Ninjutsu and Clothing: An Introduction to Disguise

Concerning any given mission, shinobi were meticulous in their selection of clothing when venturing to neighboring or faraway provinces. They may have had to blend with the locals, or, they may have had to dress differently from the locals, once again, depending on the circumstances. The dress of local populations was studied and retained by memory.¹

This attention to the details of garb was very much connected to Yo-Nin techniques of infiltration or cover through disguise, and the shinobi was even advised to wear reversible clothing so appearances could be changed quickly. It was also necessary that those shinobi, who were to be involved with fast-communications via relay runners, frequently travel the main-roads after acquiring the knowledge of how to carry oneself in behavior and dress of common travelers.² If night travel was required, black clothing was choice only on pitch-black nights whereas moonlit nights required other subdued colors to blend one’s profile with the environment.

The art of shinobi dress is very much related to the modern ‘gray man’ concept of wearing what will not attract much attention. This concept is used by preppers, modern agents, and special-forces alike in creating a veneer that is quickly forgotten by observers. Like the shinobi art of studying populations for appropriate attire, the gray man concept is effected by detailing the typical wear of people within the operating environment.

For missions requiring specific disguise, a strong contrast between at least two veneers, as alluded to in the above shinobi method, should be effected. The clothing must be easy to shed and store (or trashed), and must be in accord with sub-cultural behaviors and knowledge. For example, simply donning the attire of a businessman, or for the shinobi a merchant, will not be effective as a disguise without thorough knowledge of the character he/she is impersonating.

Below is an example of how one can effect a sharp contrast between business apparel and alternative rock/ metal sub-culture. The business shirt is trashed along with glasses and a hat is pulled from the pocket. For more creative renditions, a carrying bag for props is necessary:


It must be understood that this is a very minor rendition of a flexible principle. Once again, there is so much more that goes into creating a good disguise, such as skills, knowledge, and social buoyancy. For example, shinobi posing as komuso monks knew how to play the shakuhachi and were familiar with Fuke zen. Consult the ninjutsu texts for a more historical understanding of the Yo-nin arts.


1. Cummins, A. & Minami, Y. (2014). Iga and Koka Ninja Skills. p97

2. Ibid. p72

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