Today’s post was inspired by a book my wife bought me long, long ago when we first dated. That was almost 15 years ago. 🙂 This is a book, translated into English, which contains teachings by a modern master of Ninjutsu, The art of the ninja, named Hatsumi Masaaki (初見良昭, born 1931). The book is interspersed with teachings about ninjutsu and his own experiences as a student, etc.
I haven’t read the book in years but recently I was moving books around and was flipping through pages when I found this section on “The Ninja Diet”:
…When undercover, Ninja might spend long periods unable to soak up the sun, and they would therefore also train in being “night owls.” Ordinary people tend to regard such unorthodox lifestyles as indicating failure, but the Ninja were in control of their own lives, and their spiritual powers of endurance helped them perfect the skills needed to transform the unconventional into commonplace activities. Whenever I travel around the world giving guidance in Ninpō Taijutsu (the art of the ninja, 忍法体術), I never have any problems with jet lag or unusual food. Unlike many, I actually relish such experiences.
On a more practical note, he also explains the recommended diet for students of ninjutsu:
Having a healthy everyday diet is still the foundation of which one should build the kind of body which will help one’s Taijutsu grow. Above all, I recommend eating plenty of vegetables. The Ninja Kihon Happō (the basic 8 directions of the ninja??) diet consists of brown rice, tōfu, sesame, miso soup, no salt, no sugar, uncooked food, and colored vegetables….The other important thing is to eat everything, without preference or fussiness. Moreover, you should enjoy your food—and chew it well. This is useful for recovering from mental and physical fatigue.
What Mr. Hatsumi describes here is essentially the Macrobiotic Diet, which was popularized in Japan in the 1800’s. However, it is also not limited to the ninjas-in-training. I found a similar entry in my bi-lingual book on Zen about monastic food:
Speaking from experience, monks usually eat a mixture of barley and rice and rarely partake of white rice, meat or fish. Such foods would be hard to digest during long periods of zazen. Moreover, meat is too energy rich, making it hard to control your body and mind.
I have to admit after reading all this, I am kind of intrigued about the diet advice, though I am not sure I can follow through on it. Then again, at the age of 37, I am getting older and probably should anyway. Time will tell. 🙂