Samurai Versus Ninja

I asked everyone over on the Tolerant People Facebook page what they would like to see on the blog and the only suggestion so far was Samurai versus Ninja. So, let’s learn about Samurais and Ninjas…

Before researching the two, my vote was for the Samurai. Mainly because of the movie “The Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise because, well, I have never been overly interested in either and that was my only real reference point. Also, I pretty much love any movie that Ken Watanabe is in. If you are going to research the Samurai, I suggest the search term, “Samurai Warrior” because unless you are specific, you get 10,000 pictures of Suzuki Samurai trucks. Same goes for Ninjas – just searching for “Ninja” comes up with hundreds of images of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The more you know…



The samurai (or bushi) were the warriors of premodern Japan. They later made up the ruling military class that eventually became the highest ranking social caste of the Edo Period(1603-1867). Samurai employed a range of weapons such as bows and arrows, spears and guns, but their main weapon and symbol was the sword.

Samurai were supposed to lead their lives according to the ethic code of bushido (“the way of the warrior”). Strongly Confucian in nature, bushido stressed concepts such as loyalty to one’s master, self discipline and respectful, ethical behavior. Many samurai were also drawn to the teachings and practices of Zen Buddhism.




Ninja (忍者) were a type of warrior who specialized in unconventional warfare such as infiltration, sabotage and assassination during the age of the samurai. Another way of calling them is “shinobi”, meaning “those who act in stealth”. Ninja employed deception and forgery tactics to take opponents out by surprise. Due to their unorthodox methods which contradicted the way of the warrior (bushido), the ninja were not credited with the same honor as the samurai.

The diverse range of skills practiced by the ninja is called ninjutsu – the art of stealth – and includes training in armed combat, weapon techniques, military strategy, meteorology, geometry and breathing synthesis. Ninjutsu was passed down through generations within families or directly from teacher to a selected one or few disciples. This secrecy in part explains why little factual information exists about the ninja, giving rise to lots of stereotyping of them both within Japan and in the West.


Basically, the Samurai were respected warriors and ninjas were pretty much terrorists. So as far as history goes,  the Samurai win in terms of respect and national pride. However, in a fight, my guess is that the ninjas would win because they would cheat. It also explains why we glorify ninjas here in the west. I mean creating a video game that is based on warriors that only fight to protect their way of life and government and that follow a strict moral code would be pretty boring. However, playing a ninja offers cool stealthy stuff to do, they have no rules, and they get to kill people with throwing stars. Who doesn’t like throwing stars?

According to IMDb: There are 96 top Ninja movies and only 30 top Samurai movies. Ninjas make better action movies because they are not bound by the rules, and since historically we know so little about them it is easier to create a history for them without being burdened by little things like facts.

Which one would you pick- The honorable Samurai; or the skillful stealthy Ninja?

Personally, I am still rooting for the Samurai.

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