Samurai vs Ninja, Differences between Samurai and Ninja | WeXpats Guide (2023)

Samurai and ninja, who are popular in Japanese anime and movies, actually existed in Japan until around the Edo period. Many people wonder who would win in a samurai vs ninja fight, and what the difference between them are. So, find out in this article.

Table of Contents

  1. What is the difference between samurai and ninja?
  2. Samurai, Till the Edo Period
  3. Ninja, The Role of Spies in Japan
  4. Experience Being a Samurai or Ninja in Japan
  5. To Close

What is the difference between samurai and ninja?

Samurai vs Ninja, Differences between Samurai and Ninja | WeXpats Guide (1)

Samurai were those who served the nobility, whilst ninja were those who used ninjutsu to disrupt enemies and gather information.

The word samurai is derived from the word「見守る mimamoru」, or “watch over”, and there were some among them who did not learn martial arts. As time went by, the meaning of samurai changed, and it became known as military soldiers or warriors who wielded a Japanese sword.

Ninja, on the other hand, have always been working invisibly like spies. During the Warring States period (Sengoku period), they served powerful warriors (Daimyo - feudal lords). Ninja rarely use Japanese swords like samurai, instead using shuriken, blowguns, and makibishi (Japanese caltrop).

As you can see, samurai and ninja are very different people with very different purposes.

Writer's Pick

Japan in Winter: Climate, Winter Food, Traditions, and More Japanese Culture
[Review] 5 Reasons why Suzume no Tojimari is the Best of Shinkai Makot... Japanese Culture
11 Winter Activities in Japan and Places to Enjoy Them Japanese Culture
How to Prepare for a Trip to Japan: Japan Tourist Visa, What to Bring,... Travel in Japan
(Video) FFXIV Versus: Dragoon VS Monk VS Ninja VS Samurai VS Reaper (Melee EW Edition)

Samurai, Till the Edo Period

Samurai vs Ninja, Differences between Samurai and Ninja | WeXpats Guide (7)

Samurai were active from the late Heian period to the Edo period. They wore traditional Japanese garments called hakama (袴) and had a distinctive hairstyle called chonmage (ちょんまげ; topknot). During battle, they wore heavy helmets with poor ventilation. To avoid getting rashes, they shaved the top of their heads and tied the hair at the back of their heads together. There were especially many samurai during the Sengoku period when many battles were fought.

(Video) FFXIV Melee Comparison Guide Endwalker | Monk, Dragoon, Ninja, Samurai, Reaper

Difference between Samurai and Bushi

Bushi (武士), used synonymously with samurai, is a general term for people who make a living by fighting. A distinction is made between those who have no one to serve, such as ronin (masterless samurai), nobushi (wandering samurai), and ashigaru (foot soldiers), and those who serve nobility who are called samurai. The term “bushi” was first used to refer to group of warriors, called “bushidan (武士団)”, who fought to protect land they had cultivated from being taken away. In modern times however, the terms samurai and bushi are rarely distinguished from each other.

Samurai and bushi respected their own code of ethics called “bushido (武士道)”, and followed rules such as sticking to justice and not lying. Fighting fair and square without cheating was regarded as a virtue, and anyone who violated bushido was not recognised as a samurai no matter how strong they were.

Only Samurai were Permitted to Wear Swords after the Sword Hunt

From the Azuchi-Momoyama period onwards, the sword-hunting (刀狩 katana-gari) order issued by Toyotomi Hideyoshi prohibited all but samurai from carrying swords. The sword hunt led to the saying “the sword is the samurai’s soul (日本刀は武士の魂)”, and the samurai strengthened their positions as the ruling class.

During the Edo period, in particular, the samurai were a privileged class. Unlike farmers and merchants, samurai were allowed to take on surnames and to carry a sword around their waist, this is called “taitou (帯刀)”. Since there were only a handful of samurai, their social status was solidified, and many people still admire them today.

No Samurai or Bushi in Modern Japan

Many people wonder if samurai still exist in Japan today. The answer is no, there are no samurai or bushi in modern Japan today. Samurai and bushi gradually disappeared as a result of the administrative reforms during the Meiji period called「廃藩置県 haihanchiken」, or “Abolition of Feudal Domains and Establishment of Prefectures”.

