Ninja Stamp Sheets, Oshinobiin, Promote Regions Around Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
The oshinobiin of Sugiyama Yoshinari, left, and Momochi Tamba, right

AOMORI — Oshinobiin sheets of paper bearing commemorative stamps are being issued in ninja-related locations around the country, in an effort to promote regional revitalization.

The sheets only feature ninja whose existence has been confirmed through documents. Fictitious ninja such as Sarutobi Sasuke and Kirigakure Saizo are not included.

Sugiyama Yoshinari from Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, and Momochi Tamba from Iga, Mie Prefecture, were recently added to the list of ninja with oshinobiin. Tamba is one of the characters in NHK’s epic historical drama “Dosuru Ieyasu.”

Attention is focused on whether the oshinobiin will ignite a boom similar to that of goshuin sheets bearing stamps that commemorate a visit to a specific temple or shrine, gojoin commemorative seals from Japanese castles, and tetsuin memorial railway ink stamps.

Tsuyoshi Sato, 54, a Tokyo-based editor who researches ninja and castles, came up with the idea to create oshinobiin. The experts who supervised the creation included Mie University Prof. Yuji Yamada, who is regarded as a leading expert in the study of ninja, and Aomori University Prof. Shigeto Kiyokawa.

The oshinobiin are 14.8 centimeters long and 10 centimeters wide, made of washi paper and bear the name of the ninja, an imaginary image of the ninja and the family crest of the ninja or his lord. They are available for ¥300 each, including tax.

Yoshinari is a descendant of Ishida Mitsunari who lost the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. During the 1669 Shakushain revolt — a rebellion by a leader of the Ainu indigenous community against the Matsumae clan — Yoshinari went to Ezochi (Hokkaido) as a leader of the Hirosaki clan as he was asked by the shogunate government to assist the Matsumae clan. Yoshinari led espionage activities by disguising clan members as townspeople.

It is known that after Yoshinari’s death, the Hirosaki clan organized a ninja unit called Hayamichi no Mono.

Meanwhile, Tamba was a local clan in Iga during the Sengoku period (late 15th century to late 16th century).

It is recorded in the military chronicle “Iranki” from the Edo period (1603-1867) that he fought against the forces of Oda Nobunaga and others in the battle of Tensho-Iga during the 1570s and ’80s. The ruins of Momochi clan’s castle still exist in the district of Hojiro in Iga.

Tamba is said to be the model for fictional ninja Momochi Sandayu, who appears in an Edo period book. Kyusaku Shimada played the role of Tamba in NHK’s epic historical drama “Dosuru Ieyasu.”

Oshinobiin featuring Yokoya Sakon from Higashi-Agatsuma, Gunma Prefecture, Hattori Yasunari from Hirosaki, and Tateoka Dojun from Iga are already for sale. Many people are said to be buying the oshinobiin along with gojoin seals. They are also said to be popular with ninja fans who enjoy collecting them.

“It is not known that there were ninja in many parts of the country. I hope the oshinobiin will help uncover this kind of buried history in various regions,” Sato said.

The Yoshinari oshinobiin can be purchased at five locations, including a store at Hirosaki Castle. The Tamba version is available at an Iga-ryu Ninja-ten store in Ueno-Atago in Iga.