What is Ninja gear? What did the Ninja of ancient Japan wear?
You would be forgiven for thinking that Ninjas always dressed in black clothes and wore head masks with narrow eye-slits. After all, this is standard Ninja gear for any Ninja in the movies, right?
Sure, but don’t buy into the fantasy. There might be an inkling of truth in it, depending on how you look at it, but the reality was far more practical.
Ninjas were many things; assassins, spies, and rumor gatherers and spreaders, to name just a few of the roles they took, but almost all of their tasks required stealth, which meant that they had to adapt their appearance to whatever task they were attempting. This meant that they had to blend in not only with the people around them but also with the environments in which they found themselves.
Can you imagine some poor guy trying to sneak around town in black Ninja Gear during broad-daylight?
He would not last very long in the “job.” He probably would not live to learn from his mistakes, either.
When trying to imagine what an actual Ninja must have looked like, consider the following rule:
“If he looks like a Ninja, he probably isn’t one.”
“Ninja gear” could be anything; a peasant’s or an aristocrat’s clothes, samurai armor, a priest’s robes, or, yes, for nighttime assignments, something resembling “typical Ninja” clothing. Anything might be ninja gear in the right circumstances!
So where did the myth of the black clothed Ninja come from?
Possibly from the theatre. During the Edo period, stage hands would commonly dress in dark clothes to better go about their business “unseen” by audiences. Some say that the clothing we imagine to be a standard uniform has been handed down to us from the storytellers of the time; people who adopted the clothing style to describe Ninja’s in their tales.
The truth is, clothing was a tool for the Ninja, not a fashion statement; it was used to enhance the awesome stealth abilities, techniques, and skills that Ninjas possessed, not to strike impressive poses.
This holds true for the present, too. A visitor to a Ninjutsu dojo will see that practitioners wear black clothing and shoes, but this is for practical reasons and to maintain a link with the traditional roots of the art, and these clothes are only worn during formal practice.
These days, Ninja gear could be jeans and a tee-shirt, a dress, a business suit, or any other form of modern apparel, and this is because the true Ninja is like the chameleon that sheds its skin to protect itself and blend in with its environment. Ninjutsu practitioners know that what is on the outside is simply a tool to enhance what is on the inside – the awesome knowledge, skills, and stealth abilities of the powerful, traditional art of the Ninja.