Anecdotes about ninja personalities
What kind of people were the ninja? They were like shadows, never appearing on the front stage. Dark clothes, chanting spells, the ability to fade away like smoke; all of these are images of ninja. But what kind of people were ninja in reality? Some people say that ninja did not exist in real life.
Matsuo Basho was a poet born in the Edo period in Iga, Ueno. There was a theory that he was a ninja. This theory was based on the “Oku no Hosomichi” book he wrote. There were a lot of differences in the descriptions of Matsuo Basho given by his pupils.
He went to Matsushima, but he did not have anything to do there. Some people thought that the real purpose of Matsuo Basho’s trip was investigation concerning the Date clan (of the Sendai Domain). At that time the Date clan had the power to threaten the Shogunate. The Shogunate started the renovation of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine and investigated the economic situation of the clan. They said that Basho could take part in that investigation. In fact, Basho did not reach the Date clan headquarters. He stayed in the relay station along the way for a long time and composed Japanese poems. People usually tried to pass through the Date clans territory quickly. When they passed through the territory of the Date clan, they returned to a normal pace. When Basho left the territory of the Date clan in one month the construction details were revealed to the clan.
There were a lot of stories that Ishikawa Goemon was a famous robber in the Momoyama period (the latter half of the Azuchi-Momoyama period, approx. 1583-1600 CE) who was boiled in an iron pot, but there is a chance that he was ninja. Unfortunately, there are no historical records about that.
According to the Japanese biographical dictionary written in the end of the Meiji period, Ishikawa Goemon was the son of Ishikawa Meiseki, who was a vassal of the Miyoshi clan. It’s said that Goemon had the power of 30 men and when he was 16 years old he akay with 3 other people, stole treasures from his Master and ran away. From that time, moving from one place to another, he continued to steal and finally in the end of the Bunroku period (1592.12.8-1596.10.27) he was captured and boiled in an iron pot. A poem was composed about this. However, if you look through this poem, it’s difficult to understand what kind of person Ishikawa Goemon was. In Kabuki Theater, Joururi (type of dramatic recitation accompanied by a shamisen, associated with the Japanese puppet theater), and Yomihon (type of popular literature from the late Edo period), he was presented as a thief beloved by the common people of the Edo period.
Of the Koka Ninja, Sarutobi Sasuke is the most famous. Information about Sarutobi Sasuke can be found in Japanese Biographical dictionary. He was the son of Washio Satao and was supported by Sanada Yukimura. Sarutobi Sasuke was taught the ninja arts by Tozawa Hakuun. And Inobe Busuke who was a vassal of the Fujiwara Family in Omi was Sasuke the second.
There are two theories. One is that his real name was Kozaru from Shimotsuge (now Iga-chyo). This theory is written in Bansensyuukai. The other theory is that the Sanada family, who came from Shinsyuu Suwa, gave him the name of “Sarutobi” (meaning “monkey jump”; written with two Japanese characters; saru (猿)meaning “monkey”, and tobi (飛)meaning “jump.”) He worked as a member of the Sanada Yukimura clan. There is no reason to doubt that fact. In the 44th year of the Meiji period, an Osaka creative group published a book about Sarutobi Sasuke and he became a very popular character ever since, appearing often in manga and on TV.