History of the Black Dragon Ninja in Feudal Japan

The period of the 16th Century was known as the "Golden Age of Ninjitsu." During this time there was so much warfare between the various feudal Daimyo and such proliferation of the Samurai tradition that new arts and clans sprang up virtually overnight. Ronin, or masterless Samurai roamed the continent feely exercising their right to "kill and walk away" from any peasant who should be misfortunate enough to incur their displeasure. In an effort to end this mindless slaughter, unite the warlords into a nation, and make himself emperor, Ieyasu Tokugawa, a Samurai retainer of the Toyotomi clan, gathered his forces, engaged in secret treaties and negotiations, plots, counter-plots, and assassination to promote his own cause.

At the climatic battle of Seikigahara, he indeed succeeded in routing the forces of Lord Ishida and all those loyal to the true ruler, the young Lord Hideyori, of the Toyotomi imperial line. Those who did not swear allegiance were put to the sword without mercy or, if they were of royal lineage, banished to distant provinces. By these means, he installed himself as the first Shogun, or regent to the throne; promising, of course, to turn power over to Lord Hideyori when he came of age. He actually had no intention of reliquishing power, and plotted the demise of the youthful king, who kept himself safe under the protection of his mother Lady Yoda in the impregnable castle at Osaka. Ieyasu knew the tradition minded Japanese would not tolerate any open attack upon the young lord and so the climate of political intrigue was established; with Ieyasu wielding the real power and the isolated Hideyori as the titular governmental leader.

On the night of the Great Meteor, which crashed into the Japanese mainland after terrifying the entire nation with its fiery passage, Ieyasu was toasting his victory over General Mitsudari Ishida at Seikigahara by feasting with his friends and drinking wine from a cup made of the General's hollowed out skull. Unknown to most, the exiled Lord Sanada had dispatched one of his most trusted agents, one Seizo Kerigakura, to infiltrate the palace and assassinate the rebellious Shogun.

After the banquet, Seizo entered the sleeping chamber of the Shogun and beheaded the sleeping figure. Unfortunately, his mission had been compromised by a double agent, who had been "turned around" by the Ninja master Hanzo Hattori. And a "look-alike double" was the victim of the assassination. The next day, the ruse having been discovered, Seizo and his followers were attacked by Hanzo in retaliation, and barely escaped with their lives.

Seizo and his few remaining followers made their way to the remote headquarters of Lord Sanada and reported their failure.

Shortly thereafter, Lord Sanada himself was killed by means of poison delivered by a previously loyal retainer who presented the Lord with a kitten, whose claws had been dipped in the deadly toxin. Leadership of the Sanada clan thus passed to Sanada Yokimura, eldest son, whose brother had been ordered by their father to join the Shogun's army after the defeat at Seikigahara so that the clan name would survive regardless of the outcome of the battle. Thus, while Yokimura became an outlaw, Nobiyuki Sanada retained control of the family's traditional provincial territory. Yokimura, recognizing the hopelessness of his situation, ordered his Samurai to join his brother, thereby disbanding his army, and disappeared into the mountains. Yokimura's wife, the Lady Iya, daughter of General Kiamasu, loyal to Ieyasu, killed herself in ritual suicide, seppuku, to atone for what she believed was the treachery of her father, who had become the chief emmisary and peacemaker between Ieyasu and Lady Yoda.

In a political move intended to cement his position, Ieyasu ordered that Lady Yoda and Lord Hideyori attend his inauguration as Shogun. This required them to leave the safety of Osaka and travel overland at great peril, not the least of which was the likelihood they would be poisoned or die by other mysterious means while at the ceremony. Etiquette demanded they make this journey, however, and they succeeded in doing so and returning to their fortress under the protection of their loyal bodyguard of Samurai. In payment for his efforts in setting up this charade, Lord Kiamasu was assassinated by agents loyal to Ieyasu; his usefulness had ended.

Meanwhile, Lord Sanada had taken refuge at the Buddhist monastery on Mount Kuro in Kyushu, which was inhabited by female monks of the Takeda clan. The only remnants of that family left after a merciless campaign some years earlier by Ieyasu. They had developed into an extensive network of spies and secret agents, using the Ninjitsu Kunoichi methods, and, having no great love for the new Shogun, agreed to help Lord Sanada extract his revenge on their common enemy.

