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Iga-ryū 伊賀流 (literally “the Iga School”) is a school of ninjutsu. It became one of the two most well-known ninja schools in Japan, along with the Kōga-ryū. The Iga-ryū originated in the Iga Province in the area around the towns of Iga and Ueno (modern Iga City in Mie Prefecture). Iga-mono is a synonym for Iga ninja.



Since the Nara period, Iga has been the district to supply lumber to jisha (寺社 the generic term of Japanese religious construction and tribe). But in the Kamakura period, Jisha declined in influence, while shugo and jito grew dominant. Bushi rose and manor's authority was lost in Iga. Iga was divided in to local ji-samurai regions, where they continued their guerrilla war among themselves. They had known one another well, and as a consequently, they developed special war skills and tactics. The literary documents Tōdai-ji-Bunsho show "there were the lawless areas". The Kōga-ryū school of ninjutsu was founded and developed in similar way.

It was during the early Muromachi period that the people of the Iga region became effectively independent from their feudal overlords and established a kind of republic in their region. The Iga republic was called Iga Sokoku Ikki (伊賀惣国一揆) in Japanese. Iga-mono 伊賀者 (Iga-men) first appear in historical records in 1487 when the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshihisa attacked Rokkaku Takayori, the daimyo of southern Omi Province from Rokkaku clan. Both Iga and Koga ninjas fought on the side of Rokkaku, helping to successfully repel the shogun’s attack. In 1579, warlord Oda Nobunaga’s son, Oda Nobukatsu launched an attack against the Iga Republic but was defeated by local troops and ninja mustered by the people of Iga. Oda Nobunaga could not allow his family’s loss of face to a band of ninja stand unanswered. So in 1581, he launched a massive invasion of Iga, attacking from six directions with a force of 40,000 to 60,000 men, 10 to 1 odds.[1]. The Iga fought bravely but were soon reduced to holding out in two castles. However, after ruthlessly slaughtering many Iga ninja and their family members, Nobunaga declared a cease fire and allowed some of the ninja to escape. The castles were surrendered to the warlord.

In 1582, during the turmoil following Oda Nobunaga’s death, the Iga ninja Hattori Hanzo offered the future shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu an escape route which passed through Kōga and Iga regions to enable his return to the province of Mikawa. Ieyasu, when he became the shogun, employed ninja to guard the Edo Castle, the headquarters of Tokugawa shogunate. He settled 200 men from the Iga-ryū in the Yotsuya neighbourhood of Edo (Tokyo). Iga men were employed to guard key gates of the castle and were used as intelligence agents for the Shoguns. The west gate of Edo Castle is called Hanzo's Gate because the residence of the Hattori clan was near the gate.

Hattori Hanzo’s son, Hattori Masanari was commander of the Iga guards at Edo Castle but he proved to be a less successful leader than his father when, in 1606, the Iga men rebelled against him due to harsh treatment. The Iga ninja continued to be employed by the Tokugawa clan shoguns until Tokugawa Yoshimune (ruled 1716-1745) dismissed all ninja from intelligence work and replaced them with people from his local Kii Province.


Members of the Iga school of ninja were trained in disguise, escape, concealment, explosives, medicines and poisons. They were trained in techniques of unarmed combat and in the use of various weapons such as shuriken and ninjatō swords. The ninja used scaling hooks for climbing and supposedly used special "water-walking shoes" (displayed at the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum).

The ninja of the Iga-ryū were divided into three classes: high ninjas (Jonin), middle ninjas (Chunin) and low ninjas (Genin).

See also




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