Hand-drawn historic illustration of a ninja from circa 1770 (Meiwa era).

The Shinobi Hiden or Legends of Ninja Secrets, also known as the Ninpiden, is a significant historical text in the world of ninjutsu. Authored by Hattori Hanzō in 1560, it is considered one of the three key historical texts of ninjutsu, alongside the Shōninki and the Bansenshukai.

Hattori Hanzō, who was also known by his given name, Hattori Masanari, was a renowned samurai and master of ninjutsu during the Sengoku period. His birth is estimated to have been around 1542, and he passed away on the January 2, 1597.

Hanzō was a loyal servant to the Tokugawa clan, playing a crucial role as a ninja or shinobi (Japanese: 忍び, lit. ’one who sneaks’; [ɕinobi]).. He is celebrated for saving Tokugawa Ieyasu’s life, which was instrumental in Ieyasu’s ascension as the unifier of Japan. Although his birth name was Hattori Masanari, he gained fame as the Second Hanzō. His daring strategies earned him the epithet Oni no Hanzō, or Demon Hanzō.

Hanzō was born in what is now known as Iga-chō, Okazaki, Aichi, but was then the Mikawa Province. He was the son of Hattori Yasunaga, the First Hanzō. His introduction to warfare came at a young age of 15, during a nocturnal assault at the siege of Udo Castle in 1557. He led a group of seventy Iga ninja during this encounter.

Hanzō’s contributions to Tokugawa Ieyasu’s consolidation of power were significant. Notably, he successfully rescued Ieyasu’s family who were held hostage at Kaminogo castle in 1562. His valor was evident in the battles of Anegawa in 1570 and Mikatagahara in 1572, where he served with distinction.

A portrait of Hattori Masanari aka Hattori Hanzo from the 17th century.

The Shinobi Hiden

The Shinobi Hiden was passed down within the Hattori family and was considered a secret transmission. It was not shared with outsiders, and even within the family, few had access to it. This exclusivity has contributed to the mystique and intrigue surrounding the text.

The Shinobi Hiden is filled with insights into the methods, tools, and philosophy of the ninja. It has been widely quoted and forms the base of much of what we know about the ninja. The text provides a unique window into the world of the ninja, offering a glimpse into their secretive and often misunderstood way of life.

While the original text remains a closely guarded secret, translations of the Shinobi Hiden have made it accessible to a wider audience. One such translation is The Ninjutsu Traditions of the Hattori Family by Hanzo Hattori and Don Roley. This work provides a translation of the Shinobi Hiden, along with commentary and historical background of the ninja and the Hattori family.

A page from the Shinobi Hiden showing a tool for breaking locks.


The Shinobi Hiden remains a fascinating historical document that continues to shed light on the secretive world of the ninja. Its influence extends beyond historical and academic circles, reaching into popular culture and continuing to shape our understanding of the ninja.

*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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