One of the reasons for this was the Sword Prohibition Order (廃刀令) that banned samurai and bushi from carrying swords. Samurai who served dual roles as officials and military personnel lost their positions with both roles separated into two independent professions. In the early Meiji period, samurai with topknots could still be seen, but eventually and gradually they found other occupations that utilised their special skills.

In modern Japan, the Act for Controlling the Possession of Firearms or Swords and Other Such Weapons (銃刀法) prohibits the possession of Japanese swords.

To learn more about samurai, check out our <How much does the average Japanese know about Samurai?> that explains the origins and ending of the samurai era, the existence of female samurais, and an interview of Japanese members in our team about their extend of samurai knowledge.

(Video) Ninja क्या सच मे होते है? Shinobi in hindi | Ninja warrior | Samurai | Amazing facts | Fun facts

Ninjas, The Role of Spies in Japan

Samurai vs Ninja, Differences between Samurai and Ninja | WeXpats Guide (8)

Ninjas are mysterious beings who spread false information to the enemy of the masters they serve and conduct espionage. Ninjas master ninjutsu (忍術), a form of martial arts unique to ninjas, and sometimes fight enemies. Ninjas serve high-ranking officials like military commanders and nobles. It is believed that the role of ninja originated when Prince Shotoku sent them to investigate the inner workings of Silla (ancient Korean kingdom).

Main Duties of a Ninja

Ninjas blend in with the rest of the world while obtaining information or stealing from the enemy. Many people think of a ninja as someone dressed in all black with only their eyes exposed, but it is said that they were disguised as ordinary townsfolk, monks or merchants. When there is no ninja work to be done, apparently they studied/practised military strategy, taijutsu (classic martial arts), and ninjutsu.

Only Ninja Can Use Ninjutsu

The techniques required for ninja activities, such as intelligence gathering, stealing and combat, are collectively known as ninjutsu. Ninjas sometimes wield unique weapons called ninja tools (忍具) which they train to use just in case of emergencies. Ninjas mainly use shurikens, scythes, and claws.

By the way, ninjas also possess Japanese swords called shinobi-gatana (忍刀), though they rarely have opportunity to use them in battle unlike samurai. The shinobi-gatana is said to have been used as footholds for climbing walls and scaling roofs. Unlike the samurai sword, the blade is short and matted to make it inconspicuous at night. Furthermore, to avoid enemy attacks, the ninja also has to acquire physical skills and undergo considerable training.

The Role of Ninja in Japanese History

There are various schools of ninja, each of which carried out espionage activities for the masters they served. During the Sengoku period especially, when many samurai and bushi dreamt of unifying Japan, many ninjas are said to have worked behind the scenes. For example,

  • The Mori Clan (毛利家) in present-day Hiroshima prefecture became a major power in the Chugoku region thanks to the activities of ninja groups such as Zatoushuu (座頭衆) and the Seki Ichizoku (世鬼一族).

  • The Shogunate, which ruled Japan at one time, had a ninja group called Oniwaban (御庭番). And, warlords everywhere always used ninja to gather information about their enemies.

    (Video) FFXIV Melee DPS Comparison Guide | Monk, Dragoon, Ninja and Samurai

  • Nokizaru (軒猿), Saikashu (雑賀衆), and Igashu(伊賀衆) are some of many ninja groups out there.

It is said that ninjas also acted as mercenaries at times.

No Ninja in Modern Japan

Another common question, “are there still ninjas in Japan today?” The answer is no.

As a result of the unification of Japan by the Shogunate, there are no more civil wars in the country, and as a result there is no need for the roles of ninja any longer. In modern Japan, there are no more ninjas, and they are spoken of as historical or fictitious beings. Actual real-life ninja do not have superhuman physical abilities or powerful ninjutsu like in anime and manga. However, many people find them fascinating as mysterious existences that do not appear on the front pages of history.

Experience Being a Samurai or Ninja in Japan

Samurai vs Ninja, Differences between Samurai and Ninja | WeXpats Guide (9)

You may be disappointed that there are no more samurai or ninja in Japan today. But this is actually great news as indications of peaceful times, samurai and ninja are no longer needed when there are no fights and no need to gather information about enemies. If you really want to, there are places where you can experience the atmosphere and dress up in samurai or ninja clothing.

There are several entertainment facilities in Kyoto, Tokyo, Yamanashi and many other places that offer samurai and ninja experiences. If you are interested in throwing a shuriken, or don samurai armour, then look them up.

