Just how badass was the Togakure Ryū???
Today I received an email asking me “I don’t see much historical information available regarding the Togakure Ryū, in your opinion just how badass do you think they really were???”
This is a great question; it requires a lot of explanation.
First, keep in mind that the actions of the shinobi were never meant to be made public, so it is likely that 95% of the ninja’s history will never be known. But we can get good glimpses from reliable source texts as to the types of missions they were involved in.
In the case of the Togakure Ryū, during the 1500’s the headmasters of the lineage were of the Momochi family.
According to Toda Shinryuken’s oral traditions, there were no less than ten Momochi family members that acted as Grandmasters of the Togakure Ryū. They were considered, along with the Hattori family and the Fujibayashi family, to be the supreme commanders of the Iga-shu shinobi. Today we often refer to these families as Jōnin (上忍). Therefore, in my humble opinion, any actions that were carried out by the Momochi family and their supporters would have been executed by Togakure Ryū shinobi.
On top of this there is plenty of evidence to show that the Fujibayashi family were from Togakure village and that their ninjutsu was of Togakure origins.
For one final nail, we also know that the Hattori family, Momochi family and the Fujibayashi family had extremely close family connections, including intermarrying, adopting each other’s children, etc.
So, it is likely that the differences between these three families’ styles of ninjutsu would not be that different. Rather, it is likely they shared many similarities.
With keeping all of this in mind I would like to introduce an entry in a historical record that shows just how extremely effective these ninja families were.
In the chronicles of Ozuki Tokimotoki (小槻時元記), there is an entry for February 15, 1502, that says when the local rulers of Iga tried to secure their control over the peasants of the region for their idleness, the peasants asked for help from the yamabushi in Kyoto on Atago Mountain. Soon after, dozens of yamabushi (mountain priests) from Atago, accompanied by about 400 men, invaded Iga Province.
However, the Iga-shu 伊賀衆 (the shinobi) rushed into the Yamabushi camp at night and defeated them without having a single formal battle, leaving only a dozen or so people to return to Kyoto. This was described as an extremely "strange occurrence” because the Iga people must have been well-trained and used guerrilla warfare methods such as surprise attacks and distractions. It must be so as they easily defeated the Yamabushi, who were known to have been skilled in battle, with less than 20 men.
So, in summary, I believe that as this was 1502, the Momochi family were most likely directly involved in these actions. Being that the attack was coming from Kyoto it would have been the Momochi and the Kami-Hattori clans that they would encounter first. So, if the Momochi family was involved, I think it is safe to say that it was the Togakure Ryū.
To answer his question…the Togakure Ryū were more badass than 400 battle hardened men from Atago Mountain, where the men there were known to be masters of the martial arts. This is probably why they were even able to defeat Oda Nobuo's army during the early part of the Tensho-Iga War.
Sean Askew – 導冬 - Dōtō
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Shane Sensei is a licensed Shidoshi in the Bujinkan and member of the Shidoshi-Kai. He has trained in the Bujinkan since 1998 and regularly travels to Japan for training.