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Copy of legendary book on art of ninja found at shrine in west Japan city

A copy of the "Kanrinseiyo," recently found for the first time, is seen at the Katsuragi community center in the city of Koka, Shiga Prefecture, on June 19, 2022. (Mainichi/Kenichi Isono)

KOKA, Shiga -- The city of Koka in Shiga Prefecture, known as a "ninja village," announced on June 19 that a written copy of the original source of a famous book on the art of ninja from the Edo period (1603-1867) has been found at a local shrine for the first time.

    The actual book or a copy of "Kanrinseiyo," the source of "Bansenshukai" (1676), had previously not been found. Professor Michifumi Isoda of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies said during a June 19 press conference, "The book, which we knew existed but had never been located just like a ninja, appeared." He expressed hope toward future research on the book.

    In December 2021, Takamasa Fukushima, 37, who is studying ninja and is a member of the regional revitalization cooperation team in Koka, was examining the warehouse of Kazuraki Shrine in the city based on a list of ancient documents complied in the latter half of the Showa era (1926-1989). He discovered a book on "ninjutsu," literally meaning the art of ninja, with the words "military law Kanrinseiyo middle volume" in Japanese on the cover.

    According to the city, a total of 48 types of ninjutsu were described in all 40 pages of the book. The text explained specific methods such as attaching layers of silk fabric to the bottom of straw sandals to prevent noise when sneaking around, attacking to the right when surrounded by a large number of enemies, throwing charred owl and turtle powder when trying to hide, and casting spells. It also clarified methods and how to manufacture and use ninjutsu tools, such as cane swords and "makibishi" -- the Japanese version of the caltrop.

    The book was deemed a copy of the actual "Kanrinseiyo" as it did not contain anything incompatible, and was kept together with other books relating to the Koka ninja family. The words "middle volume" suggest the existence of a first and last volume.

    Professor Yuji Yamada of Mie University's International Ninja Research Center said, "The cutting-edge science and technology of that time is incorporated in the book. It is also important to know the scientific standard of the Edo period."

    Professor Isoda said, "The book provides practical and realistic information on ninja. Recreating ninjutsu and tools can lead to the reproduction of ninja."

    (Japanese original by Kenichi Isono, Kusatsu Resident Bureau)

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