Author(s): Stephen Turnbull
The ninja is a well-known phenomenon in Japanese military culture, a fighter who is widely regarded as the world's greatest exponent of secret warfare. He infiltrates castles, gathers vital intelligence and wields a deadly knife in the dark. His easily recognizable image is that of a secret agent or assassin who dresses all in black, possesses almost magical martial powers, and is capable of extraordinary feats of daring. He sells his skills on a mercenary basis and when in action his unique abilities include confusing his enemies by making mystical hand gestures or by sending sharp iron stars spinning towards them. That is the popular view, but it is much exaggerated, as this exciting new book explains. Ninja: Unmasking the Myth is a revealing, fascinating and authoritative study of Japan's famous secret warriors. Unlike all previous books on the subject the author, who is an expert in the subject, does not take the ninja for granted. Instead he examines the entire phenomenon in a critical manner, ranging from accounts of undercover operations during the age of Japan's civil wars to the modern emergence of the superman ninja as a comic book character. The popular ninja image is shown to be the result of several influences that were combined to create the world's greatest secret warrior. Many well-known features of the ninja tradition such as the black clothes and the iron stars are shown to be complete inventions. One important feature of the book is the use of original Japanese sources, many of which have never been translated before. As well as unknown accounts of castle attacks, assassinations and espionage they include the last great ninja manual, which reveals the spiritual and religious ideals that were believed to lie behind the ninja's arts. The book concludes with a detailed investigation of the ninja in popular culture up to the present day including movies, cartoons and theme parks.
Stephen Turnbull is the world s leading authority on samurai culture and an expert on ninja. He took his first degree at Cambridge and has two MAs (in Theology and Military History) from Leeds University. In 1996 he received a PhD from Leeds for his thesis on Japan s Kakure Kirishitan. In its published form the work won the Japan Festival Literary Award in 1998\. Having lectured in East Asian Studies and Theology he is now retired and is an Honorary Lecturer at Leeds, a Research Associate at SOAS and Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at Akita International University. In lighter vein his expertise was put to use in helping design the award-winning computer strategy game _Shogun Total War_, and in 2010 he acted as Historical Adviser to Universal Pictures for the movie _47 Ronin_.