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MT:What are the essential texts?

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  • MT:What are the essential texts?

    What are the essential texts? By ZapEm - 08-02-2014 11:30 AM


    Hi, I'm not a practitioner of ninjutsu and I don't practise any martial arts at the moment. However, I am interested in the history of covert operations in diverse cultures, including Japan. I don't know any Japanese language and I'm just interested in this for its own sake.

    So far, I have identified three books, or scroll collections, that can be assumed to be old manuals about the ninja. They are:

    1) Shoninki

    2) Bansenshukai

    3) Ninpiden

    What I'm after are some reliable (and complete) translations of these works. I understand only a few original manuscripts are in existence and that there may be slight differences between them, but I expect they are substantially the same.

    When looking for these books, I discovered a lot of interesting and sometimes heated forum posts and remarks made by people familiar with this subject matter. I gather there are serious problems with regard to translation accuracy, translations of translations, uncited authors(!), plagiarism and worse. Therefore, as someone who doesn't have a background in this field, I am wary about which books to buy. Academic-style footnotes would inspire confidence but wouldn't be necessary for me if the translator is someone properly credentialed in either the ninjutsu tradition or research/linguistics.

    My first question is probably the easiest: are Claude Schedler's, Don Roley's and Axel Mazuer's translations of the Shoninki fairly reliable (I think I can narrow my choice to these three authors, and I'm not going to ask which is "best")? Reliable as in accurate, complete and not redacted (for "safety" or any other reason).

    Second, the Bansenshukai seems to be a lengthy text, and at least some of it is available online in Japanese (not much use to me). However I'm pretty sure not all of the text in this book has been reproduced online. And I'm absolutely sure that most of the English translation of this work online omits reams of content. Is a reliable translation of this book available yet, and if so where can I get it?

    Finally, is there a good Ninpiden translation available?

    Thanks for any tips.

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  • #2
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    • #3
      Regarding the Shoninki, Claude Schedler's translation is considered reliable and widely cited. Don Roley's translation is also well-regarded, but it is not a complete translation of the Shoninki. Axel Mazuer's translation is relatively new, and there is not yet a consensus on its accuracy and reliability.

      As for the Bansenshukai, it is a lengthy text, and no complete translation is currently available. However, there are partial translations and summaries of the work that may be useful for your research. Some of the most notable translations include Antony Cummins' "True Path of the Ninja," which is a condensed version of the Bansenshukai, and Hiroaki Sato's "Legends of the Samurai," which contains a chapter on the Bansenshukai.

      Regarding the Ninpiden, there are several translations available, but their accuracy and reliability vary. Some of the translations are incomplete or redacted, while others contain errors or lack proper citations. One of the most widely cited translations is the one by Antony Cummins and Yoshie Minami, which is based on a manuscript from the 17th century. However, there have been some criticisms of this translation, so it is worth researching further before making a purchase.

      In general, it is important to be cautious when selecting translations of these works, as there are many inaccurate and unreliable translations available. Look for translations by reputable scholars or translators who have expertise in the field of ninjutsu or Japanese history. It may also be helpful to consult multiple translations to get a more complete understanding of the text.


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