  • [Tokyo] Try Cutting with a Real Japanese Sword: Learn the Heart and Skill of Samurai at Toyama-ryu Bizenkai

    (Video) Unveiling the secret of Ninja/Samurai run

To Close

Samurai vs Ninja, Differences between Samurai and Ninja | WeXpats Guide (10)

Samurai and ninja are both existences that are unique to Japan, but they play very different roles. By understanding the difference, you can better enjoy Japanese history and culture. There are no samurai or ninja in Japan any more, but if you are interested to experience what it is like to be a ninja or samurai, or to watch performances, there are places you can visit to enjoy the authentic atmosphere.


What are the differences between samurai and ninja? ›

One of the major differences between the samurai and the ninja is who they exactly are. Samurai were warriors that belonged to the noble classes of ancient Japanese society. On the other hand, ninjas were often mercenaries, spies, and assassins, and would often belong to the lower classes of ancient Japanese society.

How are ninjas and samurai similar? ›

Samurai & Ninja Similarities

Samurai and ninjas were both groups of military professionals. They both worked through Japanese history, but were especially active during the Warring States period.

Did ninjas and samurai fight? ›

The ninjas and samurai fought constantly, never giving up. The ninjas would come in and assassinate the Samurais' leaders, and the Samurai would fight back, resulting in hundreds of people dying on almost every encounter. Some of there fights were so bad that they called them wars.

What were the main differences between samurai and Knight? ›

Knights rode horses and used their swords and shields in battle. Samurai can ride a horse and walk on their feet as well. Samurai used arrows, bows, and two swords during the battle. Knight had the military rank, but the samurai did not.

What are the two types of ninja? ›

There are two types of ninjutsu, "Innin" (Ninjutsu of Darkness) and "Yonin" (Ninjutsu of Light). Innin is a way of seeking an inside information and sabotaging by breaking into the enemy territory concealing themselves, the appearance of ninja which generally people imagine is of this situation.

Can a samurai also be a ninja? ›

Yes, Some Ninja Were Samurai | Ninja Myths Revealed: Japanese Fighters Didn't Wear Black |

What kind of weapons do ninjas use? ›

Ninjas mainly used swords as their primary weapon. They have used ninjato many times, but the shreds of evidence have not appeared yet. It is a short sword resembling katana. The blade of a ninja sword is flat, and its scabbard is also used as a space for blinding powders to distract enemies.

Why did the samurai fear the ninja? ›

The ways of the ninja are an unavoidable part of samurai warfare, and no samurai can ignore the utility and fear that they represented. However, ninjas were despised because of how they contradicted the samurai code due to their use of secretive and underhanded methods.

Who came first samurai or ninja? ›

Sneaky ninja predecessors probably existed as far back as the late Heian Period too. However, the shinobi, as a specially trained group of mercenaries from the villages of Iga and Koga, only appeared in the fifteenth century – making them a good five hundred years younger than the samurai.

Who was first ninja? ›

The Japanese legend of Prince Yamato is often considered the first ninja story, although Yamato did not adopt the black costume or stealthy tactics so often associated with ninja.

What are ninjas called in Japan? ›

A ninja (忍者, Japanese pronunciation: [ɲiꜜɲdʑa]) or shinobi (忍び, [ɕinobi]) was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan.

What were the three types of samurai? ›

A basic ranking system from the twelfth century distinguished three major Samurai ranks:
  • Kenin - meaning "housemen". They were the administrators or vassals.
  • Mounted samurai - Only high-ranking samurai warriors were allowed to fight on horse-back.
  • Foot soldiers.

What are 3 characteristics of a samurai? ›

To the contemporary imagination, samurai warriors remain symbols of honor, courage and discipline. These three qualities are desirable not only for the life dedicated to battle but for existence itself.

What are 5 characteristics of a samurai? ›

Bushido mentions the eight virtues of a Samurai being: Morality, courage, compassion, politeness, honesty/sincerity, respect, loyalty, character plus self-cControl.

What is a female ninja called? ›

Kunoichi (Japanese: くノ一, also くのいち or クノイチ) is a Japanese cant term for "woman" (女, onna). In popular culture, it is often used for female shinobi or practitioner of ninjutsu (ninpo). The term was largely popularized by novelist Yamada Futaro in his novel Ninpō Hakkenden (忍法八犬伝) in 1964.

What is a ninja leader called? ›

Clan leaders also often recruit and mentor other ninja. The Jōnin (上忍 Master Ninja) is the highest rank of ninja, serving under the Chief Ninja.

