Ninjutsu Kishōmon (忍術起請文, Ninjutsu Document of Written Vows to the Gods) is from the Kizu family’s collection of literary works. This was reported 1st to the public through news-related mediums such as newspapers and websites in Japan around 2 years ago.
BACKGROUND: A document containing a set of written vows, it’s an agreement signed by Kizu Inosuke, the 5th head of the Kizu family and an individual from Iga Province, who promises to uphold complete secrecy as he receives full transmission of ninjutsu system, along with texts and tools of the ninja from his teacher Nagai Matabei. It has religious connotations, as Inosuke agrees to be punished through divine interventions if he was unable to uphold the rules. This gives some indication of how serious the path of the ninja was in the past, and how religious beliefs played a role for Japanese warriors. Written vows of such nature can also be found throughout different parts of Japan, such as Akutagawa literary collections of Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture.
Ninjutsu Kishōmon has been examined and deciphered through the efforts of the Mie University Ninja Research Center. The image of the actual document below, along with the text, is from “Iga Portal”, which can be viewed here.
As a document of antiquity, I present a full English translation of the Ninjutsu Kishōmon, for the sake of understanding how those who specialized in the art of ninjutsu handled their craft.
Image of the original Ninja Kishōmon.
Digitized text from the document. Note that the text is read in its original format of right to left, with the words lined up from top to bottom.
English translation below.
Pre-written Vows of Declaration of Divine Punishment from the Sacred Shrines¹
- On this occasion, I receive the teachings of ninjutsu². I will not show or disclose the contents of the ninjutsu and ninki (tools of the ninja) I inherit from you to those who bear a relationship to me, such as my parents and siblings. I will act like I have no knowledge on such information. I will also not allow another person to copy the contents.
- From the Mansenshūkai³, the sections on the Preface, Seishin (Correct Heart), and Ninpō (Treasures of the ninja) will be made viewable, unquestionably, to our lord⁴ and his personal administrators⁵, such as his chief retainer, if they desire. I ask for your pardon, for when called upon to do so, I will not refuse.
- Outside of the ninki, the kaki (tools for fire & explosives), and those from the Mansenshūkai, I will inform you of new & unique ninki and kaki that I am able to devise.
- If, as a young master, I have strayed from the ways of justice, I will return the documents that I have copied from your possession, and will leave no trace of ever possessing those documents.
- I will not allow the secret techniques of the Mansenshūkai to be written in another document.
- I will not use ninjutsu and ninki I am inheriting for the acts of mere thievery. However, anything will be done for my lord’s sake no matter what.
- It is forbidden to oppose the rules written on the right⁶, even by just a little. May the great and minor deities within over 60 provinces of Japan, especially the gods of my home town, extract their punishment upon my own children and future generations wholeheartedly, if my incompetent self, ever so young acts like a betrayer even by just a little.
Signed by Kizu Inosuke, on the 6th year of Shōtoku (1716), on the 3rd day of the 5th month of the 33rd year of the Sexagenary Cycle (signature seal⁷)
For those interested, there is an accompanying post on the main blog entitled “Analyzing a Treasure from Ninjutsu of Old”. While it features the same translation, it provides a more analytical discussion about Ninjutsu Kishōmon, and ninja during the Edo period. This can be accessed here.
1) This is actually the full title of this document, which is read as “Keihaku Tenbatsu Reisha Kishōmon Maegaki” (敬白天罰霊社起請文前書) in Japan. Ninjutsu Kishōmon is a generic title which can be associated to any other document of same nature.
2) The word “ninjutsu” is considered a modern interpretation. It is possible that this is read as “shinobi no jutsu”, which bears the same meaning. For the sake of ease of reading & understanding, I will stick with the modern label.
3) Mansenshūkai (萬千集海) is a famous large text that is a collection of techniques, tools, and other secrets on ninjutsu. It is also read as “Bansenshukai”.
4) Referring to the current shogun (ruler) of that time.
5) These personal administrators are high-ranking officials of the shogun’s administration, such as the sankanrei (三管領, three deputies), shishiki (四職, four clans that act as head retainers), karō (家老, chief retainer), and fugyō (奉行, magistrate).
6) In reference to how the original document was written.
7) Inosuke places his personal seal, called a kaō (花押) in Japanese, under his name as a form of authentication.