Ninja Vs Samurai? What’s The Difference?

Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, is not only well-known for its beautiful landscape, unique culture and cuisine but also famous for its ancient fighting and warriors represented by ninjas and samurai. Many people may consider ninjas and samurai the same, but in fact there are a number of differences between these two legendary Japanese warriors. Ninja vs Samurai? What’s the difference? Let’s check this blog out to find out the answer!

Ninja vs Samurai: Six Main Differences

To know exactly what the differences between ninjas and samurai are, let’s compare them based on the six following criteria:

1. Who They Exactly Are

One of the main differences between ninjas and samurai is who they exactly are. The samurai belonged to the elite class of the Japanese military and were the highest-ranking social class. They were considered to be the best warriors in medieval Japan as they were well-trained in the art of battle. The samurai followed strict rules and were always proud of their heritage. Before challenging an opponent to battle, they would announce their clan’s name and their lineage.

On the other hand, ninjas belonged to the lower classes of ancient Japanese society. They tended to hide their identities and stay in the shadows to do ‘dirty work’ for political rivals such as spying, assassinations, poisonings, etc. for a price. All of those things were considered unethical and even shameful by the samurai, so the samurai would never do those things.

ninja vs samurai

Unlike the samurai, the ninjas tended to hide their identities

2. What They Wear

Because of the fact that the samurai were part of the higher social status, their attire was full clad kimono which comprised the traditional ‘Kimono’. However, the samurai version of clothing was made of silk rather than of cotton to symbolize their nobility. Despite being brighter and more colorful than the attire of the ninjas, the samurai’s still had a somber undertone to it. For battles, the samurai would put on a specially designed armor which was very flexible and lightweight for their agility over their kimono.

The samurai’s attire was full clad kimono, which comprised the traditional ‘Kimono’

When it comes to the ninjas, their outfits were often plain black in color and the ninjas tended to be fully clothed with only their eyes showing so that it was easy for them to camourflage in the dark. The full-body black-colored uniform of the ninjas also reflected their master of stealth and guerilla tactics. They rarely wore any armor and even when they did, the armor was always light and spare.

In contrast, the ninjas were fully clothed in black with only their eyes showing


3. Which Weapons They Use

Ninja vs Samurai in the weapons they use? You know, there are also striking differences between them. As the samurai’s war strategy was to attack the enemy head-on, their weapons were really big and deadly so as to strike fear in the hearts of their enemies.

ninja vs samurai

The weapons used by the samurai were very big and deadly to strike fear in the hearts of their enemies

Unlike the samurai’s, the war strategy of the ninjas was quite straightforward and they always tended to get the job done as quickly and cleanly as possible. For this reason, their armony was generally small and easy to conceal, and which could help to finish off their target in a single strike.

The ninjas’ armony was small and easy to conceal so that they can finish their target in a single strike

4. How They Fight

Another major difference between ninjas and samurai is how they fight. All samurai had to learn the art of sword-fighting, which was their most basic skills. When they became more experienced, they would train themselves in other forms of marital arts such as archery and the use of other weapons. The higher class of samurai would also train themselves in ‘Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu’, which was considered the best form of hand-to-hand (no weapon) combat technique in those times.

All samurai had to learn the art of sword-fighting as their most basic skills

On the contrary, the ninjas formed their completely new marital art called Ninjutsu to supplement espionage. This form of marital art is very systematic and focused on speed and agility. Also, it trained the ninjas to be able to handle all difficult and dangerous assignments. However, very little is known about this art and very few people practise it because of the ninjas’ secretive nature.

ninja vs samurai

Ninjutsu, the new form of marital art created by the ninjas, trained them to handle all difficult and dangerous assignments.

5. How Their Ways Of Life Are

When comparing Ninja vs Samurai, their ways of life are also noticeable. The samurai followed a strict ancient code of ethics, which was the ‘Bushido’ or the samurai way. This code was the result of years of military training and discipline and it was largely unuttered and unwritten. Bushido absolutely defined a samurai and those who failed to obey its rules had to suffer from severe punishments. Honor, courage, loyalty, self-control, etc. are some of the moral codes of Bushido.

The samurai were guided by a strict ancient code called ‘Bushido’, whereas the ninjas followed no code

The ninjas, in contrast, were guided by no code. They were just mercenaries with whom they showed very little honor. They were patient, hardworking, inventive, disciplined, and intelligent, so they still were one of the best warrior breeds in human history. Although they did not possess as many good qualities as the samurai, the ninjas were still able to make their name in history.

6. Who They Fight For

Finally, the ninjas and the samurai differ from each other in who they fight for. The samurai were warriors who served the feudal emperor in Japan and who were willing to dedicate their whole life without asking for a fee.

On the other hand, the ninjas would serve anyone who paid for them.

Did You Know?

All of the differences between ninjas and samurai mentioned above have shown that they seem to be as different as light and darkness, but do you know what? Both these deadly warrior clans are believed to have their origins from a historical story. The story is about Prince Yamato of Japan who disguised himself as a woman and killed two enemies. From this, both clans recognized the actions of Prince Yamato to be the start of their warrior ways.

In Summary

Ninja vs Samurai? Let’s see how they are strikingly different in the summary table below:

Belonging to the lower classes of ancient Japanese societyBelonging to the elite class of the Japanese military and the highest ranking social class
Hiding their identities and staying in the shadowsAnnouncing their clan’s name and lineage before challenging an opponent to battle
Wearing full-body black-colored uniformWearing silk full clad kimono, which is brighter and more colorful than the ninja’s attire
Using small and easy-to-conceal armonyUsing big and deadly weapons
Forming their complete new marital art called NinjutsuLearning the art of sword-fighting as their basic skills and then training themselves in other forms of marital art
Following no codeFollowing ‘Bushido’, a strict ancient code of ethics
Serving anyone who pays a priceServing the feudal emperor in Japan


Hopefully, this blog has provided you with a detailed comparison between ninjas and samurai as well as useful knowledge about them. Though different distinctly, they are both warriors of Japan and they do carve their names in human history.

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.