda wanted a force of spies, informants, and messengers who could access an enemy’s fortresses and thoughts. He asked Lady Chiyome to begin the kunoichi, or “deadly flowers.” In the early 1560s, she established a base of operation in the village of Nazu (map) in the Shinano Province and was quick to produce a team of women prepared to act as Takeda had requested.

Hattori Hanzo was still achieving valor as a samurai. He fought in the battle of Anegawa in 1570 and in the battle of Mikata Ga Hara in 1572. For the ferocity he displayed in these later battles he was given the nickname of “Hanzo the devil” or Oni no Hanzo.

While Hanzo was making war, Fuma Kotaro was working his ninja skills in the service of the Hojos. Sometime in the early 1570s, Kotaro was sent on a mission to assassinate Takeda Shingen, a rival daimyo to the Hojo clan. He managed a few sniper shots at the warlord and struck him at least one good blow. In 1573, Takeda would die of that wound while pressing an attack against his enemies.

Also in the early 1570s, Ishikawa Goemon killed a man during his first robbery. This event made it impossible for him to return to a life of lawfulness. Therefore he changed his name to Ishikawa Goemon (he was born as Sanada Kuranoshin), and began to use his ninja powers for naught. He became a highwayman and eventually became a robber in Kyoto. Ishikawa Goemon is the Japanese “Robin Hood,” for he is said to have shared his stolen wealth with those poor who needed it.

Ukifune Jinnai was a dwarf, or midget, ninja supposedly being less than a meter in height. On April 14, 1578, he snuck into the stronghold of daimyo Uesugi Kenshin. Using his diminutive size to his advantage, he hid in the warlord’s toilet with a snorkel for air. When Kenshin sat himself down, the ninja thrust a spear into his rectum, then fled the scene. Within four days, Uesugi Kenshin would be dead from a wound inflicted by a ninja.

Throughout the Warring States Period, the Iga ninjas, as so many other ninja clans, 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. 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. He sent in 10,000 soldiers to annihilate the Iga ninjas in the battle of Tensho Iga no Ran. 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. Even though they nearly slew Nobunaga with cannon fire, the clan was destroyed. However, the Iga ninjas were not exterminated, for all of their notables and many others had made good their escape. The survivors scattered to the wind. Many of the remaining Iga joined forces with Tokugawa Ieyasu. Momochi Sandayu had also managed to cheat death and fled east, the Kii Province (map).

In March of 1581, the Hojo stronghold (map) was attacked by the forces of Takeda Katsuyori. Katsuyori set up his base with a large mountain as its defense, and on the opposite side of the mountain from the Hojo forces. Kotaro and his Fuma ninjas were sent in to do the dirty work they did so well. The Fuma wore down the will of the opposing army with sneak attacks, kidnappings, theft, and mock attacks. They continued this harassment until the very night before the battle. Katsuyori’s forces suffered greatly with distrust and paranoia. When the two armies finally clashed, the Hojo clan rode to victory over his men and the losing army was desperately weakened.

Even though Hattori Hanzo was a distinguished warrior, he is most known for a specific act of removing Tokugawa Ieyasu from peril. In 1582, Oda Nobunaga, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Tokugawa Ieyasu were all vying for control of Japan. Akechi defeated Nobunaga through an act of treachery. Akechi’s troops then threatened Tokugawa, who was far from his region and vulnerable. Hattori proposed sneaking Tokugawa through the Iga province to the safety of Mikawa. Not only did Hattori have allies there, but so too did Tokugawa, who had sheltered survivors from Nobunaga’s 1581 raid of the province. Hattori crept ahead of Tokugawa’s band, leading him through back roads and gathering an escort of ninjas as they went. Hattori met with Taro Shiro, a prominent Koga ninja, and arranged safe passage of the warlord through the Koga province. As Tokugawa’s band approached the Otogi pass on the border of the two provinces, Hattori sent a rocket into the sky as a signal for the ninjas to gather there. By the time the travelers themselves arrived at the pass, a small army of approximately three hundred ninjas awaited to help them through Koga. This army not only provided enough safety for Tokugawa to ride in a koga, or sedan chair, but they provided reports about the betrayal of Nobunaga, its repercussions, and the movements of other daimyo. Tokugawa arrived safely in Mikawa whereas, for contrast, his general Anayama Beisestu perished along a different path. Two hundred of the ninja who had served as guards were permanently retained by Tokugawa, being called the Band of Iga and led by Hattori.

