Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Caiden. Caiden Wonders, “What are the History of Ninjas” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Caiden!

As you’re sleeping one night, your sweet dreams are suddenly interrupted by an unwelcome visitor. A mysterious masked man clad in black appears behind you. You take off running. You turn here and there but he’s always behind you, moving quickly without a sound.

You turn to face the man in black, who now has a sword drawn. He raises his sword and jumps into the air. He’s about to deliver a brutal karate kick. Suddenly, you sit up in bed, breathing heavily. Whew! It was just a dream.

Now that you’re awake, you know who your attacker was. He was a ninja! All the telltale signs are there: all-black clothing, stealth, sword, and martial arts. Yes, definitely a ninja!

Ninjas are popular characters today. Kids dress up as ninjas for Halloween. Movies, television shows, and books are written about them. The word ninja even comes up in talk of teenage mutant turtles, kitchen blenders, and motorcycles. But are ninjas even real?

If you’re a fan of ninjas, you’ll be pleased to know that ninjas were indeed real. However, the real ninjas of the past were probably nothing like today’s version. In fact, they weren’t even called ninjas! The ninjas of ancient Japan were called shinobis. The word “ninja” is a Chinese term. It wasn’t used until the 20th Century.

Shinobi lived in Japan between the 15th and 17th Centuries. They were in two areas of Japan: Iga and Koga. The regions surrounding these two villages were ruled by samurai. To stay free of these warlords, people in Iga and Koga trained in the art of ninjutsu. They learned skills like stealth, intelligence gathering, and assassination.

The shinobi acted as spies and professional warriors. They also relied on weapons. They used explosives, poison gases, swords, knives, and bows. Some experts think of them as the opposite of samurai. While samurai fought in the open, shinobi acted in secret.

What about those masks and all-black outfits? They’re a modern creation. The shinobi would’ve worn common clothing that helped them blend in wherever they were. Sometimes, an all-black outfit would’ve made them stand out from the crowd.

The shinobi faded away after the 17th century. Legends about them grew. People told tales of special abilities. They said the shinobi had invisibility and could walk on water. Our modern version of the ninja is based on these old stories. Now you know that the true shinobi were very different!

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.SL.1

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Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day may cause you to do a double-take!