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How ninjas went mainstream

Why does the whole world know about ninjas?

Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

Ninjas are a part of our culture — but why? Why did this legendary Japanese group become a worldwide phenomenon, and a universal symbol of deadly cool?

The history of ninjas is a fascinating alchemy of myth-making from both Japan and Hollywood (with a helping hand from New York publishing). Real ninjas — who also occasionally have a disputed history — became a highlight of Japanese cartoons and books in the 20th century. Their subsequent incorporation into global culture only built on the appeal.

The above video chronicles the ninja’s shadowy journey from local myth to worldwide phenomenon. If you want to continue your ninja journey after watching, check out Vintage Ninja for more gloriously nerdy ninja arcana. In the meantime, stay in the shadows, ready to strike.