So…ninjas. And chick ninjas.
Just about everything popular history and culture “knows” about ninjas is a misconception. Starting with this whole ninja vs Samurai thing. During the Warring States Period–where the vast majority of ninja stuff was being done–very many of the extant Samurai schools had ninjutsu curricula. So…there were a shit ton of Samurai who were “ninja”. Or, as they say in the modern mil vernacular, “ninja qualified”…
In keeping with our current topic of Women in Warfare, let’s talk for a few about female ninja. Throughout the entire history of Japan, there has been espionage, and females have been carrying out a large portion of it.
In case you don’t know *techincally* what a ninja is, it is a practitioner of specifically codified tactics and strategy of guerrilla warfare, espionage, as well as reconnaissance and special intelligence collection, and assassination. The more historically preferred nomenclature is shinobi. And the proper plural is simply ninja.
These tactics, techniques, and missions–which also included countering all the shit listed above–were not exclusive to any school or subculture in Medieval Japan. And every ninja you ever heard of has two names…which means they were a noble (or doctor), and therefore Samurai. The most notable of which is Hattori Hanzo (that’s right, from Kill Bill).
I’m pretty sure we’re all familiar with what a ninja is, and what a ninja does. The modern word for these lady ninja is kunoichi. It is not a historically used word.
The most famous female ninja that history has brought to us is Mochizuki Chiyome, a 16th Century noblewoman of the Takeda Clan. After her hubs was killed in battle, Chiyome became a senior ninja of the Takeda Clan Daimyo, Takeda Shingen. (Don’t forget, at this time women were still taught all kinds of warriory shit with very little residual gender-based bullshit.)
Chiyome was tasked by Shingen with creating, training, maintaining, and commanding a network of female spies. To the last woman, these were ninja. (Trained, therefore, in not only espionage, but also in tactics, combat, and weaponry.)
She found a remote–yet accessible–village up in the mountains, set up an ops center, and got to work. Her primary recruits–which numbered in the hundreds (think about running that shit, HUMINT guys)–were women she already knew to be ninja-qualled. After that, she built a solid op cover as a noblewoman trying to help out girls and women who had been victimized or in any other way fucked over by the century and a half of warfare that had wracked the country. So, my girl here started recruiting orphans, hookers, wanderers, widows, wives…the works. (This shit is truly beautiful. She worked the social system like a rib.)
Every single woman who passed through her door was trained in fundamentals of personal combat, information gathering, and surreptitious communication. Beyond that, various woman gained various other advanced training: cooking, cleaning, sewing, sneakin’, freakin’, seduction, assassination, further coded commo, household operation, all kinds of cover shit.
The icing on this proto-Bene Gesserit cake is that every woman was also given complete training as a Shinto [wandering] priestess. This right here netted every last one of them unrestricted movement between domains in the empire. No one would suspect them as they travelled. The cover was airtight, because they were always vouched for by the local Shinto priests. And each literally carried a bag of disguises to use once *in* whatever town, castle, or temple. At the height of operation, Chiyome is suspected to have had operatives in every major household in the empire–including Shingen’s–and every major temple and shrine.
Fucking genius. Access. Placement. Movement. (Who else is getting hot, here?)
Freedom of movement. Zero suspicion. Absolutely surreptitious KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities), *far* beyond the level and scope of their swinging dick counterparts [doctrinally]. There were plenty of dudes cruising the shadows of Japan at the time who were certifiably scary fuggers. But, there was no corps at the time that had as many dudes trained to the level that Chiyome’s average operative had been trained to. Again…beautiful. (But wait…oh…wo is women. My bad.)
Chiyome’s corps managed to raise Shingen’s situational awareness to a far greater level than his fellow daimyo, keeping him at least one step ahead of all of his competitors.
In 1573, Shingen Takeda died…under shady circumstances. At this point, you can bet your happy ass that Chiyome did what any of us woulda done: burned as much shit as possible, pulled stakes, commenced some serious fucking retrograde E&E, and lived out the rest of her days as far from any other historical record as possible. Which is why–consequently–we know absolutely nothing more about her from that day.
Atta girl. Atta ALL the girls! Human history has no other example of this level or scope or exclusively female operation. *Zero*. And they all just…vanished. No one knew who they were. Chiyome was most likely the single member of that entire operational structure who knew every member. Ninja TTPs (tactics, techniques, procedures) specified a very particular cellular structure. So her officers knew only who their people were. And would not have been intimately involved with (read that: micromanagerial about) their girls’ ops or sources.
From here, we end with the pre-modern history stuff. In the next, and final, installment of this cultural example of women in politics and warfare, we will get into the suicide squads of World War II. It’s bad, bad shit. And you thought it was only dudes in planes…