At Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima on September 10, 1561, the blood-raging forces of rival samurai asskickers Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin squared off in an epic between two ultra-powerful Japanese warlords who despised each other with a ultra-unstoppable life-long hated so ridiculously intense that it was in danger of taking physical form through some weird anime-inspired explosion and rift a portal between the mortal realm and the raging fires of hell itself. Eighteen thousand screaming, furious, katana-wielding warriors in badass-looking samurai armor ruthlessly hacked and sawed at each others’ faces, hosing around enough arterial blood spray to make the entire battlefield look like one of those really fun play areas at an awesome water park.
By the time it was over, nearly ten thousand brave heroes would lie dead, cut into variously-sized pieces of humanity and scattered around with so much steel it looked like one of those medical planes that carry human transplant organs had crash-landed and exploded. Among the Takeda dead, heaped alongside a pile of slain enemies, was a thirty-six year old man named Moritoki. Moritoki was a nephew of Takeda Shingen, and had asked his uncle to make him a promise – if I die, please make sure my wife is taken care of.
Takeda Shingen didn’t just honor his promise. He gave Moritoki’s wife the chance for vengeance.
If you thought female ninjas were the sort of thing that only existed in Mortal Kombat games and the bizarre sexual fantasies of teenage boys, you’re only half right. By default, Mochizuki Chiyome is the most badass and famous female ninja in Japanese history – because she’s the only one we know by name – but she was just the beginning of what was known as the kunoichi, an insanely-hardcore cadre of female secret agents, intelligence operatives, and old-school cloak-and-dagger-to-the-balls espionage experts who spent a decent chunk of the Warring States Period completely fucking shit up and ROFLstomping nubs in the name of their feudal samurai lord.
This was the woman who founded the fucking school that trained them.
Although we know basically nothing about her past, it’s probably safe to say that when Takeda Shingen took Mochizuki Chiyome under his wing, he knew he wasn’t just getting some trophy wife niece-in-law who wanted to chill out sipping green tea and writing calligraphy in a temple somewhere. This woman was tough, calculating, and iron-willed, and it’s believed that she was a direct descendent of the already-legendary Mochizuki Izumo-no-kami, the insanely-epic ninja master who founded the Koga Ninja Clan that used to feud with Hattori Hanzo’s Iga Clan. Izumo-no-kami is a guy I’ll do an article on at some point down the line (I actually first heard about Chiyome while researching him and just decided to run with it), but basically he founded one of the two major Japanese ninja clans in the 1400s, invented smoke bombs, and could pretty much kill you so hard that your kids would also die thanks to the Transitive Property of Asskickings.
As a descendent of the mighty master ninja, Chiyome was a natural choice to come in and set up an academy to train women in the art of sabotage, intel gathering, and badass ninja shit. Takeda was at war with the Kenshin (and later with Ieyasu Tokugawa, who had access to the hated rival Iga Ninja Clan) and, even worse, he had recently had a couple of his relatives try to assassinate him. Takeda wasn’t super excited about having to thwart another asshole lunching at him with a knife, so the mighty samurai set Chiyome up to serve as his eyes and ears and flex proverbial nuts throughout Japan like a medieval mix between Charlie’s Angels, the CIA, and a meat cleaver. She went to work right away, opening a school in the heart of Koga Province and bringing in women to be trained in the fine art of beating the fucking hell out of your enemies and burning their castle to the ground.
Badass ninja training.
Chiyome’s ancestor had initially set up his Badass Secret Ninja Training Facility to look like a pharmaceutical company, buying a large unassuming structure known as the “Medical Company’s House” that was stocked with booby traps, hidden weapons, and some pretty plants that oh yeah maybe just so happened to be super toxic and really helpful if you were, oh, I don’t know, thinking about making some ultra-deadly undetectable poisons or something. Chiyome, however, awesomely decided to set up her dojo to look like a charitable school to give religious training to young girls that had been orphaned during the war. Which kicks ass.
Basically, Chiyome would travel the countryside, stopping everywhere from big bustling cities to burned-out ruins of ravaged little villages, constantly keeping an eye out for promising young girls who were down on their luck but still had fire in their eyes. Prostitutes, orphan farm girls, young widows and dirt-poor street urchins alike were brought back to Koga Province, ostensibly to be given a fresh start on life, and people from the village were all like “aww how cute, what a nice charitable, kind woman that Chiyome is” or whatever when in actuality she was training these girls how to draw a blade and stab a dude in the fucking neck with one fluid motion.
