Hiroo Onoda, World’s ‘Last Ninja’, Dead at 91

Author Jon Man describes the Japanese intelligence officer, who passed away Thursday, as the end of a 1,000-year tradition

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The world may have lost its last ninja Friday.

Hiroo Onoda, the World War II Japanese intelligence officer who died Thursday at age 91, drew from ninja-like military training to survive nearly thirty years fighting a long terminated war, according to ninja historian John Man.

“Other people would dispute this, but I’d say he’s the last of the ninja,” Man told TIME last year. Man devoted a chapter of his book Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior to Onoda.

The intelligence officer was a graduate of the elite Nakano Spy School, which Man described as something of a modern ninja training ground. The school taught officers stealth tactics and values like integrity and — above all — completing the mission, which aligned with the basic tenets of the centuries-old traditional ninja practice.

Man wrote:

“The man who claims to be the inheritor of the ninja tradition, Masaaki Hatsumi, lists eighteen fundamental areas of expertise, eleven of which were echoed in Nakano’s training: spiritual refinement, unarmed combat, swordsmanship, fire and explosives, disguise and impersonation, stealth and entering methods, strategy, espionage, escape and concealment, meteorology and geography … There was enough in common between traditional ninja training and Nakano’s to call these men modern ninjas. The two shared loyalty, secrecy, a sense of duty, a sense of integrity.”

Onoda was deployed toward the end of the war to an island in the Philippines under orders to sabotage harbor and airport installations ahead of an expected U.S. invasion. There he remained for 29 years, hiding from search teams, stealing food and sometimes clashing with local civilians he thought to be the enemy. He refused to believe the war had ended until the retired Major who had given him his initial orders returned in 1974 to relieve him of his duty.

“Ninjutsu seems to have found its final and most extraordinary expression” in Onoda, Man wrote. “In his commitment to survive, in the techniques he used to do so, and in his humanity, Onoda … is in many ways the real last of the ninjas.”

145 comments
TRuNYC
TRuNYC

Come on. Last of the ninjas?? They have Amerrrikan Ninjas. Badder, stealthier and with bigger guns.

suzuki2006
suzuki2006

He was not a criminal. President of the Philippines gave him am amnesty. 

Hou Man O
Hou Man O

i am absolutely disgusted by this post and some of the comments here romantizing a war crimimal. Think about all the innocent lives he impacted during those 30 years and you may realize how insensitive this post is.

Julio Flores
Julio Flores

hahahah wtf TIME ninjas dont die they disapear

Nam Chau
Nam Chau

We still have Ninja from Die Antwoord

Dena Kay
Dena Kay

No I didn't. I'm still alive. :/

HouManO
HouManO

I am very disgusted that people are singing praises to soldiers like him, almost describing him as some sort of fallen hero. Does the author have ANY idea what these soldiers have done during WWII? What of the local people that he invaded and considered enemey for 30+ years? What would they think when they saw posts like this?

Paul Drew Johnson
Paul Drew Johnson

Nope, I'm still here. Clock's ticking, and I'm still kicking.

Natasha Challapally
Natasha Challapally

my daughter, 5, thinks she is an "inja" in training. Her favorite show is go ninja. Every time she see's someone in a burka, she thinks it's an "inja".

Md Hafizur Rahman
Md Hafizur Rahman

I was coming to meet him but,It was my bad luck that I was not able to meet...so sad..

David Quinn
David Quinn

That's the saddest headline I've ever read...

Jaime Moreno
Jaime Moreno

Naruto is still alive. RIP Hiro Oonoda. Ur an honorable soldier who adhere on his duties.

Ha Ta
Ha Ta

Hahahahahaha I don't think all of them go out to the world and confess: yo dude, I'm a ninja lah. That wouldn't be ninja anymore

Tôm Mát
Tôm Mát

Ha Ta that's wat the ninjas want us believe

Oguns Clinton
Oguns Clinton

Ninjas do not die! They just disappear into thin air.

Thomas Perez
Thomas Perez

Any 5 year old boy will dispute this claim ;)

suzuki2006
suzuki2006

@HouManO  President of the Philippines Marcos said" He is a great soldier. They respected Onoda's royalty. Moreover, He was welcomed by the local people when he returned the place after 20 years. You can check the video in youtube. Furthermore,  He received Medal from the Brazil.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

@HouManO 

By the same logic as this article, the Nazis who escaped to South America deserve their due as well.  It is truly a warped perspective.  But then again, the outcome after the atrocities committed by vile Japan and Germany where wholly different.  For example there are no memorials in Germany glorifying the acts, but there are in Japan.  

suzuki2006
suzuki2006

@formerlyjames  Japan never did ethnic cleansing like a Nazis or Uyghur China. If you really care of human rights, You should  criticize  China's  violation of human rights in Tibet and Uyghur China right now.  Onoda never escape from enemy and duty. Your point of view is off the point. 

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

@suzuki2006

Are you kidding?  Japan itself  has no ethnic diversity to cleanse, and is the most xenophobic country in history.   They did commit genocide of ethnic nature throughout the Pacific.  The point we are making is that no soldier of the foul Empire of the Sun is a hero.