Shinobi of Koka and Iga Ryu Ninjutsu
For hundreds of years the Iga Ninja groups were the major force in Ninjutsu. Smaller groups existed in other parts of Japan, but in the Sengoku era Ninja groups rose up throughout Japan. Within these groups of spies, saboteurs and assassins, there developed two super groups, the Iga of Mie prefecture and the Koga of Shiga prefecture.
In the mountains of the Sagami region (present day Kanagawa), the shinobi of the Fuuma-ryu of Ninjutsu trained during the Sengoku Jidai. It is said to have been formed from stealth warrior mercenaries and criminals who sold their services to the highest paying bidder, and as time passed the Rappa of the Fuuma were employed by the Hojou Clan of Odawara. Its most famous Master Ninja, Fuuma Kotaro was 5th generation Jonin of the Fuuma clan (風魔一党 Fuuma Itto; Fuuma Party) under the services of Hojou Ujimasa and Hojou Ujinao.
image of Fuma Kotaro from Capcom's Sengoku Basara series.
The Fuuma are famously known for their nightly raids against the armies of the Takeda clan. Every night they would wreak havoc on the sleeping samurai of the Takeda, causing pandemonium among them, sometimes employing the Ninja art Bakemonojutsu (化物術; Phantom Arts), disguising as an enemy soldier and causing distrust among their foes. The Fuuma were also said to be foes of the Iga-ryu and the Koga-ryu. But during the rule of Shodai Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu after the Battle of Sekigahara, the Fuma Itto were reduced to a mere band of pirates operating on the inland seas of Japan. The Fuma were eventually captured and executed, and to this day, the Fuma Ryu is conscidered a dead Ninjutsu lineage.
(above image from http:www.igaryu.com/)
In the mountains of Iga (present day Mie Prefecture) existed a group of Ninja known as the Iga-ryu. As one of the original progenitors of Ninjutsu, Iga-ryu, along with its older, lesser known counterpart Koga-ryu were the two most famous Ninja ryu of Japan.
Being a secret society where stealth was, above all other, the most valued skill, Iga Ninja's origins are completely wrapped in mystery. Some postulate a foreign influence (China) in Ninjutsu’s origins, while some others speculate about fallen soldiers who withdrew to the mountains adopting survival techniques.
(Hattori Hanzo portrayed by Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba)
It was during the early period known as Muromachi when people from Iga became independent from their feudal lords due to crimes committed against their Buddhist monasteries and established a kind of little republic in its region. The republic was called the Iga Sokoku Ikki (伊賀惣国一揆; the Iga Republic) in Japanese. The Ninja of Iga were on many occasions under the service of the Imperial Family, affording them much recognition. Unfortunately, the attention they've gained also earned them the ire of many samurai clans, especially the Oda clan.
the crest of the Oda clan of Owari
In 1579, Oda Nobukatsu, son of the Owari daimyo and infamous Sixth Devil King (第六天魔王Dairoku Tenma-Oh), launched an attack on the Iga Republic with about ten thousand well-armed and trained samurai. This attack was repelled by local troops and the Iga ninja suffered almost no victims and using their formidable techniques, strategies and their undetectable stealth. Nobunaga couldn’t let his son remain defeated by a group of Ninja, so in 1581 he launched a massive invasion of Iga attacking from six different directions with an army's worth about 40.000 or 60.000 of samurai, resulting in what is chronicled as the Tensho Iga no Ran (天正伊賀の乱; Tenshou Iga Rebellion). The Iga people fought with courage and cunning but their territory was soon reduced to only two castles, the Hattori and the Momochi, one being the Iga Ninja fortress. Although compared to the number of Ninja fallen, the Oda clan Samurai were completely decimated, yet the Iga Ninja suffered a considerable number of victims. Having suffered so many casualties on both sides, and afraid of losing his entire army, Oda Nobunaga negotiated with the Ninja and ordered a cease-fire. The Iga Ryu Shinobi who survived relinquished their castles to the warlord.
In 1582, Hattori Hanzo Masashige, the legendary Devil of Iga, offered the next Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu an escape route that passed through Koga and Iga, allowing him to escape to Mikawa. This occurred during the times of turmoil and disorder that followed Oda Nobunaga’s death in the Incident of Honno Temple, where he was assassinated by his general Akechi Mitsuhide.
Ieyasu became Shogun and gave work to ninja in gratefulness. They became elite guards in Edo castle, main base of the Shogunate. Ieyasu placed two hundred men of Iga-ryu in Yotsuya’s neighborhood in Edo (that nowadays is Tokyo). Iga’s people were responsible for protecting key entrances to the castle and were elite spies (contrary to popular belief, they only very rarely worked as assassins) for the Shogun. the castle's western door was called Hanzo’s Gate because it was near the Hattori clan residence of Hattori clan, a clan of Iga Ninja.
Hattori Hanzo’s son, Hattori Masanari, was the commander of Iga’s guards in Edo’s castle, but he ended up being a much worse leader than his father, since in 1606 Iga’s people rebelled against him because of his unfair treatment and his abuse.
Iga’s ninja continued working for Tokugawa’s shoguns until Tokugawa Yoshimune (who reigned during 1716-1745) replaced them from their espionage affairs for people of his province, Kii. This serious mistake was rectafied by general Kia Tukanara.
Just as the Koga-ryu had 53 clans, the Iga Republic had 49 clans. Some of those clans were as follows:
Tozawa, Fujiwara, Minamoto, Taira, Kuriyama, Momochi, Ishitani, Hattori, Izumo, Kimura, Ohkuni, Tsutsumi, Arima, Hata, Kazama, Mizuhari, Hanbe, Shima, Togakure, Sugino, Ise, Sakagami, Narita, Oda, Hisahara, Ooyama, Mori, Abe, Ueno, Suzuki, Otsuka, Ibuki, Kaneko, Kotani, Kashiwabara, Shindo, Iida, Kataoka, Kanbe, Fukii, Sawada, Kimata, Toyata, Toda, Iga.