At the time of Oda Nobunaga’s death on June 10, 1582, Momochi Sandayu was living disguised as a farmer in the Kii province (map). After the battle of Tensho Iga no Ran, the Iga Ryu was shattered. Those ninjas who had been part of Sandayu’s family found themselves leaderless, and most of them were unwilling to accept Hanzo as their leader. A rift had formed. When Sandayu returned from his lair in Kii, he found that there was no reconciling the two sides of Iga. The disputing between the ninjas became such that Sandayu and Hanzo fought a duel to the death – master versus student. The duel ended with youth beating experience. After his victory, Hanzo had his master and his lodging burned and his remains buried near the Nabari village in Iga.

In 1590, Tokugawa had entered into a deal with the prevalent warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The deal was such that Tokugawa and Toyotomi would trade the provinces they controlled. Bowing to Toyotomi’s power, Tokugawa accepted the deal. He moved out of his ancestral home and into the castle town of Edo (now Tokyo) in the Kanto region. When Tokugawa entered Edo for the first time he had Hattori Hanzo and the Band of Iga with him. He created a ninja quarter at the west gate of the castle, because that was the likeliest place for a surprise attack from enemies and ninjas were the best to win a scenario like that. In times of peace the ninjas guarded the castle and in times of war they spied on the enemy. The ninja quarter was named Hanzo-cho and the west gate at the back of the castle was named Hanzo Mon gate (map).

A few years after Tokugawa and Toyotomi swapped lands, Ishikawa Goemon made an attempt to assassinate Toyotomi. After hiding for hours near the main gate of the Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto (map), Goemon was able to infiltrate Toyotomi’s stronghold, Fushimi castle (map), by killing a few guards and slipping silently around others. As Goemon approached the sleeping warlord, he accidentally knocked a bell off a table, sending the nearby samurai to interfere with his plans. Goemon was quickly captured and sentenced to death by boiling in oil. According to legends, his son was sentenced to die with him, but Goemon held his son aloft and out of the oil until the lad was safely taken by allies. The ninja was executed on August 23, 1594.

Over the previous decade, the Fuma ninjas became more a gang of thugs and pirates than ninjas. They had harassing the efforts of Tokugawa Ieyasu by raiding his installations near Yokohama, when he decided enough was enough. Hattori Hanzo had received many awards for merit and one of those awards was command over the Hassenshi samurai. In 1596, he was sent to Kanagawa (map) with his samurai to put a stop to Fuma Kotaro and his miscreants. The Fuma took to the sea and Hanzo followed in his own fleet. Hanzo had a simple success with destroying the Fuma boats, all except for one. When his fleet moved in to stop the final boat, a tide pushed his fleet into a narrow channel and began to force all the vessels to smash against each other. Hanzo’s fleet was doomed for the Fumas had used underwater boats, known as funakainin, to remove the rudders from their vessels. As his ships collided, Hanzo ordered all of his men into the water. However, the Fuma ninjas were again one step ahead. They had saturated the water with oil and the collision of the fleet set the water aflame. Hattori Hanzo perished in the water on December 4, 1596.

Even though Fuma Kotaro defeated Tokugawa’s ninja master, he turned around and seemingly did him a favor too. In 1590, Toyotomi successfully besieged Odawara. Two of the three remaining Hojo figureheads were forced to commit seppuku, with the third being exiled and dying within a year. After the Hojo clan met its end, the Fuma ninjas went rogue, but Kotaro kept revenge in mind. On September 18, 1598 he did the job that Ishikawa Goemon could not – he assassinated Toyotomi Hideyoshi. With this deed done Fuma Kotaro vanished in history.

While Toyotomi was alive there had been a semblance of order amongst the daimyo, who had split into two factions. However, in is death the daimyo became harder to keep still. Toyotomi had wanted to see his adopted son ascend to rule Japan, but as the boy was underage a council was formed to rule temporarily. The daimyo were kept in check by Toyotomi’s brother and General Maeda Toshiie, but there was much hidden politicking taking place. Tokugawa knew that the council would not hold and he was preparing himself for when the final rift came. In spring of 1599, Toshiie passed away of old age and hostilities commenced between Tokugawa and the pro-Toyotomi forces. The battle of Sekigahara was fought in 1600, pitting Tokugawa’s coalition against the forces of samurai Ishida Mitsunari (led by Mori Terumoto). Tokugawa came out the victor.

In 1603, the Tokugawa shogunate had its unoffical beginning. With his reign came an age of relative peace and it allowed the ninjas to return to the shadows. They would fight again in the Battle of Winter and the Battle of Summer in 1614-1615, and then once again in the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637-1638. There are also stories of secret ninja wars that took place behind the scenes of Tokugawa's ascent to power, with old rivals hiring ninjas squads and tunneling beneath his castle, but the evidence for such matters is too shaky to be added to this history.

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