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Top 5 Myths About Ninjas

VO: Ashley Bowman
Written by Spencer Sher The truth behind these myths might just take you by surprise. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Myths. In this installment, we’re counting down the Top 5 Myths About Ninjas. For this list, we’ll be looking at some popular myths associated with one of history’s most misunderstood groups: Ninjas. Special thanks to our user Ashjbow for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 5 Myths About Ninjas


The truth behind these myths might just take you by surprise. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Myths. In this installment, we’re counting down the Top 5 Myths About Ninjas.

For this list, we’ll be looking at some popular myths associated with one of history’s most misunderstood groups: Ninjas.

#5: They Were Called Ninjas


Ninjas first appeared in Japan in the 14th century and their functions included infiltration, espionage and assassinations. However, at the time they were a group of individuals without a name. It was only in the 15th century that these covert agents were dubbed “shinobi-no-momo”, with shinobi meaning, “to steal” and momo meaning “person”. The popularization of the shinobi was thanks in part to the Sengoku period, a time of civil unrest in feudal Japan that saw many shinobi being hired for their unique skillsets. So where does the word ninja come from? Well, the written characters for shinobi sound an awful lot like “nin-sha”, which over time evolved into “ninja”.

#4: Throwing Stars Were Projectile Weapons


We’ve seen this trope played out on film hundreds of times. A ninja warrior approaches an enemy camp from the shadows and sees a soldier in the distance. Instead of risking detection the ninja takes out a throwing star and kills the enemy combatant from afar. There’s only problem, it probably never happened in real life. The ninjas of old used Shurikens, or throwing stars, as secondary weapons in close combat situations. If a ninja was to ever throw a shuriken it was probably as a means of distraction and not as a badass way of killing an enemy.

#3: Only Men Could Be Ninjas


This one might come as a surprise to many, but it’s true - historically, there have been both male and female ninjas. They’ve been seriously under-represented in modern pop culture, particularly wherever Hollywood cinema is concerned, but back in the day, female ninjas were effective and highly sought-after covert agents. Their gender was actually an asset. For starters, they almost always had the element of surprise on their side, as enemy soldiers often mistook them for civilians. Additionally, they were known to use their powers of seduction to gain access to exclusive or heavily protected locations.

#2: Ninjas Wore Masks


Quick! Picture a ninja in your mind. Chances are your mental ninja is dressed entirely in black with a mask that covers everything except for the eyes. Good job! Except... that’s not what a real ninja would look like. Ninjas never had a specific “uniform”. Instead they dressed according to the situation. If they were attempting to infiltrate a temple then they would don religious garb. If it was a rural setting, they’d dress as a farmer. A modern ninja serving as someone’s bodyguard would most likely be dressed in modern clothes, such as a suit. Nothing stands out quite like a person dressed head to toe in black.

#1: Ninjas Could Vanish


Well duh! Isn’t that ninja training 101? Well actually, ninjas used a host of different practical effects to achieve what has since been exaggerated into some sort of mythical disappearing act. We’ve already mentioned how throwing stars were used as a means of distraction, but it was far from the only trick they had up their sleeves.
Ninjas employed a wide variety of diversion tactics in order to escape tricky situations - such as smoke bombs or, quite simply, throwing sand. For ninjas, being able to escape without being followed was essential to their craft. Magic... is easy. Disappearing when you’re a mere mortal on the other hand? THAT’s impressive.
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