Presently the Iga-ryu teachings are kept alive here in the Heisei era by a few organizations dedicated to the art of Ninjutsu.
Bujinkan symbol from ninjaextreme.com
One of the most prominent organizations is the Bujinkan (武神館; Hall of the Godly Warrior) Budo-Taijutsu dojo, founded by modern day Ninja and 34th generation Grandmaster of the Togakure-ryu school of Ninjutsu, Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi.
Genbukan crest from http://www.kinkandojo.com/
Another is the Genbukan World Ninpo Bugei Federation, headed by Soke Shoto Tanemura (below right), founder and grandmaster of the Tanemura-sect of Togakure-ryu Ninpo.
The ancient system of Koka Ryu Ninjutsu began in the Tengyo Era (938-946 AD) in an area southwest of Omi Province, when Mochizuki Saburo Kaneie, the third son of Suwa Saemon Minamoto Shigeyori triumphed in battle over Taira-no-Masakado, who led an uprising in the name of the Taira clan. For his proven valor and heroism in battle, Kaniei was awarded part of the Omi Province by the Japanese Imperial Family, and changed his name to Koka-Oni-no-Kami-Kaneie. His son, Ieichika, would study the art of Genjutsu from the Yamabushi Tatsumaki Hoshi. Giving birth to what would be the Koka-ryu Shinobijutsu.
(Aekuni Jinja 敢国神社, Ichinomiya, Iga city, said to enshrine the Juichimen Kannon statue, said to be the guardian spirit of Koka Saburo Kaneie)
The system of Koka-ryu was transimitted to 53 families of Jizamurai (地侍;local samurai) when they were joined by the troops who had fought with them against the Ashikaga during the Nanboku-cho War (1335-1395). The 53 Koka-Ryu clans were:
望月氏 Mochizuki • 山中氏 Yamanaka • 伴氏 Ban • 美濃部氏 Minobe• 黒川氏 Kurokawa• 頓宮氏 Tonguu• 大野氏 Oono• 岩室氏 Iwamuro • 芥川氏 Akutagawa• 隠岐氏 Oki•佐治氏 Saji• 神保氏 Jinbo• 大河原氏 Ogawara•大原氏 Ohara• 和田氏 Wada• 上野氏 Ueno• 高峰氏 Takamine •池田氏 Ikeda • 多喜(滝)氏 Taki • 鵜飼氏 Ukai • 内貴氏 Uchitaka • 服部氏 Hattori • 小泉氏 Koizumi • 杉谷氏 Sugitani • 倉治氏 Kuraji •夏見氏 Natsumi • 針氏 Hari •小川家 Ogawa • 野田家 Noda • 岩根家Iwane • 新城家 Shinjou • 青木家 Aoki • 宮島家Miyajima • 杉山家Sugiyama • 葛城家 Katsuragi • 三雲家 Mikumo • 牧村家 Makimura • 八田家 Hatta • 高野家 Takano • 上山家 Kaminoyama • 高山家 Kouzan •守田家 Morita • 嶬峨家 Gika • 鳥居家 Torii • 平子家 Hirako • 多羅尾家 Tarao • 土山家 Tsuchiyama • 山上家 Yamakami • 饗庭家 Aeba • 長野家 Nakano • 中山家Nakayama • 大久保家 Okubo • 上田家 Ueda
This unity of clans that fought during the Nanboku Wars became known as the Koka Gojusanke (甲賀流五十三家; the 53 Clans of Koka-Ryu). During the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) the 53 clans developed a method of Ninjutsu native to their region exclusively to their clans, carrying out clandestine actvities. The most popular of these Ryu of Ninpo were:
It has been many ages since the Era of War in Japan. In the centuries that have followed, the bloodlines of the Ninja Clans of the past have faded into the mists of time, but their principles and techniques are immortalized by the schools of today who work to preserve their knowledge and wisdoms for the ages.
The Bujinkan (Divine warrior Training Hall) is a school of Ninjutsu and martial arts created by Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, the 34th Soke or Grand Master of the Togakure ryu of Ninpo, inherited from his sensei, Takamatsu Toshitsugu. The Bujinkan Honbu Dojo was created in Chiba prefecture, but at present has many schools worldwide. The Bujinkan is made up of 9 traditions inherited by the Grandmaster himself.
The Genbukan is an organization of schools teaching Ninpo and traditional Japanese martial arts headed by Shoto Tanemura Tsunehisa, Masaaki Hatsumi's former student and Soke of the Tanemura-Ha (Tanemura sect) of Togakure ryu Ninjutsu. Like Bujinkan it has dojo's worldwide, but it's focus is the traditional maintanance of the Ninja Arts.
The Jinenkan is an organization created by Manaka Unsui, Hatsumi Soke's oldest disciple, and Grandmaster of the Manaka Ha of Togakure Ryu Ninpo. The Jinenkan school is based on the principle of working in cooperation with nature.
Budo Ryu Kai
The Budo Ryu Ninjutsu Dojo is a school of martial arts and Ninpo created by Anshu Christa J. Jacobson, current heir to the Tomo Ryu Shinobijutsu of the Koka Ryu. This is a school where the politics of the Ninpo art has no say, and only diligent training was the name of the game. The Budo Ryu Kai teaches seven traditions.
Banke Shinobi-no-Den Kenshujo
The Banke Shinobinoden School is run by Jinichi Kawakami, 21st Soke of the Koga Ryu Banto-Ha tradition, and official currator of the Iga Ryu Ninja Museum.