Thanks to the precautions warlords took to protect against evil ninja assassins (building homes with counterbalanced floors that squeaked, hiring bodyguards to watch them sleep, and requiring every member of their households to wear pants that dragged along the floor so walking quietly became impossible), there aren't many documented cases of ninjas pulling off successful assassinations. Not to say they didn't try. In the 17th century, for instance, General Oda Nobunaga was surprised by three cannon-wielding ninjas who tried to blow him away, but missed.
One of the first recorded uses of Sun Tzu's sneaky tactics dates to the 1st century CE. The story describes how a prince named Yamato killed a rival lord named Torishi-kaya. Disguised as a girl, Yamato attends a banquet where, conveniently, his enemy gets a little crush on him. Invited to sit at the lord's table (just like high school), Yamato plays coy and waits until his rival is drunk before stabbing the man in the back (again, just like high school).
While ninja assassins were almost all Japanese, ninja philosophy is a Chinese invention. It comes from The Art of War, the battle guide written by Chinese general Sun Tzu in the 4th or 5th century BCE.
In the eternal debate over which is cooler—pirates or ninjas—most ancient Japanese would vote squarely with the swashbucklers. The idea of devious, back-stabbing guerrillas who attacked in secrecy conflicted with the Japanese ideal of the brave, loyal Samurai. Over the centuries, warlords came to accept the necessity of covert operations, but only grudgingly.
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