Together, they sought the assistance of another Ninja clan, led by Hakune Saitozawa, who lived on Mount Hachigamina in the province of Tamba. Learning of this impending alliance through his own spies, Ieyasu sent Hanzo, who had himself been trained by Hakune, to offer a position in the, new government to the Ninja Master. when he refused, Hanzo promptly killed his former mentor and burned his lodgings to the ground.

Koskei Anayama, son of Kohei the winemaker, took his band of Takeda Kunoichi and wine poisoned with a powerful hallucinogenic drug and entertained the army of Yoshida Myeda on the eve of battle. The Ninja met their advance column in the morning fog and cut them to pieces with musket fire.

Lady Yoda immediately sued for peace, which was graciously granted by Ieyasu in light of this crushing defeat. Lady Yoda was ordered to court and made a hostage at Edo. Lord Hideyori was to retire at Oyuji Temple in Hodiyuji on the pretext that they had broken their treaty by keeping Samurai retainers within the castle walls after the army had been disbanded. Actually, these were the men sworn to take the head of Ieyasu. No other place was even remotely safe. Ieyasu characterized them as "Vagabond Samurai". All this time, the myth that the government was running quite smoothly with the young Lord in his traditional place at Osaka, and the Lady Yoda as a guest of Ieyasu was being maintained. Lord Hideyori rejected the plan, stating that Ieyasu, as a former vassal of the Toyotomi clan, had broken his oath of fealty first, therefore, the young Lord would fight for his throne.

This was the chance the Japanese Tong of Retribution had been waiting for. Many years before, as Lord Sanada lay dying from the poison cat scratch, he told his grand strategy of how to retake the throne in three years time. The key was to lure Ieyasu himself to the battlefield, thus exposing him to danger.

Thus, the stage was set. Saratobi Saskei, another student of Hakune, returned to find his master slain. In the tradition of the Invisible Tribe, he gathered the ashes of his master and buried them in a secret location, so that no proof of his death could ever be found. Saskei formed an alliance with Yokimura and the Takeda Kunoichi, all vowing never to rest until Ieyasu had been killed. They gathered to themselves a team of Ronin, outlawed Christians, actors, wanderers, and any other sworn enemies of Ieyasu. Thus the nationalist Black Dragon Society of Japan was born, based on the ancient teachings of the Chinese military strategist Sun Tsu's classic text, "The Art of War", written in the 5th century, that Saskei ahd been taught by Hakune, and that formed the underlying philosophy of many Ninja clans. They chose the name Black Dragon after the Chinese secret society known as the Black Dragon Tong of Retribution, which had long existed on the Chinese mainland as one of the numerous Triad cults. And, like the Triads who had descended from Shaolin Temple roots, dedicated themselves to the protection of their homeland.

Their first mission was the rescue of the Korean Princess Ota, who had been captured during a Japanese campaign against Korea some years before. One of her followers, Isa Miyoshi, who had also been taken prisoner and brought to Japan, was a charter member of the new Ninja clan. She joined the Kunoichi of the Takeda clan taking the name Sakai Miyoshi, and infiltrated Osaka castle to insure the safety of Lord Hideyori, the true ruler of succession.

Acting on intelligence gathered by the Kunoichi, the Ninja attempted to assassinate Ieyasu by destroying a secret base near Nagura Castle where the Shogun planned to watch the test firing of several cannon smuggled into Japan from Holland. Ieyasu reasoned that such artillery would be necessary to successfully storm the previously impregnable Osaka Castle. Since cannon require gunpowder, the Ninja team elected to blow up the entire camp and Ieyasu with it by setting fire to a river that ran through the enclosure and near the explosive stores. They accomplished this by pumping oil from a contaminated well onto the river surface and setting it alight with torches. The fortress was thereby destroyed, as well as the cannon, and Ieyasu barely escaped with his life. During the ensuing fight to cut off his retreat, Lord Sanada Yokimura was blinded in the left eye, and his brother, who had come as an ally of Ieyasu to watch the test, was killed.

