Mie: Student confirms with his feet ninja caltrops really do hurt

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hibiki Tanaka verifies the effectiveness of clay makibishi caltrops in Tsu.

TSU — Makibishi, or Japanese caltrops, were a tool of the ninja that they scattered behind themselves when they ran from a pursuer. A student at Mie University has been gaining attention for actually making makibishi to see how effective the caltrops were.

As Mie Prefecture was one of the homes of the ninja, the university offers classes in ninja studies, which cover among other things the ninja’s military techniques, called ninjutsu. Such university classes are rare even in Japan.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hibiki Tanaka

When given an assignment to write whatever he wanted about ninja, Hibiki Tanaka, a first-year student, submitted a report on makibishi after making some caltrops with clay and stamping on them with his own foot to verify that they were indeed painful. Makibishi were usually made of metal, but it’s said that in the days when iron was precious, they were made of baked clay.

As people in Japan used to wear sandals made of straw, Tanaka concluded in his report that “the makibishi were practical because they could penetrate thin sandals and slow down the pursuers’ movement.”

Prof. Yuji Yamada, an expert on ninja at the university, praised Tanaka, saying, “It’s wonderful that he actually made and tested ninjutsu weapons.”