What is a ninja without a master called? ›

Ronin simply means unemployed. By not having a set master, these unemployed warriors were certainly looked down upon. They were seen as one rank below a proper, landed warrior. The same can be said about Ninjas particularly in early Sengoku period.

Who is stronger ninja or samurai? ›

In rugged terrain, or in the mountain area, the ninja group may win. The ninja has better survival skills as a small group. If it is a large-group fight, the samurai can easily win. The ninja and the samurai usually collaborated.

Can a samurai be a girl? ›

Long before the Western world began to view Samurai warriors as inherently male, there existed an impressive group of Female Samurai, every bit as powerful, smart and deadly as their male counterparts. They were known as the Onna-bugeisha (meaning female martial artist).

Did samurai hire ninjas? ›

In feudal Japan, ninjas were a lower class of warriors often recruited by samurai and governments to act as spies.

What is a real ninja sword called? ›

The ninjatō is typically depicted as being a short sword, often portrayed as having a straight blade (similar to that of a shikomizue) with a square guard. Usually of a length "less than 60 cm", the rest of the sword is comparatively "thick, heavy and straight".

What knife did ninjas use? ›

The two widely recognized variations of the kunai are short kunai (小苦無 shō-kunai) and the big kunai (大苦無 dai-kunai). Although a basic tool, in the hands of a martial arts expert, the kunai could be used as a multi-functional weapon. The kunai is commonly associated with the ninja, who used it to gouge holes in walls.

What fighting techniques do ninjas use? ›

Of course, the ninja excelled in all the martial arts of their day, such as kendo,kyudo and naginata-do. They were also skilled in hand-to-hand combat, using wrestling and boxing techniques that were the forerunners of judo and karate.

What is samurai weakness? ›

Unfortunately, the Samurai is exceptionally weak against magical and explosive attacks, and in most multiplayer matches, Samurais often die during the first moments of the battle, with units such as Musketeers, Unclean Ones and Warlocks being quite common choices.

What is a group of ninjas called? ›

a hedge of ninjas. “ We are a hedge. Please move along” a stealth of ninja.

What is it called when samurai stab themselves? ›

Often called “hara-kiri” in the West, “seppuku” is a form of ritual suicide that originated with Japan's ancient samurai warrior class. The grisly act typically involved stabbing oneself in the belly with a short sword, slicing open the stomach and then turning the blade upwards to ensure a fatal wound.

Do ninja still exist in Japan? ›

The short answer is yes, and they still exist today, but their origins might be a little different from your imagination. Let's go over some of your burning questions about ninjas and where to see them on your next trip to Japan.

Are ninja from Japan or China? ›

More accurately called shinobi, ninjas were a group that could be considered secret agents or mercenaries in Japan. They were thought of as ranking beneath the samurai warriors for their 'alternative' practices of accomplishing their missions.

What is higher than a samurai? ›

There were three principal ranks: gokenin (housemen), the lowest and vassals of a feudal lord. goshi (rustic warrior), they could farm their land but could not have the two swords of the full samurai rank. hatamoto (bannermen), the highest rank.

Who are the 3 great ninjas? ›

Jiraiya, Tsunade and Orochimaru are the Legendary Sannin in Naruto. There is no doubt about their powerful strength. Jiraiya once defeated Six Paths of Pain, While Orochimaru won out in the Sannin War.

Who is the deadliest ninja? ›

Hattori Hanzo, The Greatest Ninja (1542 ~ 1596)
  • He was known as “Demon Shinobi Hanzo” because of his strategic thinking. ...
  • There are many Hattori Hanzo because in the past it was common to use similar names for the same family members. ...
  • Toward the end of his life he built a buddhist temple and became a monk.
Jun 2, 2022

Who is the youngest ninja? ›

And so it goes, after just four years of pure, unadulterated hard work and dedication, Enzo became the youngest competitor ever to grace the stage of American Ninja Warrior, setting unbelievable records and making memories that he admits still feel surreal.

Who is the last ninja in Japan? ›

But Jinichi Kawakami is reputedly Japan's last ninja. As the 21st head of the Ban clan, a line of ninjas that can trace its history back some 500 years, Kawakami is considered by some to be the last living guardian of Japan's secret spies.