Ieyasu, always the opportunist, used the attempt as an excuse to attack Osaka. The Ninja, acting still on their personal quest, manipulated themselves into positions of leadership, and Princess Ota, serving as a handmaiden to lady Yoda under her "nom d'guerre" of Sakai Miyoshi, waited until the young Lord was in a proper contemplative mood to tell him that the army must look to him to restore the clan of Toyotomi to the throne; since he was the rightful heir.

Tunneling under the road to Osaka Castle, the Ninja planted a series of explosive charges. As the palanquin column carrying Ieyasu passed above, they attacked by opening up the very ground to swallow up the army of the Shogun's expeditionary force.

During the ensuing slaughter and confusion, Kaka, the explosive expert, trained by Master Hakune himself, was killed. He detonated a keg of gunpowder and blew himself and twelve of the Shogun's army to bits.

Six of the Ninja attacked, using the strategy of Hagakure-no-Jitsu, "making one appear as many", or vice versa. Each wearing identical armor and screaming that they were Sanada Yokimura come to claim the head of Ieyasu in revenge for the murder of Lord Sanada. One by one, they fell before overwhelming odds. Until eventually, the "reappearing ghost" cut a path through the army and forced Ieyasu to flee on foot. He was eventually chased down and beheaded by the true Lord Yokimura Sanada, who was himself cut down by gunfire from forces loyal to the late Shogun.

The soul survivor of the original Nine Dragons Council who founded what is now known as Ninjitsu in Japan was, Saratobi Saskei, the Leaping Monkey, who also possessed the power of Kuji Kiri as taught to him by Master Hakune Saitozawa, himself trained in China.

Princess Ota and the Korean Ninja Isa Miyoshi returned to their homeland, and may have carried Ninja techniques to their own quest to restore her to power.

The Ninja went completely underground thereafter. And were not heard from again until the Amur River Society in the early 20th century. In true Ninjitsu tradition, the had "vanished from the face of the Earth." This is their legend.

One cannot believe that simply because they were not heard from that they were not practicing and training, and watching-should they be needed again. That, after all, is why it is called the Art of Invisibility.


In his biography of Yukio Mishima, author Henry Scott Stokes states,

"In 1970, at the peak of his literary career and immediately after completing his last novel, 'The Decay of the Angel', Yukio Mishima committed Hara-Kiri in a military headquarters in Tokyo.

In a public speech, Mishima had suggested he was making a political gesture, but that is too simple an explanation for a man who was obsessed with Hara-Kiri all his life , not only writing about it, but acting it in films."

Stokes was a friend of Mishima and reveals his childhood, youth, start as a writer, world travels, and the setting up of his own private army.

In March 1969, Mishima invited Stokes to attend a training exercise of the Tatenokai, translated to mean Shield Society. The name was taken from a classical Japanese poem anthology, the Manyoshu, in which the warrior pledges his life as a shield for the Emperor. On page 179 there is a picture of Stokes, Mishima and an unidentified man in a white parka to blend into the snow on Mt. Fuji. This was a "night rendevous exercise" in conjunction with the Jietai, or Japanese Self-Defense Forces. After the publication of Stokes article about the exercise, such events were closed to the public.

In early April, Mishima secretly formed an inner circle of students within the Tatenokai who would aid him in his attempt to take over the headquarters. On September 15, after Mishima had gone to (deleted) and watched a performance of Ninja Taikai, "a feudal martial art, performed by men in black garb- their art being to vanish into thin air," Mishima announced the date of his assault, November 25, 1970.

As Stokes points out, it may have been that Yukio Mishima actually believed the barracks and students would rise up to his rebellion and throw off the yoke of Yankee Imperialism and return the Days of Glory, the legacy of the Samurai; or, Mishima the actor may simply wanted to put on a grand show and make a most dramatic exit. In any event, when the coup failed, he committed Hara-Kiri. His most loyal follower, Masakatsu Morita failed to kill himself with the same dagger, and was beheaded by Furu-Koga, in the traditional manner. Another of the three survivors was known as Chiba-Koga. Koga is the home prefecture of the Japanese Black Dragon Ninja.