The Ninjas today are the stuff of myth and legend in comics, film and electronic games. But once they were real, the medieval equivalent of the SAS: spies, saboteurs, assassins. In their secrecy, under-cover skills and determination to survive, they were the opposite of the overt, self destructive samurai. Could they fly? Make themselves invisible? Of course not.It was just that their skills gave them a magical aura. As a result, martial artists and story-tellers have turned them into fantasy creatures, from James Bond to Mutant Turtles.
In Ninja John Man goes in search of the truth. In a journey to the heartland of the ninjas, he takes us from their origins over 1,000 years ago, through their heyday in the civil wars that ended with Japan’s unification in 1600. But that was not the end of the ninja ethos. That re-emerged in World War Two as a little-known counterpart to Japanese militarism. Ninja ways live on in the real ‘last of the ninjas’, Hiroo Onoda, who held out in the Philippine jungle for 30 years.
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His ability to put us in the picture, to feel, smell and almost touch the surroundings he describes is matched by his ability to tell a good story. - Michael Palin
One couldn't wish for a better storyteller or analyst than John Man - Simon Sebag Montefiore
An immensely entertaining history, packed with splendidly blood-thirsty tales. - Guardian
Ninja is a racy popular history of a difficult and often mythologised subject and should appeal to the armchair warrior in us all. - Literary Review
Man’s wry humour and treks through Japan’s mountains, valleys, temples and shrines adds a vivid and personable dimension to his questing spirit – so much so, you can imagine this being a terrific television series. - Metro
A thoroughly researched, appealing examination of the 'original men in black'. - Kirkus Reviews
John Man is a historian and travel writer with a special interest in Japan and China. His books have been published in over twenty languages. His previous books include Samurai, The Great Wall, Xanadu, Attila and the bestselling Genghis Khan.