90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
The History Of Ninjas

Japan’s old politics by other means — the real, thousand-year history of the ninja.

Sketches by Hokusai, 1817 (Wikimedia Commons)

Sketches by Hokusai, 1817 (Wikimedia Commons)

The world, our imaginations, can’t seem to get enough of ninja. The original men in black.

We see them skittering over rooftops in the night. Unknowable. Unstoppable. Or maybe as teenage mutant turtles. Whipping nunchuks. Righting wrongs.

The real history of the ninja has had a hard time keeping up with the lore. It goes back to medieval Japan, and poor villagers using stealth and guile to thwart powerful warlords. They were the anti-samurai. Homegrown guardians of a proto-democracy. Of ninjutsu.

This hour, On Point: the real history of the ninja.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guest

John Man, author of “Ninja: 1,000 Years Of The Shadow Warrior.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Asian Review of Books “Like sumo wrestlers, samurai, shogun, and other Japanese archetypes, ninja are known outside Japan mostly by exaggerated and often fictionalized characteristics. The exaggerations include their black hooded uniforms and superhuman abilities like walking on water or scaling vertical walls. Ninja have been made even more cartoonish because of the popularity of the comic book and animation series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. John Man helps rectify the misunderstandings about ninja, which is not an easy task as their origins and practices are in the shadows of Japanese history.”

BBC News “Japan’s era of shoguns and samurai is long over, but the country does have one, or maybe two, surviving ninjas. Experts in the dark arts of espionage and silent assassination, ninjas passed skills from father to son – but today’s say they will be the last.”

 

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 23, 2014
Specialist Ronnie Howard, center, calls out prices as he works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Beyond the turmoil shaking financial markets, the U.S. economy remains sturdier than many seem to fear. (AP)

The global economic wobble. Europe weakness. China fears. Wild markets. We’ll lay out the global economy now.

Oct 23, 2014
A screenshot from the interactive game, "Depression Quest," the game at the root of the ongoing #GamerGate controversy. (Courtesy  "Depression Quest")

#GamerGate. Sexism, misogyny and rough stuff in a video game world culture clash.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 22, 2014
Authors Nicholas Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn attend the premiere of "Meena" at the AMC Loews Theater on Thursday, June 26, 2014 in New York.

Author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says regular folks like us can change the world. He explains how. Plus: we remember the late, great Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee.

 
Oct 22, 2014
Health workers carry the body of a woman suspected of contracting the Ebola virus in Bomi county situated on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. (AP)

We’ll go to Liberia, and hear from a pastor and a physician at the epicenter of the Ebola crisis.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Introducing The Explicast: A New Podcast From On Point Radio
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Confused about the news? Don’t worry: so are we sometimes! Introducing a new On Point Radio podcast: The Explicast. You can find Episode One right here.

More »
1 Comment
 
Two LIVE Tracks From Jazz Violinist Regina Carter
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Regina Carter shares two live tracks — one arrangement, and one original composition — with Tom Ashbrook in the On Point studio.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: October 17, 2014
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

We talk Facebook mishaps, whether Katy Perry was actually right and the glory of architectural giants and their iconic windows.

More »
Comment