Bansenshukai. The Bansenshukai contains a collection of knowledge from the clans in the Iga and Kōga regions. They were devoted to ninja training. Credit: Motokoka / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED.

The Bansenshūkai, also pronounced Mansenshukai, is a significant historical text from Japan, offering a comprehensive collection of knowledge from the clans in the Iga and Kōga regions that were devoted to the training of ninja.

The Bansenshūkai was compiled by Fujibayashi Yasutake in 1676, during the early years of the Tokugawa shogunate. This period was marked by near-constant military conflict, starting from the Ōnin War until the end of the Siege of Osaka, spanning almost 150 years. Yasutake was a historical figure from the 17th century, known for his significant contribution to the field of ninjutsu.

The Bansenshūkai is a summary of the main points of the three volumes of the original Ninjutsu book, Kanrinseiyō. The existence of the original text Kanrinseiyō was mentioned in the beginning of Bansenshūkai, but its existence had not been confirmed for a long time. However, in June 2022, a manuscript of the second volume of Kanrinseiyō copied in 1748 was found.

The legendary 40-page book called “Kanrinseiyo,” dates from the Edo period and contains valuable information about ninja techniques and weapons. This is a handwritten reproduction that was produced in 1748. It contains 40 ninja techniques for fighting and espionage. It was found by, Takamasa Fukushima (37) at a warehouse of Kazuraki Shrine on December 2021. The original version was a source of “Bansenshukai” (1676).

The Bansenshūkai is divided into several volumes, each focusing on different aspects of ninja training:

  •  Two volumes of thought and philosophy
  •  Four volumes on leadership
  •  Three volumes on Yo-nin — open disguise
  •  Five volumes on In-nin — hidden infiltration
  •  Two volumes on astrology
  •  Five volumes on tools and weapons

There are two versions of the Bansenshūkai: The Koga Version has twenty-two chapters bound in ten volumes, with an additional one volume attached to it. The Iga Version has twenty-two chapters bound in twelve volumes with an additional four chapters in four volumes attached to it.

This diagram from the Bansenshukai uses divination and esoteric cosmology (onmyōdō) to instruct on the ideal time for taking certain actions.

Significance and Legacy

The Bansenshūkai, along with the Shōninki of 1681 and the Ninpiden of 1560, make up the three major sources of direct information about the profession of ninja. It provides a unique insight into the military strategy, weapons, astrological and philosophical beliefs of the times.

The Bansenshūkai has been translated into various languages, including English, French, German, and Japanese. It continues to be a valuable resource for historians and enthusiasts alike, offering a glimpse into the secretive world of the ninja. Fujibayashi Yasutake’s work, especially the Bansenshūkai, has left a deep imprint on Japanese culture. This influence can be seen in several key areas.

The Bansenshūkai has played a crucial role in the preservation of Ninja traditions. This comprehensive collection of knowledge from the ninja clans in the Iga and Kōga regions serves as a historical record. It has helped to safeguard the traditions, techniques, and philosophies of the ninja that could have otherwise been lost.

Ninja historic illustration, Meiwa era, circa 1770.

The Bansenshūkai has contributed to the promotion of Japanese Martial Arts. With its detailed descriptions of ninja training and tactics, it has helped in the global recognition and appreciation of Japanese martial arts. It has had a profound philosophical impact, as it delves into the philosophical beliefs of the times, reflecting a deep understanding of the human spirit and the philosophy of life and death. This has influenced Japanese thought and cultural practices. It’s emphasis on intelligence gathering, stealth, and strategy over direct combat has influenced modern espionage practices. Yasutake’s work has not only preserved the historical legacy of the ninja but also shaped the cultural, philosophical, and even practical aspects of Japanese society.

Yasutake’s work has had a significant influence on popular culture. The legacy of the ninja, as encapsulated in his work, has permeated various forms of media. From Hollywood blockbusters to video games, the ninja has become a staple, embodying values of courage, loyalty, and discipline.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Eugene Nielsen

Eugene Nielsen provides intelligence and security consulting services. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California. His byline has appeared in numerous national and international journals and magazines.

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