Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Wrong About Ninja, Again

[Image: mainichi_mie]
[Image: mainichi_mie]
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Ninja are mysterious. There are things we know and things we don’t. But the notion that some have about these ninja water shoes is supposedly incorrect.

Advertisement

In Japanese, these floatation devices are called mizugumo (水蜘蛛), which literally means “water spider,” and are believed to be used while crossing castle moats.

Advertisement

Sankei News reports that it’s generally thought that ninja would put their feet on each mizugumo’s center board and, literally, walk on water.

Which seems difficult.

Advertisement

Or, uh, pull themselves across.

Advertisement

Which also seems difficult.

Advertisement

Or it’s thought mizugumo could be used with poles.

Advertisement
Advertisement

However, according to ninja scholar Atsumi Nakajima, this isn’t how mizugumo were actually used.

Nakajima has been collecting old ninja documents and has discovered that the word “sit” (座る or suwaru) written in mizugumo’s middle section, which is where people have been putting their feet. They should’ve been sitting!

Advertisement

“Ninja would get in one mizugumo, put flipper-type shoes on their feet, and move across the water’s surface,” Nakajima believes.

[Image via Sankei News]
[Image via Sankei News]
Advertisement

So, this is actually a floaty. For ninja. Heh.

Online in Japan, many people seemed surprised by this, adding that they thought the proper way to use a mizugumo seemed “dorky” and “uninspiring.”

Advertisement

Note that the floaty explanation isn’t exactly brand new.

Advertisement

Also, here’s an interesting mizugumo inner-tube build that’s based on The Book of Ninja, an English translation of Bansenshukai, from a while back.

Even though the notion that mizugumo were worn like shoes does still appear to dominate in Japan, this latest Sankei article might help change that!

Advertisement

As Kotaku previously pointed out, the popular notion of ninja isn’t always exactly “correct,” so it’s not surprising to see how popular culture has created a different interpretation of mizugumo.

Advertisement

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Suprisingly, if you lucky enough to get the manga, Ninja Rantaro is pretty accurate/grounded depiction of Ninja

Which for the most part (according to this manga or mangaka research), ninja is a highly trained spy with (comparatively) advance tech/knowledge. They have access to all sorts of explosive, contraptions, advanced psychological warfare, medicine/bio-weaponry, and combat tactics which put them in major advantage in the setting era where standardize school have yet to exist.

The story setting is a ninja school so they have convinient setting to explain ninja stuff to the main chara(ninja student) and by extension the reader. For example, In this manga,

  • Mizugumo is busted in first volume (with statement of “you can’t defy law of physics man”).
  • Magical properties like summoning monster is explained with hallucinogenic poison with a bit of hypnotism. While “summoning storm/fog” is just a good weather reading knowledge.
  • No, ninja didn’t use that uniform all the time, and for the most part they use civvies (with ninja-uniform on reversible side) to blend in.
  • tl;dr they are highly trained soldier+spy in era where there are no standardized army.