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Sean Askew September 6, 2017

Onibi no Jutsu 「鬼火の術」

In the teachings of the Togakure Ryu there is an art called “Onibi no Jutsu”. It is where the warrior dons a demon’s mask and blows out flames and poisonous gas from a bamboo tube protruding out of the mouth. The mask is for the initial shock effect and after the poisonous fumes have been inhaled by the enemy it will only be time before hallucinations of devils and demons begin to set in. This tradition and knowledge was passed on to Takamatsu Sensei from his Grandfather on his mother’s side of the family. Who just happened to be Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu, last in the line of the active Togakure Ryu Ninja masters.

During my research at Matsumoto Castle I found that the Akutagawa Ryu of Ninjutsu also had a technique called “Onibi no Jutsu”. I wondered if it could be the same and decided to investigate further. Soon I found a story about the most famous ninja of Matsumoto castle, Kurozaemon”, describing this technique in action. It is slightly different in use from the Togakure Ryu but the general idea is the same.

One day, there was a celebration at the Toda clan’s family castle in Matsumoto. At the banquet sat the head of the Akutagawa family and master of “In-jutsu” (隠術)、Akutagawa Kurozaemon Yoshinori.
After the feast was well underway, Lord Toda leaned over the railing of his seat of honor and said down to Yoshinori…
“It is said you are a master ninja, but sadly I have never seen your ninjutsu even once. I would really like to see it.”
Yoshinori responded saying that “Ninpo is not a spectacle, but I am in my master’s home and it would be rude to refuse you”.
“Alright” Yoshinori exclaimed as he got up and went to the center of the room, faced his lord and then laid down on the tatami floor face down. He then began to close his eyes and chant an incantation.
A sweet aroma started to drift into the open room.
Soon seven of the castle’s female servants who were sitting together in the room began to feel sleepy and were not able to stand even if they tried. Then the servants began covering themselves up in shame, for their “Koshimaki” (腰巻) had been removed and all seven women’s white bare thighs were in plain view for everyone at the party to see. Then in a flash the women’s “Koshimaki” began to fall from thin air in the middle of the room and land on the still facedown Kurozaemon’s back and completely covering him until he was no longer visible.
The other retainers had all fallen deep asleep and when they woke they remembered nothing that had happened.
Then Kurozaemon stated “This is Onibi no Jutsu of the Akutagawa school” (これぞ芥川流の忍法「鬼火の術」).

The sweet-smelling aroma was a gas that is released when a paper ball laced with various secret ingredients was lit and burnt. The fumes floated out into the room and put the female servants and retainers into a semi unconscious state. During this time Kurozaemon used techniques similar to hypnotism and removed the ladies “Koshimaki” and put them in a pile. When the timing was right and the ladies were coming back to consciousness he simply threw the clothing up into the air and let them land on top of him.
Only Lord Toda, laughing deeply, could see what had truly happened from his position of honor that was above the level of the floating gas.

Due to the success of Akutagawa Kurozaemon Yoshinori, Akutagawa Ryu Ninjutsu became well known throughout Japan. So, you could say it was him that announced to the world that the Matsumoto Castle and the Toda family have ninja in their service. It is recorded that he was born in 1732 and that his ninjutsu specialty was the use of drugs and poisons. During his career, he was said to have served the Toda-Matsudaira, the Takashima and the Suwa clans before passing away in 1810 at 78 years old.

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