Ninja vs. samurai night battle to take place at Japanese castle ruins, 100 combatants needed

Casey Baseel 3 days ago

Applications now open to do battle for glory and prizes when night falls on one of Japan’s most famous ninja towns.

The phrase “local history” can sometimes bring to mind stuffy and mundane minutiae. Things like “The town’s borders were set when Farmer X petitioned County Administrator Y to dig an irrigation canal, which, under land ordinance 2316, required the official annexation of unincorporated land within 20 meters of the point where a manmade waterway meets a natural body of water.”

But you know a place that doesn’t have a problem with its local history being dull? Koka, the town in Shiga Prefecture that’s the home of the Koga ninja clan. Koka wears its love for its heritage on its shinobi sleeve, and in the latest awesome example of how, the town is currently recruiting 100 participants for a nighttime ninja-versus-samurai battle, to be held later this month, which will pit two teams against each other in a moonlight battle competition on the site of the ruins of Minakuchi Okayama Castle.

Before the castle’s destruction, the samurai Natsuka Masaie was the last lord of the stronghold. After allying with the losing Toyotomi forces at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Natsuka retreated to Minakuchi Okayama, which was then attacked by and fell to the Tokugawa army.

All of the above is a matter of established historical record, and given the proximity of the castle to one of Japan’s major sources of ninja-for-hire, it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to envision Koga ninja playing a role in the successful siege. That bit of historical speculation is the inspiration behind the Shinobi Youchi, or Shinobi Night Attack, event. Once night falls, the 50-person ninja team will make their way up the hill to the castle site, where they’ll try to assassinate as many members of the 50-person defending samurai army as they can.

▼ A teaser video for the event (though the video is shot in the day, the actual event will take place after sundown)

Of course, Japan has become a much less violent place since the end of the feudal era, so the ninja won’t actually be shanking their prey, nor will the samurai warriors be lopping off any heads as they defend their castle. Instead, each participant will be given a foam sword and a pair of targets to wear on their shoulders, as seen in the image below.

Being struck causes the target to light up, confirming the kill. Once defeated, the participant must hand over a wooden dog tag with his name to his killer, to be counted as points for his team at the end of the battle. Samurai and ninja each have three lives, but after losing each one must withdraw to their home base to have the light turned off by a game official.

That’s just the beginning of the detailed game system, though. For starters, not all kills are worth the same number of points. Rank-and-file samurai, for example, are worth 10 points, while samurai generals are worth 100. One member of the samurai team will also take on the role of Lord Natsuka himself, and his one-and-only dog tag is worth a whopping 500 points, so keeping him safe is priority one for the samurai. Things are a little more balanced on the ninja side, with their five leaders being worth 100 points compared to the other ninjas’ 10.

With the battle unfolding over a sprawling playfield, each team will have to divide its forces. Just because you’ve got a partner who’s supposed to be watching your back, though, doesn’t mean that you’re safe. Mixed into each team are three spies who are actually working for the other side, aiming to pass information onto your enemies or, worse, kill you when you let your guard down because you think you’re among allies. There’s even a potential story branch, of sorts. The battle will play out in two 30-minute rounds, and if the ninja are successful in assassinating Lord Natsuka, then Round 2 will start with the ninja having occupied the territory and the teams switching positions, so that the ninja are defending and the samurai attacking in an attempt to reclaim their castle.

At the end of both rounds, the total scores are tallied, and the team with the most points is the winner. The winning team will receive some sort of as-yet-unrevealed prize, and there are also awards for samurai and ninja who distinguish themselves with especially exemplary performances in the battle.

Shinobi Youchi will take place on October 22, and given the complexity of the event, it’s basically a day-long event. Participants gather at the reception area at 1:30 to check-in and change into their costumes/uniforms. Then there are scouting sessions of the playfield, strategy councils, and formation positioning before Round 1 starts at 5:30 p.m. Taiko drum signals will be used to let players know how much time is remaining in the battle, with Round 2 ending at 7 p.m., followed by awards and closing ceremonies, descending from the hilltop ruins back to the reception area to change back into modern attire, and the even coming to a close at 9 p.m.

The event’s organizers graciously state that even people without previous ninja or samurai experience are welcome to take part in the battle, though participants must be at least high school age (15 years old in Japan) and in good health, since while there aren’t any actual blades being swung, you’re still going to be running around in the middle of the night. Participation fees start at 5,000 yen (US$35) for the 42 standard samurai and 42 normal ninja slots, with samurai general and ninja leader roles 7,500 yen and the honor of being the primary target of 50 ninja as Lord Natsuka 10,000 yen. Applications can be made here through the event’s official website.

Source: Shinobi Youchi official website via Japaaan, PR Times
Featured image: Shinobi Youchi official website
Top image: Shinobi Youchi official website
Insert images: PR Times, YouTube/ NinTube
This looks super fun...