Ninja EDC: Shinobi Rokugu

Tuesday, May 19th, 02020 at 14:41 UTC

There is a program called “Ninja Truth“. It is broadcast on the Japanese state television station NHK for the English World audience. Each 15 minute episode tries to debunk the myths and legends around ninjas.

Episode 9 looks at Shinobi Rokugu – The Six Essential Tools of the Ninja. The six things every ninja was expected to carry around were:

  1. Writing tools, ink and chalk. Used to take notes and to leave chalk messages for others which could easily be erased.
  2. Pill box. Common items in Japan at the time, they could inconspicuously carry poisons and other small items.
  3. Fire Starter. Used to communicate and to light other items for defence and diversion.
  4. Hat. Location to hide items being smuggled in or out.
  5. Scarf. Multiple uses, a bandage, face disguise, but also as a sling or bag filled with rocks, it becomes a weapon.
  6. Rope and climbing hook. Used to gain access.

All of these tools were light, compact, easy to carry, served multiple purposes and would not raise suspcion.

These days, we don’t have ninja spies running around, but we are still are fascinated by Every Day Carry, (E.D.C). What can today’s digital nomad, minimalist or self-reliant doomsdayer could take away from this list?

Writing Tools

With our phones, we can dictate or type notes and send messages. But what about alternatives to digital tools?

We are big fans of the analog and carry around a small Blank Forces Titanium pen clipped to a key ring. We’ve also created notebooks of various sizes. One design is the size of a credit card, so if you have a wallet, you can easily carry one.

It is probably good to look into carrying chalk. We’re not exactly signalling others, but maybe someday we need to mark our path so we don’t get lost and chalk would be a good thing to have.

The use of chalk reminds us of WarChalking or Hobo Signs. These are temporary, coded symbols to broadcast information to those in the know.

Pill Box

In Japan this is known as Inrō. What would today’s modern equivalent be? We remember growing-up using 35mm film canisters to hold small items, but those don’t really exist any more.

The goal of the pill box was to hide poisons in something that looked like a regular medicine holder. We’ve repurposed plenty of Altoid Tins, but not for food, just as containers.

Today, we just carry computer dongles instead of pills. Maybe there isn’t a modern day equivalent?

Fire Starter

An obvious replacement would be a lighter or matches, but when we look at the reasons why fire was needed, maybe there is something better?

Fire was used to create a signal to others and also to light small fireworks as a diversion. Maybe, this is our digital phone again? It is a very good tool to send messages to others. It is also being used to control more and more of our lives. From our cars to our homes, the small glass screen in our pocket is a view into something much bigger.

Maybe a portable battery is the modern substitute for fire starter?


This was used as a weapon, a way to disguise and bandage.

As a bandage, there are smaller and better items we can use, like plasters or small first-aid kits. This overlaps with the pill-box and Altoids Tin. Plenty of other people use these tins to hold a remarkable amount of EDC objects.

As a weapon, a scarf is not really practical, and as a disguise we might need more abstract methods.

Although, now that we are deep in a pandemic, face masks are becoming the norm. Carrying and using these are socially acceptable and do not raise any questions.

In various countries, covering your face in a protest has been outlawed. So the “outlaws” revert to other methods of subterfuge. With make-up we can create dazzle patterns that facial recognition software can’t recognise or use small pen lasers and shine them directly at cameras, affectively blinding them.

So maybe instead of a scarf, we should be carrying make-up and laser pointers?


This was used to conceal weapons or to smuggled items. Illegal smuggling isn’t an activity a regular person does. It is usually at an industrial scale, via massive tunnels or submarines. But there are plenty of other instances were people attempt to skirt the rules of what is allowed.

There are jackets and coats with upwards of 50+ pockets. Designed not for smuggling contraband, and more likely for airline travel, digital nomads or hungry movie goers.

Grappling Hook

We can’t really remember when we last saw someone scaling the side of a castle wall. The way we defend and protect our property has changed from moats and high-walls to heavy doors and video cameras.

In the EDC world, many people carry paracord rope. It is knotted neatly to look like a keyring, bracelet or other decorations. Not useful for climbing, but certainly comes in handy to bind things together.

Every Day Carry

What can we take away from the EDC of spies hundreds of years ago?

Documentation and communications have always been key. Tools to enable this, like writing, photos, audio and messages are now bundled into our phones. Unlike survivalists, the ninja wasn’t expecting to be alone for long periods of time, just the duration of a single mission. Therefore, we don’t see anything special for food or much about weather and the elements. The list of items is focused more on surveillance and infiltration.

With much of this packed into our phones, we’d expect to need all the extras around these devices, batteries, dongles, and other tools. Good analog fall backs are also key, chalk, pens and notebooks are essential.