Ninjas are known to exist in Japan. They were covert agents who were skilled in espionage, sabotage, infiltration, assassination, and guerilla warfare. But did you know that there were female ninjas?
Beyond Science narrates the story of female ninja warriors known as “Kunoichi”. Their existence is supported by the Bansenshukai – a 17th-century book containing knowledge and secrets about ninja training.
It took place in Medieval Japan when men dominated society and women were largely relegated to the sidelines, taking “harmless” roles such as wives, mistresses, or maids.
The Bansenshukai revealed that the primary function of a kunoichi was to infiltrate a target’s household and form intimate relations with members of that clan and to gain their trust. The kunoichi were less likely to arouse suspicion compared to their male counterparts.
A female ninja takes her time to accomplish the mission even if it took months or years. When the time came to eliminate the target, the kunoichi did not wait for a shinobi or a male ninja to finish the job.
The existence of female ninjas in history is solidified by Mochizuki Chiyome. She was a noblewoman from the 16th century and the wife of a samurai warlord. Chiyome set up an underground network of female spies that included around 300 orphans, war victims, and prostitutes. These group of female ninjas put their lives on the line for the Takeda clan, which was led by the uncle of Chiyome’s late husband, Takeda Shingen.
For reasons unknown, after the death of Shingen in 1573, Chiyome disappeared from Japan’s historical records.
To this day no one knows what happened to the secret group after serving the Takeda clan.