How many types of ninja are there? ›

Groups of ninja are said to have existed all over Japan, studying in as many as 71 distinct schools of ninja arts (the exact number is debated). Among them, Mie Prefecture's Iga-ryu ninja and Shiga Prefecture's Koka-ryu ninja are especially famous.

What is Naruto called in Japan? ›

Naruto Uzumaki (Japanese: うずまき ナルト, Hepburn: Uzumaki Naruto) (/ˈnɑːrətoʊ/) is the titular protagonist of the manga Naruto, created by Masashi Kishimoto.
Naruto Uzumaki
Created byMasashi Kishimoto
Voiced byJapanese Junko Takeuchi English Maile Flanagan
In-universe information
6 more rows

What is a samurai leader called? ›

Shogun (将軍, shōgun, Japanese: [ɕoːɡɯɴ] ( listen); English: /ˈʃoʊɡʌn/ SHOH-gun), officially Sei-i Taishōgun (征夷大将軍, "Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force Against the Barbarians"), was the title of the military dictators of Japan during most of the period spanning from 1185 to 1868.

What are the 7 codes of the samurai? ›

According to Inazo Nitobe's book Bushido, the lives of the samurai warriors were ruled by 7 principles called Bushido. These 7 rules were Righteousness, Loyalty, Honor, Respect, Honesty, Courage and Consistency.

What 2 blades did samurai carry? ›

The two swords of the samurai, katana and wakizashi, are together known as daisho and are worn inserted in the belt with the edge facing upwards.

What is the samurai code of honor? ›

The collection of ideals that we know as Bushido represents the Samurai code of honor. The tenets of the Bushido code are rectitude, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, loyalty, wisdom, and care for the elderly.

What are the core values of a samurai? ›

It taught the Samurai to be fearless in battle and kind to family and elders. There were seven main virtues that the Samurai were expected to maintain: justice, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty. Morality is defined in two different ways in Japanese culture.

What is a group of samurai called? ›

People took up arms and formed bands of warriors, basically self-defense groups, to keep others from stealing the land they had cleared. The members of these groups were known as “Bushi.”

What are the 3 codes of behavior for the samurai? ›

Honor was a samurai's life. Upholding one's honor through suicide was regarded as a virtue. Loss of face was regarded as an insult that had be avenged. Surrender was an unforgivable sin that resulted in exclusion from civilized society.

What is the highest class of samurai? ›

The daimyō were high-ranking members of the samurai, and, similar to the shōgun, held most of the real political power in Japan.

Is a Shinobi a samurai or ninja? ›

The samurai class was eventually abolished in the Meiji Reforms of the 19th century, after enjoying hundreds of years of power and influence. Ninja 忍者 (known as “shinobi”忍び in Japan) were essentially ye olde equivalent of secret agents, whose role involved espionage, sabotage, infiltration and assassination.

What is the difference between a samurai sword and a ninja sword? ›

Ninja swords were more the length of the Samurai's Katana but were straight edged instead of curved. This was because the Ninja did not have access to the high-carbon steel that the elite had. The Ninja used his sword in a stabbing motion. Thus the need for more stealth as they had to get closer to their victims.

Can a ninja beat a samurai? ›

In rugged terrain, or in the mountain area, the ninja group may win. The ninja has better survival skills as a small group. If it is a large-group fight, the samurai can easily win. The ninja and the samurai usually collaborated.


1. 【Samurai vs. Ninja】 Which is stronger , swordsmanship or shuriken technique?
(Japan Traditional culture and experience Guide)
2. Ninja and Samurai History in 2022
(Samurai and Ninja History)
3. Samurai and Ninja Books - Which Order to Read Them In
(Samurai and Ninja History)
4. Why you should Play Samurai | And what other Jobs do better
(Desperius FFXIV)
5. What To Wear in Samurai and Ninja Training
(Samurai and Ninja History)
6. Total War: SHOGUN 2 1vs1: Kisho Ninja vs Katana Samurai
(TOTAL WAR 1vs1)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Nathanael Baumbach

Last Updated: 04/01/2023

Views: 6307

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Nathanael Baumbach

Birthday: 1998-12-02

Address: Apt. 829 751 Glover View, West Orlando, IN 22436

Phone: +901025288581

Job: Internal IT Coordinator

Hobby: Gunsmithing, Motor sports, Flying, Skiing, Hooping, Lego building, Ice skating

Introduction: My name is Nathanael Baumbach, I am a fantastic, nice, victorious, brave, healthy, cute, glorious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.