Day of the Ninja
Also known as
Die Like a Pirate Day
International Creep Like a Ninja Day
International Ninja Day
Move Like a Ninja Day
Sneak Like a Ninja Day
Stalk Like a Ninja Day
annually on December 5th (since 2003)
Ninja Burger in 2003
Created by Ninja Burger, a parody website that claims to be a sect of ninjas that can deliver fast food meals in under a half-hour to any place at any time, Day of the Ninja is a day when people dress like ninjas, do things that ninjas would do, and share information about ninjas online. The creators of the day have said the day should be used to "plague your co-workers with ninja-ness and wear a ninja mask to work," but said those who don't have to work today should "run wild in the streets, or dress like a ninja at the mall." They encourage everyone to make posts about ninjas all over the internet, such as by making posts on YouTube, putting links about ninjas on websites, and sharing photos of yourself wearing ninja outfits. They say the most important thing that can be done is to tell others about the day so that they can celebrate as well. They aren't too picky about how people celebrate, saying, "Just show the world that YOU ARE NINJA!"
The day's creators acknowledge some others have called the day International Creep Like a Ninja Day or Sneak Like a Ninja Day, among other names, and have said that although they aren't affiliated with them, they support their efforts to support ninjas in whatever way they choose. December 5 was chosen as the date of the holiday because The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, was released on December 5, 2003, and the film had a scene where samurai battled ninjas. The day gained popularity over the following years. In 2004, French performers posed in front of important landmarks, which brought more press coverage to the day. Ask a Ninja brought their support to the day in 2006, and the release of the Ask a Ninja DVD coincided with the holiday that year. By 2007, national news organizations such as NPR were picking up on the day.
Ninjas were warriors in feudal Japan who often acted as spies or worked as assassins. From the lower class, they likely evolved as an opposing group to the samurai, who were from the upper class. Sometimes samurai even hired them to do their dirty work, because bushido, the samurai code, wouldn't permit them to engage in certain behaviors. Ninjas were hired by enemies of samurai as well. Japanese folklore paints a different ninja origin story, saying they came from a demon that was half crow and half man. Their art of stealth, ninjutsu, a type of martial arts, started being developed between 600 and 900 CE. Chinese Tang generals escaped to Japan following the fall of the Tang Dynasty, bringing tactics with them. Chinese monks brought tactics there as well. During the eleventh century, these Chinese tactics coupled with native tactics and developed into a form of ninjutsu with no clear rules.
The rules were formalized by Daisuke Togakure and Kain Doshi during the twelfth century. Daisuke had been a samurai, but after he lost a battle he had to give up his title as one, as well as his lands. In 1162, instead of committing seppuku—suicide—he began wandering in the mountains of southwest Honshu and met Kain Doshi, a Chinese warrior-monk. Together they developed ninjutsu.
Ninjas were trained to be fit so that they would be well-equipped for jumping and climbing. They were taught survival skills such as how to live off the land, how to conceal themselves, and how to escape. They were taught many other skills as well, such as how to use explosives, how to understand weather changes, and how to read maps. Ninjas often wore disguises and dark clothing and tended to cover their face and head. Their clothing was also made of soft materials so it was easier for them to move. They learned to fight by any means necessary, for their own preservation, often using stealth and poison. Ninjas usually attacked at night. They used a short sword called a katana, which was usually worn across their back instead of at their side so that it was easier for them to maneuver. They were also known to throw knives, as well as multi-bladed throwing stars called shuriken, and also used a kusarigama, a crescent-shaped sickle which was connected to a wooden pole, with a long chain and a weight at the other end. One of their other main tools were grappling hooks.
Ninja leaders were called jonin. Jonins passed orders on to chunins, who passed them on to genin, the ordinary ninjas. Some jonins were disgraced samurai-like Daisuke Togakure, who had fled instead of committing suicide. But most ninjas were not from nobility. Instead, they were farmers and villagers. The three divisions of ninjas were largely based on social class, but a skilled ninja could rise in the ranks to a jonin, and ninjas were well-paid, so even genin could gain wealth and climb the social ladder. Women were also ninjas and were known as kunoichi. They were successful as spies, going into enemy castles as dancers, concubines, and servants. Some even committed assassinations as well.
The era of the ninja was between 1336 and 1603. During this time, they took part in the Nanbokucho Wars, the Onin War, and in the events of the Sengoku period. Ninja strongholds were in the Iga and Koga provinces, areas consisting of villages and farmland. When Oda Nobunaga was working to reunite Japan between 1551 and 1582, he quickly defeated the Koga ninja forces. It took more time to take on the Iga, who eventually were also defeated. With the beginning of the Edo period in 1603—a period of stability in Japan started that lasted until 1868—the era of the ninja was all but over. The legend of ninjas remained, fueled by their secret training and anonymity, and they became popular characters in movies, games, and comic books. It is because of their continued intrigue to the public that websites like Ninja Burger and holidays like Day of the Ninja came to be.
How to Observe Day of the Ninja
Show the world that YOU ARE NINJA! The most effective way to do so may be to get yourself a ninja costume or to take some ninjutsu lessons. If you have to work, wear your costume. If you have the day off, "run wild in the streets, or dress like a ninja at the mall." You could share information about ninjas online and should make sure to tell all your friends about the day. You could enjoy anime, films, games, and literature about ninjas, or watch The Last Samurai, the film that was released on the same day that the first Day of the Ninja was held. If you are up for some traveling, you could visit the Ninja Museum of Igaryu. Finally, you could order from Ninja Burger or apply to work for them. They encourage observers of the day to email them to let them know how they are celebrating the day.