Kunoichi: The Female Ninja

Women played an important role in the history of Ninjutsu. They were known as "Kunoichi," the female Ninja.

The Kunoichi's training differed slightly from their male counterparts. Their training favored stealth tactics, including Yagen (poison and drugs), Kayakujutsu (explosives), Boryaku (strategy), Intonjutsu (camouflage), Shinobi Iri (stealth entering methods), Tantojutsu (knife arts), and Shurikenjutsu (throwing blades). Less emphasis was placed on larger weapons such as swords, spears, and sticks.

Tasks that the male Ninja would have had difficulty carrying out were delegated to Kunoichi. Some assignments required getting into an area where only a woman could easily enter without arrising suspicion. They would often use their charm as Concubines and Geisha to gain information, and if necessary, kill their target. There was a saying in feudal Japan that there was no castle guarded well enough that a Kunoichi could not enter.

Additionally, Kunoichi were taught the arts of dancing, singing, musical instruments, and the tea ceremony to aid them in getting close to their targets. One of the weapons commonly used by Kunoichi were needles. Often used to hold the hair up, they could quickly and easily be pulled out and used as a weapon. Such needles were usually coated with strong poisons. Another Kunoichi weapon was the Nekote; steel claws that were put on the fingers. Most of the Kunoichi's physical skills were generally used as a last resort or in self-defense. They were best applied in combination with psychological warfare or as a surprise attack.

In the late 16th century Chiyome Mochizuki, the wife of Shogun Moritoki Mochizuki, created one of the widest networks of female Ninja agents ever known. During the province wars of Japan, she created an underground Kunoichi school for young girls, who were often orphaned from the constant civil wars around the country. Some of the girls that found their way to the Shinshu area (modern day Nagano) would make the school their home. Chiyome organized her operatives, called Miko (Shrine Maidens), to be guardians of temples, altars, and sanctuaries. They were able to move freely around the country and had access to many places, due to their respect in the community. Using Ninjutsu, they wove one of the most intricate information networks of the era, and effectively sealed a place in history for the female Ninja.

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