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Ninja (Hardback)

Unmasking the Myth

All Frontline Books More History Weapons

By Stephen Turnbull
Frontline Books
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781473850422
Published: 30th January 2018

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Print price £25.00


Peer review

‘A valuable book that deftly steers through confusing and controversial materials. Even ninja apologists will feel that honour has been served. Turnbull admirably exposes and investigates the “careless retrospective interpretations” of the 20th century, but in doing so, manages to reclaim the historical shinobi.’

 

Jonathan Clements, Author of A Brief History of the Martial Arts

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The ninja is a well-known phenomenon in Japanese military culture, a fighter who is widely regarded as the world’s greatest exponent of secret warfare. He infiltrates castles, gathers vital intelligence and wields a deadly knife in the dark. His easily recognisable image is that of a secret agent or assassin who dresses all in black, possesses almost magical martial powers, and is capable of extraordinary feats of daring. He sells his skills on a mercenary basis and when in action his unique abilities include confusing his enemies by making mystical hand gestures or by sending sharp iron stars spinning towards them.

That is the popular view, but it is much exaggerated, as this exciting new book explains. The Ninja Unmasked is a revealing, fascinating and authoritative study of Japan’s famous secret warriors. Unlike all previous books on the subject the author, who is an expert in the subject, does not take the ninja for granted. Instead he examines the entire phenomenon in a critical manner, ranging from accounts of undercover operations during the age of Japan’s civil wars to the modern emergence of the superman ninja as a comic book character. The popular ninja image is shown to be the result of several influences that were combined to create the world’s greatest secret warrior.

Many well-known features of the ninja tradition such as the black clothes and the iron stars are shown to be complete inventions. One important feature of the book is the use of original Japanese sources, many of which have never been translated before. As well as unknown accounts of castle attacks, assassinations and espionage they include the last great ninja manual, which reveals the spiritual and religious ideals that were believed to lie behind the ninja’s arts. The book concludes with a detailed investigation of the ninja in popular culture up to the present day including movies, cartoons and theme parks.

A valuable book that deftly steers through confusing and controversial materials. Even ninja apologists will feel that honour has been served. Turnbull admirably exposes and investigates the “careless retrospective interpretations” of the 20th century, but in doing so, manages to reclaim the historical shinobi.

Jonathan Clements, Author of A Brief History of the Martial Arts

About Stephen Turnbull

Stephen Turnbull is the world's leading authority on samurai culture. He took his first degree at Cambridge and has two MAs (in Theology and Military History) from Leeds University. In 1996 he received a PhD from Leeds for his thesis on Japans Kakure Kirishitan. In its published form the work won the Japan Festival Literary Award in 1998. He is now retired and is an Honorary Lecturer at Leeds, a Research Associate at SOAS and Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at Akita International University. He has published 72 books and many journal articles.

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From lowly attendants (samurai literally means ‘those who serve’) to members one of the world’s most powerful military organisations, the samurai underwent a progression of changes to reach a preeminent position in Japanese society and culture. Even their eventual eclipse did not diminish their image as elite warriors, and they would live on in stories and films. This proud and enduring tradition is exemplified and explored by the carefully selected objects gathered here from Japanese locations and from museums around the world. These objects tell the story of the samurai from acting as…

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