Part 83 - Ninja Armor
by Lord Thomas the Black


Ninja Armor

            Welcome back to another edition of Blackmaille! This month, I'd like to talk about a subject that fascinated me when I was younger: Ninjas!

            Ninja! The very word strikes fear into the heart of peasant and samurai alike. Silent killers, assassins, spies, and saboteurs. Capable of disappearing instantly, walking on water, and murdering their target without leaving a trace behind. Most of what we know about the ninja comes from Japanese and Hollywood movies, and is therefore, complete nonsense. In Japan, there still exists much disinformation and legend about the ninja, and even in their own history, it's hard to tell what's real and what's not. In fact, most of this misinformation comes (most likely) from the ninja clans themselves!

            Nonetheless, ninjas continue to be a pop-culture staple. From the Sho Kosugi[1] action movies of the 80's, all the way up to fan-created websites like "Real Ultimate Power"[2], ninjas have captured our imaginations in a way that few other warrior cultures have.

            So what does this have to do with maille, you ask? If the ninja were as swift and stealthy as they're supposed to have been, surely they wouldn't wear armor as noisy and heavy as maille? Well, it turns out, they would! As I was researching Middle Eastern armor one day, I came across several unusual pictures of maille, taken in Japanese museums. As it turns out, I had stumbled across the Iga[3] and Koga[4] ninja museums! These museums chronicle the history of the two largest and most well-known ninjas clans, they Iga-ryu and the Koga-ryu. And believe it or not, yes, the ninja did occasionally wear maille!

            These photos came from a number of sources, and tracking down what they were, exactly, wasn't easy. At the end of the article, I'll include a bibliography for more information on the ninja and their equipment.

Text Box: This is a suit of Yoroi armor. The entire suit consists of leather plates connected by a few links of maille. This was so that the entire suit could be rolled up flat and concealed easily, it was lightweight, and (most importantly for the ninja) didn't rattle like armor made from steel plates.



Text Box: This is another style of armor, made to look like a typical jacket of the time. Unbeknownst to the casual observer, however, is an inner lining of maille, similar to the Islamic jazerain. More views of similar jackets follow.









            As you can see, in later-period armor, a style of maille called "nanban-gusari" was used, which closely resembles European 4-in-1 maille!

            Finally, I came across this piece:


This maille drape mystified me. It wasn't a hauberk, and didn't appear to be part of a long-gone jacket like the examples above, but looked like some kind of maille fishing net!

            After much research, I got my answer: it's a maille drape designed to look like a fishing net from a distance (to aid undercover ninja in their disguise), but when the situation called for it, the ninja could stick twigs, leaves, and branches into the mesh and use it for cover or concealment. It's a ninja ghillie-suit!

            So there you have it. The ninja were clever, devious opponents, well-trained in making the most of their available resources. Several books and magazines are available for those wishing to learn more about the ninja, and if you look around, there are even schools of ninjutsu available for those wishing to learn the arts themselves!

            Thanks for joining me for another month of Blackmaille! As usual, any questions, comments, hate mail, or fan mail can (and should) be sent to me at:

Tom Beckett
13628 Belmead Ave
Grandview, MO 64030
Attn: Blackmaille

Or you can email me at:

            See you next month!






5 KIM, ASHIDA  "Secrets of the Ninja"  Citadel Press Secaucus, NJ 1981

6 HATSUMI, MASAAKI "Ninjutsu, History and Tradition" Unique Publications, Hollywood, CA 1981

7 HAYES, STEPHEN K. "Ninja Realms of Power" Contemporary Books, Chicago, IL 1986

8 HAYES, STEPHEN K. "The Ancient Art of Ninja Warfare"  Contemporary Books, Chicago, IL 1988

9 HAYES, STEPHEN K. "The Mystic Arts of the Ninja" Contemporary Books, Chicago, IL 1985


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