Fūma Kotarō


Kanji: 風魔 小太郎

Dates: ?-1603

Other Known Names: Fūma Kotarō the Fifth, Kazama

Fūma Kotarō was an infamous ninja who was the leader of the Fūma Ittō, or the Fūma Gang. The gang were sponsored by the Hōjō clan until the clan fell in 1590. There is a bit of mystery surrounding this figure. While historical records can confirm his existence, there are still large gaps about his life.

It is unclear what his true name was. The name “Fūma Kotarō” was just a title given to the active leader of the gang. The most well-known leader is the Fifth, who this article is about.

There is a mystery about how he actually looked. There are no known paintings of Fūma Kotarō, but there are historical accounts that describe his appearance. He was close to seven feet tall, had upside-down eyes, thick limbs and torso, black whiskers, a wide mouth with four visible fangs, and an unusually loud voice. The video game company, Koei, created their version of Fūma Kotarō for their video game series Sengoku Musou (Samurai Warriors) by going off this almost mythical description. The latest game render for the character is shown above.

Fūma Kotarō’s gang was more like a criminal organization, and was mostly made up of criminals, such as bandits and thieves. The ninja that made up his gang were called “rappa”. These ninja were from the Kanto region and were the outcasts of the ninja realm, mostly due to their tactics. The organization contained at least two hundred members in their prime.

There is one well-known historical account that features Fūma Kotarō and his gang and that is the Battle of Ukishimagahara in 1581. Takeda Katsuyori decided to make a move on Hōjō lands, and the task of defeating them was left to Fūma Kotarō. He used a combination of psychological and guerrilla warfare against his opponents. For several nights, the Fūma ninja launched sneak attacks on the Takeda camp, kidnapping people, frightening the horses, set fire to tents, wore Takeda armor and imitated their battle cry which led to the Takeda men turning on their own. Those who survived wanted revenge and decided to infiltrate Fūma’s camp. They were successful, but only for a short while. The Fūma gang had a secret code, which they used while en route for another attack. Fūma was able to figure out who the Takeda men were because of the code, and had them executed on the spot.

Not much else is known about Fūma Kotarō after the Battle of Ukishimagahara. It is known that he had a hard time finding a sponsor after the collapse of the Hōjō clan in 1590. It is uncertain, but there are claims that state that Fūma Kotarō killed the famous ninja, Hattori Hanzō, and even scalped him to prove it. Despite whether the claim is real or not, Fūma lived out the rest of his life as a wanted man. He was eventually betrayed by a former Takeda ninja, Kosaka Jinnai, taken away by Tokugawa forces, and later executed in 1603.