Sunday, January 5, 2014

Warrior Women III - Mochizuke Chiyome

Name:Mochizuke Chiyome (Chiyome is her first name)
Country: Japan
Era: 16th Century

Chiyome was the wife of the Samurai Mochizuke Moritoki - who was killed in battle. A number of noble women had trained along side their men, and when her husband died Chiyome decided work undercover as ninja - and eventually created the first group of female ninjas known.

Ninja's were employed by the warlord's of Japan to take care of problems deemed beneath the dignity and honour of a Samurai. Ninja's specialised in covert operations, such as espionage, infiltration, assasination and kidnap.
Amongst the ninjas however it was necessary to have women, who could infiltrate other areas that as men they could not penetrate. These female ninja's were called kunoichi-ryu, the deadly flowers.

According to ancient law, ninjahood was passed down from generation to generation. These families were traditionally found in the Iga and Koga districts - where the children studied eastern philosophy as well as martial arts. The ninja practiced the Shinto religion and followed the ideal of 'the way of the pure hearted sword.'

Up until the mid 16th century, the ninjahood was predominantly male, that was until Chiyome began to develop her own company of deadly flowers.

On the death of her husband, Chiyome was placed under the protection of her late husband's uncle (Takeda) - who supported her efforts to create fully trained female ninjas.
Around 1562,  Chiyome  set up her business in the village of Nazu, in Shinshu. She enrolled waifs, orphans, victims of the civil wars. People in the village saw her as something as missionary, saving lost girls - and she fostered this as a cover for her true motives. Chiyome perpetuated this notion by training the girls as shrine attendants (as well as ninjas), this allowed them to travel and look devout - without encouraging suspicion.
Lets not shake hands with this lady.
The modus operandi of the 'deadly flowers' was to look vulnerable, and draw their victim close, where they could mount an attack on their throat, eyes and hair. They were, allegedly, trained seductresses, able to get close to their targets with little physical effort.

Chiyome's 'deadly flowers' also were given impressive weapons training. Knife work, swordplay, spear throwing and axes were all practiced and used.
The 'deadly flowers' weapon of choice however were twin short swords.
Twin short swords
The female ninja's would often stalk their target dressed in fine kimonos, however, beneath the silks they wore an armoury of weapons. Steel claws, blinding powders, throwing stars, knives, even poison tipped hair pins. Often as well, they were practiced with the garotte.

At Chiyome's ninja school, the girls were trained to survive (not quite like Bear Grylls, but not far off). They could climb trees, hold their breath for long periods and even dislocate their joints to free themselves. Their normal garb was 'the cloak of darkness' - they were clad in black.

Chiyome's 'deadly flowers' worked well to assist Chiyome's protector, Takeda's assets and interests and as a result increased his fortune.

Deadly Flowers, as they were known, lasted long after Chiyome's death into the Edo period (1602-1868).

No one is quite sure what happened to Mochizuke Chioyme, and there are of course, rumours that she was herself a mere fabrication and creature of myth. Either way, Mochizuke Chiyome is a fascinating character.


  1. I want to say this was inspiring but that doesn't seem right when talking about ninjas. However it is admiring that these women could turn their lives around and not be dominated by men.

  2. Quite amazing wasn't it, that a woman from that era could be so pro-active and forward thinking and actually be supported in doing so. Not to mention utterly brutal and fantastic!