Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior by John Man

An uneven but interesting short book about the history of ninjas. I like that he spends time dispelling most of the myths about ninjas and tries to get back to their real historical role in Japanese warfare. Towards the end, though, he stretches to try to attach the ninja ethos to the Japanese Intelligence officers of World War II, and ends up sounding like an apologist for actions that all too recently propped up a racist, genocidal regime.

Still, I did learn a few things:

  • Ninjas were basically mercenaries, and they could be samurai or peasants.
  • Ninjas were mostly used as scouts or spies (to find/count enemy troops, discover the weaknesses in a castle, etc) and occasionally hired as a strike force to sneak into a castle and raise hell (or the gate).
  • When ninjas did fight regular troops, it was usually as locals defending their homes from marauding armies.