Now, as much as I love those amazing 1980s black pajamas ninjas who jump in through the ceiling and then politely attack Bruce Lee one at a time (and have been milking that visual for all its worth so far in this article), it’s important to note that these women weren’t running around looking like Taki from Soul Calibur dishing out flying side kicks in front of explosions or anything. Sure, hand to hand combat was a critical aspect, and these women were taught how to defeat a larger enemy in battle and how to use all manner of weaponry, but in reality female ninjas were used primarily as spies and intelligence gatherers, and the main focus of their training was on improving their mental fortitude. Women were drilled in etiquette, dance, singing, disguise, and infiltration techniques to blend in with regular society, and could convincingly masquerade as traveling entertainers, religious pilgrims, noblewomen, priestesses or prostitutes. They were taught what they needed to look for in the enemy base, and taught memorization techniques to remember it down to the slightest detail. They were trained in how to get drunk military officers to cough up good information, how to hold out under torture, and how to problem-solve and improvise on the fly so you don’t need to fish in your pocket for a smoke bomb every time a bunch of sword-swinging samurai are chasing you through a burning building.
So, while most Google Image searches pull up pictures of glove-wearing leather-booted women that bizarrely feel the need to conceal their nose and mouth and hands but not their upper thighs and collarbone, these women didn’t need a face mask to show how huge their balls were – they just walked right in the front door of your castle, giggled at your idiotic jokes, politely excused themselves after you passed out drunk on the floor, made exact copies of battle plans while you were asleep, and then walked right back out the way they came in. Since most men in feudal Japan thought about women roughly the same way that modern-day Internet forum commenters do, the guards didn’t even consider stopping to question them on their way out of town.
And since their favorite disguise was that of a Miko, a wandering pilgrim holy woman, the kunoichi looked more or less like this:
Dispersed across the provinces of Japan seamlessly disguised as everything from high society noblewomen to bar girls at soldiers’ drinking establishments, Chiyome’s ninja squad went to work doing badass shit for Takeda Shingen. They stole secret information, listened in for assassination plots, scoped out city defenses and made notes of how many soldiers were stationed in town garrisons. They planted forged documents, passed messages to undercover agents, and spread false rumors to throw off the enemy. Occasionally they’d sabotage an operation, poison a water supply, or slit a nobleman’s throat in his sleep. In short, they fucked shit up.
We don’t know too many details of their operations (because if we did then they wouldn’t have been very good ninjas), but before long rumors began circulating, and Takeda’s rivals started getting really freaked out. As their legend grew, a bunch of insane stories started popping up all over the place, and since these rumors were spread by guys they unsurprisingly read like the back cover of some freaky weird Japanese cartoon porno. They had iron junk and could snap your dick off. They used a technique called “Reverse Egg Flow” that cursed you so that every time you boned a Geisha you’d be presented with an ultra-realistic vision of your own death and freak out. They could take babies out of pregnant women in the middle of the night, fuck it up, then put it back without the woman noticing. Honestly the only one that really makes a lot of sense is that they had techniques to brainwash men and/or make them demented in the brain, and if you’ve ever seen a bunch of dipshit bros fall all over themselves trying to flirt with the only girl at your Super Bowl party you probably know that technique is still alive and well.
It’s believed that between 1561 and 1573 Mochizuki Chiyome had around 300 agents spread out throughout the Japanese countryside, all feeding info directly back to her so she could present it to Takeda Shingen. Their network was efficient, reliable, and all-encompassing, and if Takeda was looking for any kind of mission carried out Chiyome was the person who could get it done. Again, we don’t know much about the details of the missions or how effective they are, and as much as I’d love to bring you the story of a kunoichi doing a triple backflip and flinging six ninja stars with deadly accuracy, you can also kind of understand why Takeda wouldn’t really want a covert op like that written down on official company letterhead. So it’ll have to suffice to say that turning a convent and a group of orphans into a 300-woman-strong cadre of badass assassin saboteurs that infiltrated every level of Japanese society for over a decade is fucking badass and let’s just deal with that.
Despite the work of the kunoichi, Takeda Shingen died in 1573 under mysterious circumstances that could be anything from choking on a tuna roll to being assassinated by a Tokugawa agent. Awesomely, Mochizuki Chiyome is never again mentioned in history after his death. There’s no epilogue, no death, no capture, no anything. She simply disappears into thin air, along with all of her agents, and nobody has any idea what became of them.
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