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KUNOICHI THE FEMALE NINJA SPY AND MORE!…
Most Westerners think of ninjas as blackmasked men with swords who appear from the Ninjutsu shadows and strike without warning.
But not all ninja assassins were male, and not all of them walked in shadow.
Female ninjas, known as kunoichi, formed an important part
of medieval shinobi clans. Like their male counterparts, kunoichi
trained in combat, disguise, and stealth,
though their missions and function differed from those of male shinobi
in several important ways.
Disguises and Tactics
Shinobi (which is the Japanese pronounciation of the characters
Westerners read as “ninja”) worked as spies as well as assassins. All shinobi could kill in the line of duty,
and many did, but others acted as covert agents—often deep undercover in enemy territory.
A courtesan’s costume of the Kamakura Period in JapanMedieval Japan
was ruled and dominated by men of the samurai class. Samurai rarely trusted strangers, but often made exceptions for women, either because of their beauty or because the woman filled a “harmless” social role (a maid, for example). Kunoichi frequently posed as performers,
courtesans, or servants. In these disguises, kunoichi infiltrated temples, castles, and fortresses, either to gather information or to strike
at well protected targets male assassins could not reach.
A male shinobi might assume the role of a samurai retainer or an artisan,
but those positions seldom allowed the assassin unfettered access to his target.
Samurai lived well defended lives.
Assassinations by male ninja often took the form of clandestine
(usually nocturnal) missions, a medieval form of “seek and destroy.”
The costume of a courtesan from Japan’s medieval period,
By contrast, a kunoichi could gain her
target’s trust until he allowed her intimate access,
at which point she could attack—when both his
pants and his guard were down.
Shinobi training for both genders focused
on utilizing the ninja’s personal strengths to best advantage.
In medieval Japan, where women were often prized for beauty
rather than skill, a kunoichi’s beauty was one of her most valuable
But that doesn’t mean the female ninja depended exclusively on her looks.
In combat, kunoichi were just as deadly, and as welltrained, as any othershinobi.
Like their male counterparts, kunoichi trained with a variety of weapons.
Most knew how to use a sword, though female ninjas usually specialized
in close hand to hand combat—which meant a preference for daggers, garrotes, poisons, and specialty items like bladed fans and claw
like finger extensions known as nekote.
An example of nekote or cat’s claws, a weapon used by kunoichi in medieval Japan Nekote, in particular, were used almost exclusively by kunoichi.
The weapon consists of leather finger sheaths topped with sharpened metal “claws.” The sheaths slipped over the end of the wearer’s fingers,
giving the kunoichi a set of lethal, tiger like claws that measured from one
to three inches in length.
Many women poisoned the metal claws for added effect.
Nekote slipped on in an instant but disappeared just as quickly
into a pocket or the sleeve of a kimono, facilitating surprise attacks
and helping the kunoichi avoid discovery.