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A kunoichi (Japanese: くノ一) is a female ninja or practitioner of ninjutsu (ninpo).


女 becomes くノ一

The term is thought to derive from the names of characters that resemble the three strokes in the kanji character for "woman" (, onna) in the following stroke order:

  • "く" is a hiragana character pronounced "ku"
  • "ノ" is a katakana character pronounced "no"
  • "一" is a kanji character pronounced "ichi" (and meaning "one").

The word "kunoichi" was not used frequently in Edo period. This is probably because in this era, kanji letter "女" was not written in regular script but usually in cursive script, and the cursive script of "女" cannot be decomposed into "く", "ノ", and "一".Yoshimaru:p168

History of use[edit]

The eighth volume of the ninja handbook Bansenshukai written in the late 17th century describes Kunoichi-no-jutsu (くノ一の術). This can be translated as "a technique to use a female"Yoshimaru:p170 and was employed for infiltration purposes.[1] The meaning "female ninja" might be a purely modern use, that possibly first appeared in the novel Ninpō Hakkenden (忍法八犬伝) written by Futaro Yamada in 1964 and became popularized in the following years.Yoshimaru:p184 The manga series Tail of the Moon shows a group of young women practicing sexual intercourse with a master in order to learn the art of seducing a man.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Seiko Fujita, From Ninjutsu to Spy Warfare (忍術からスパイ戦へ). Higashi Shisha, 1942.
  2. ^ Ueda, Rinko. Tail of the Moon Volume 1. Viz Media.


  • Katsuya Yoshimaru (associate professor of Mie University) (April 2017). "What is Kunoichi? (くのいちとは何か)". Origins of the Ninja (忍者の誕生). ISBN 978-4-585-22151-7.