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Until recently I have been told that ninja do not abide to a moral code (in particular, the samurai bushido), and that the definition of a ninja is "a warrior without honor".

Is this true? A ninja is not required to follow any moral code at all? What are the differences between the bushido and the "ninjado"?

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+1. This could be migrated to history.stackexchange.com but I believe that it could be on topic here as well if we agreed on philosophy and history tags. –  Sardathrion Feb 2 '12 at 13:28
The historical point of view may help to understand the present situation; however my question looks at the present situation. –  michelemarcon Feb 2 '12 at 13:32
Since I feel that @Sardathrion did an excellent job of nailing some of the major points with his answer, I won't detract from them by posting my own. I will add that the Shoninki admonishes the ninja of Kishu-ryu from being amoral or dishonorable, reminding them that they are not thieves or murderers, but that they serve a purpose. It's not that some ninja weren't "bad guys", but this is true of all groups in society, even the supposedly moral and just samurai. Much of their perceived morality stems from their rank under confucianism. –  stslavik Feb 2 '12 at 19:51
This question appears to be off-topic because it is about present data ninja's. The connection between modern ninjutsu and modern budo and historical budo/ninjutsu is ... inappropriate for the question. –  Mark C. Wallace Dec 16 '13 at 13:19

2 Answers 2

up vote 17 down vote accepted

This depends what time period you refer to. Bushido was a not formally written till the Tokugawa period at a time of peace and rigid order. During the Sengoku Jidai, Bushido was thought of as mere guidelines in a similar way to the "chevalerie" of the middle age Europe.

Ninja, or shinobi, were foremost spies. As such, of course, they had no honour and no morals! Unless, of course they were in your employ. In that case, they were another weapon in waging war. Oda, Toyotomi and Tokugawa were famous for using ninja -- after getting bitten by not using them.

Stephen Turnbull is a good source for this, Ninja AD 1460-1650 (Warrior) in particular.

See this question on history.se for the role on ninja during the Sengoku Jidai.

After the OP edit. In the same way as you cannot be a chivalrous Knight of the Round Table, you cannot be a Bushido Samurai. The samurai class does not exist any more after the order of Emperor Meiji on the 7 April 1868. I am not aware of any such order regarding the ninja clan. So, I guess you could follow a shinobi-do but I am unaware of any such thing being formally drawn -- more like guidelines really.

The definition of ninja as "a warrior without honour" is erroneous. It literally means hidden person, see this page for example but the wikipedia article has it too.

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In addition, by the time Bushido was formally codified (at the end of the Tokugawa Jidai), the ninja were already in decline. It might be helpful as well to make the distinction of the ninja as a job, and the samurai as a caste. Many ninja were samurai (Hattori Hanzo, for instance). Also, I'm not sure the sarcasm carries well with "Of course they had no honor and no morals!"... –  stslavik Feb 2 '12 at 17:18
stslavik, was about to say that! Ninja was a set of skills employed by peasants, samurai, and whoever the lord who sent them out deemed neccesary. –  Chris Feb 2 '12 at 18:24

@Ninja Shadow answer was right but bushido and honor are 2 different concepts. People think ninjas had no honor because of their unfair tactics (hitting soft zones like eyes, testicles, kyusho, etcetera) but they also had to follow the honor code to their master and familiars. When you are a warrior your goal is to accomplish your mission regardless on how you have to do it. I don't know if any of the repliers here has practiced ninjutsu because if you had you would know that ninjas only have 1 principle.


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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

Hi, and welcome to the site. You should back up what you say with some references as it would make your answer much more authoritative. –  Sardathrion May 28 '14 at 14:41

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