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Seppuku: Ritual Suicide in Samurai Japan

by Susan Spann Seppuku (sometimes also referred to as hara-kiri) is a form of Japanese ritual suicide. Many Westerners recognize this Japanese form of suicide, in which a person (often, but not always, male) slits his own stomach with [...]

Shinobi Shuko: the Ninja’s Climbing Claws

by Susan Spann Ninjas are famous for climbing walls with the ease and grace of a spider. According to legend, ninjas could scale even impossibly high, completely polished surfaces with ease. Some myths even claimed they could fly. In reality, [...]

Seppuku: Ritual Suicide in Samurai Japan

by Susan Spann Seppuku (sometimes also referred to as hara-kiri) is a form of Japanese ritual suicide. Many Westerners recognize this Japanese form of suicide, in which a person (often, but not always, male) slits his own stomach with a sword, [...]

In Japan, the Floors Can Sing

by Susan Spann In medieval Japan, some castles (and other buildings) were constructed with special floors that made a squeaking or chirping sound to alert the residents to intruders (or anyone else) walking across the floorboards. Visitors [...]

Shuriken: the Ninja Star

by Susan Spann If I asked you to name a ninja weapon, the most common answers would be a sword and a shuriken, which many people call a “throwing star.” In reality, “shuriken” translates “behind-the-hand knife” [...]

Japan’s Female Ninjas: the Kunoichi

By Susan Spann The Hollywood ninja dresses in black, appears from the shadows, and strikes without warning. He’s also usually male. In reality, not all ninjas were male, and they didn’t all lurk in shadows. Female ninjas, called [...]

The Seven Disguises Used by Real Ninjas

By Susan Spann Hollywood likes to portray the ninja in black pajamas, scaling a roof to assassinate a samurai. In reality, ninjas, also called shinobi, were more like spies. Assassinations played a role (as did those famous dark pajamas) [...]