So this is a tentative timeline for Joker Game. Corrections and new info might end up being added in the future… and, of course, everyone is very welcome to let me know if they’ve corrections or new info!
Some dates were found by doing some math. Some other dates might not be that relevant as they’re dates referring to the identities the spies take.
To find out all the dates I’ve used the official timeline for the anime, the anime itself (dates appear often on newspaper in addition to the ones mentioned in dialogues), the novel and… well, history.
I didn’t use D no Maou as it follows its own timeline.
Two shinobi (ninja) spy on the advancing troops of Takeda Shingen (1621-1573). They are wearing their foot soldiers (ashigaru) clothes normally worn under their armour and carrying their short swords and a kama (sickle) and wearing their helmets.
The biggest misconception that muddies the history of Japan’s feudal past is the myth of the samurai versus ninja. This is a fallacy that persists both in Japan and abroad and has no basis in history.
This myth of samurai vs ninja has its roots in the mid-Meiji period (1868-1912), but sits almost squarely with the modern fake “ninjutsu“ teachers that proliferate in Japan and abroad. These "teachers” peddle martial arts as “ninjutsu.” They claim that their methods are the methods used by some secret “ninja school” that somehow escaped the decline of the use of spies during the mid-Tokugawa period (1600-1868), the complete abolishment of the samurai class in 1868, and the subsequent Meiji period in which Japan did all it could to forget its feudal past and adopt Western military methods. This leads into another very common fallacy - that “ninjutsu” is martial arts, but I’ll leave that for another post.
So, who were “ninja?”
Just as anybody can be a cook, anybody could be a shinobi. The truth of the matter is that the majority of shinobi were in fact samurai. Shinobi were predominantly of thesamurai class, particularly samurai of lower rank, such as foot soldiers (ashigaru) - as in the illustration above.
The predominate role of a shinobi is that of spy, an agent trained in intelligence gathering, it is a speciality, a job - a talent used in warfare. It is NOT a class of people or a caste as is commonly believed. Social status had no bearing on the training of a person in the skills of shinobino jutsu (ninjutsu).
Samurai troops assigned to infiltrate enemy territory were commanded by samuraiwho were adepts at shinobi no jutsu. Termed shinobi no mono shihai (忍之者支配) which means “shinobi general” they would command small units of trained spies and infiltration experts. Considered a fundamental unit within samurai armies, an army without shinobi was doomed to fail in feudal Japanese warfare.
The pronunciation “ninja“ is the Chinese pronunciation of the kanji 忍者. The kanji 忍 (nin, shinobi) generally means “concealment” or “hiding.” The kanji 者 (sha, mono) means a person. When the phonetic compound 之 (no) is written between these twokanji - 忍之者 - as is most commonly found in historical documents, the reading can only be shinobi no mono or shinobi mono. This is the most prominent reading found in feudal war chronicles.
Ninja is the modern, common pronunciation that only began to be used in the early twentieth century. There were over 80 terms for military spies in feudal Japan, depending on the region & the job they were entrusted to accomplish and also on the historical era in which they were used. Shinobi or shinobi no mono though is the most common term/reading used in historical documents.
Some other common terms for what we today call ninja from Japanese feudal military chronicles:
shõkan, Koka no mono, oniwaban, suppa, rappa, shikan, kamari, kagi, yushi, yutei, kanchõ, teisatsu, inkan, naikan, yūkan, Iga no mono, onmitsu, kanja, kagimono hiki, mawashi mono, chõ, goku mono, hi mono.
All of these terms were used to refer to those carrying out the skills that come under the banner of shinobi no jutsu or ninjutsu.
Toyokuni III/Kunisada (1786 - 1864)
Pheasants and Warrior, 1860
Intriguing kabuki scene featuring the warrior Koreto Samagoro facing two pheasants in a dramatic night scene. He plants his feet firmly at right, gripping an enormous axe in his hand. The bird in the center looks at him reproachfully as she flutters up into the sky, hovering in mid-air, while the other pheasant kneels on the ground, cowering behind her sleeve. The pheasants wear beautiful kimono patterned with colorful feathers and wing-like sleeves. Samagoro stares at them with a frown, wearing a heavy black print kimono over a suit of armor. A large hollow ginkgo tree fills the background against a dark night sky. From left, the actors are Iwai Kumesaburo II, Sawamura Tanosuke III, and Nakamura Shikan IV.