To answer this question is no easy task so I would like to present to you all of the information I have regarding this question and let you judge for yourself.
Hattori Hanzo, Momochi Tanba and Fujibayashi Nagato are the three most well-known shinobi commanders of the mountainous land of Iga.
As many already know, Hatsumi Soke and his Master, Takamatsu Sensei were called upon in the early 1960’s to help with historical consultation and fight scene choreography for the cinema movie “Shinobi no Mono”, a fictional novel by Murayama Tomoyoshi that made it to the big screen due to the renowned Director, Yamamoto Setsuo. It was so well done it caught the attention of many Japanese ninjutsu historians at the time.
In this story, it ends up that all the “shinobi” or ninja that were being used and or manipulated in the plot were being controlled by one person with multiple identities. Those identities were none other than Fujibayashi Nagato AND Momochi Tanba. The two were one person.
Here it is key to keep in mind that Togakure Ryu tradition claims that the Momochi clan were the headmasters of the Togakure Ryu as well as the Gyokko Ryu and Koto Ryu. The three mainstay arts of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.
Now you may question, what does this have to do with factual history???
Well… Murayama, the novel’s author, did his research before writing and learned that Okuse Heishichiro, the founding Director of the Iga Ueno Ninja Museum in Mie, had discovered some clues that these two commanders may actually be one and the same person, and if not… the connection was definitely extremely close.
One of the clues lies in the historical posthumous Buddhist death names at the graves of these two identities.
Fujibayashi’s grave at Shokaku Temple (正覚寺) in Ayama district is inscribed with the name 【本覚深誓】.
At Seiun Temple (青雲寺) in Houjiro district the temple’s death records show Momochi Tanba’s Buddhist death name as being 【本覚了誓】.
Notice the third characters (深) and (了) are different in the two names. This may not seem like much to the layperson, but in the culture of Iga where these ninjas were born, raised, fought and died… there is a special and unusual custom for adopted family members. The adoptive family of a shinobi that had died would build a grave while the original “blood-family” of that person would build what is called a “shadow grave” or “Kagehaka” (影墓). In doing so, it was custom that one of the characters in the same position of the name would be different on each stone.
There is other circumstantial evidence backing this idea of the two of them being the same person. First is that the families of Hattori, Fujibayashi and Momochi historically had many deep connections and relationships with each other.
Second is that some ninja leaders had a custom of separating the family and keeping multiple households under various names.
And finally, there is also the mysterious reason why we see no mention of Fujibayashi’s activities during the battle of Tensho Iga no Ran. Momochi Tanba is said to have fought valiantly until the end (although a body was never found). Strangely we see no action taken on Fujibayashi’s part in the historical record. He simply disappeared during the whole invasion of his homeland.
Of course, this is not confirmation that Fujibayashi and Tanba were one and the same person but it sure easy to accept the possibility.
So next one may ask, what other evidence is there that shows Fujibayashi was connected to the Togakure clans of ninjutsu.
According to the Fujibayashi family’s manuscript 『冨治林家由緒書』, Nagato no Kami’s ancestor was Minamoto Yoritomo’s Minister of Shinshu, Izumi Chikahira (泉親衡). In Shinshu Chikahira raised an army at Togakushi Mountain with the intent of defeating the Hojo clan but was defeated in 1213 CE at the rebellion named after him (泉親衡の乱). After his defeat he fled to Yubune in Iga and built a mountain fortress there. His descendants later took on the name Fujibayashi.
In the same Fujibayashi family manuscript, it is stated that Nagato no Kami acknowledged to his family that he taught ninjutsu to Yamamoto Kansuke at the order of Takeda Shingen. Several Japanese researchers and the Tejikara (Togakushi deity) ancestral family shrine in Iga openly state that it was Togakure Ryu ninjutsu. But sadly, this is simply by default as the document only mentions that he taught Kansuke ninjutsu, not which school or lineage of it. It falls to Togakure Ryu by default because that is where his ancestors, who were well known for guerilla warfare and their deep involvement in shugendō, came from.
Five generations of the Momochi family are recorded by Takamatsu O-Sensei as being the headmasters of our Togakure Ryu, Gyokko Ryu and Koto Ryu.
Momochi Kobei – 22nd generation Soke of the Togakure Ryu
Momochi Sandayu – 15th generation Soke of the Gyokko Ryu, 5th Generation Soke of Koto Ryu
Momochi Sandayu II – 16th generation Soke of the Gyokko Ryu, 6th Generation Soke of Koto Ryu
Momochi Tanba Yasumitsu – 17th generation Soke of the Gyokko Ryu, 7th Generation Soke of Koto Ryu
Momochi Taro Saemon – 18th generation Soke of the Gyokko Ryu, 8th Generation Soke of Koto Ryu
To me, it makes a lot of sense that Momochi Tanba could have been Fujibayashi and after escaping the invasion of Iga he may have left his identity of Momochi Tanba as being dead. It is possible that he fled and continued to live as Fujibayashi until old age. While some may say it’s just fantasy, I also firmly believe there is a strong connection between the Bansenshukai ninjutsu manuscript and the Togakure Ryu.
A few generations after Nagato no Kami, the descendants of the Fujibayashi family compiled all of the ninjutsu knowledge they had into the, now famous, book “The Bansenshukai”. It is my guess that much of the document, especially in regard to gunpowder and explosives, is based on the secret teachings of the Togakure lineage of the Iga Ryu of ninjutsu.
In my opinion, but maybe not that of classical Japanese historians just quite yet, it is very fair to say that the Togakure lineage of the Iga Ryu was a historical entity though it may have not been called Togakure Ryu until more recent times. It is possible that it may have just been called Iga Ryu and in this clan’s case they would have believed that their lineage began in Togakushi. It could also simply be that the Toda family decided to call their lineage of Iga Ryu the Togakure Ryu at the end of the Edo period. We may never know.
But the search still continues for more revelations of the Hidden Lineage of ninjutsu…
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo