Momochi Tanba

Momochi Tanba from Assassin’s Creed Memories

Momochi Tanba is one of the most famous ninjas to come out of the Sengoku Jidai. Seen as the head of the Iga, he is well known for his stance against the Oda clan who invaded his lands twice. The man is a bit of a mystery, however, for not much is known on his actual life.

Many historians place his year of birth around 1512, but even that is not one hundred percent confirmed.(1) This might have to do with the fact that he had aliases and separate families for each one.(2) The most famous name for Momochi is Momochi Sandayū, but even this is not certain. Many historians believe that Tanba was his true name and that his grandson had the name Sandayū, however, even this is heavily debated.(3) Because he was a ninja, Tanba’s history tends to be shrouded in mystery, only being able to go by legends alone. It has been said that he was silent and emotionless and that he never showed his face to others. Others state that Tanba was not just one man, but three, which interestingly matches up with the number of supposed aliases that Tanba may have had.(4) There is also a legend that Momochi Tanba trained the famous Ishikawa Goemon, but that the relationship soured after Goemon stole Tanba’s wife and killed Tanba’s beloved concubine after some persuasion from the wife.(5) While there is very little known about him, there is one thing that is certain: he faced off against both Oda Nobukatsu and Oda Nobunaga.

There were two wars fought in Iga towards the end of Oda Nobunaga’s reign. The first war was launched by Oda Nobunaga’s son, Oda Nobukatsu, who held the neighboring province of Ise. Wanting to expand his power and domain, and to win his father’s favor, he begins building a castle at Maruyama in Iga to launch an attack in 1578. Tanba got word of the Oda’s movements there and launched an attack on the incomplete fortress in November 1578. While the Oda forces retreated back to Ise, the castle was set ablaze by the Iga forces.(6) He was advised to wait to launch another attack and in October 1579, Nobukatsu launched a three-pronged attack on Iga with a total of 10,800 men.(7) Much like the previous year, Tanba knew of Nobukatsu’s movements and attacked. Nobukatsu retreated, but lost thousands of men and at least one senior general.(8) Nobunaga was so upset at his son’s failure that he entertained the idea of disowning him.(9)

The Second Tenshō Iga War was not prompted until two men from Iga came to Azuchi and offered to help Nobunaga take the territory by acting as guides. Nobunaga agreed and launched an invasion on Iga on September 30, 1581 with 42,000 men behind him.(10) The Oda forces ravaged their way through Iga, burning shrines, temples, villages, fields and farmhouses. No one was spared: men, women and children were all executed. Nobunaga even gave his men a quota: he was to be presented with 300-500 heads every day.(11) Tanba tried to fight back and the last of his men made a last stance with him at Kashiwahara Castle, which fell after a month.(12) It is from here that Momochi Tanba’s fate becomes hazy.

Edo Period folklore paints a romanticized end for the legendary ninja, however, the date of death is a lot earlier than the slaughter that took place under Nobunaga.(13) One unconfirmed report states that Tanba managed to escape before the last of the ninja surrendered at Kashiwahara and lived another fourteen years as a farmer.(14) Despite his unknown end, many accept that Momochi Tanba fell victim to the slaughter at Iga in 1581, with many historians claiming for this to be the year of his death.


  1. “Momochi Tanba”, Japanese Wiki Corpus., last visited 11/1/2021.
  2. Yoda, Hiroko & Matt Alt. Ninja Attack!: True Tales of Assassins, Samurai, and Outlaws (2012), p. 82
  3. “Sandayū Momochi”, Koei Wiki.ū_Momochi, last visited 11/1/2021.
  4. “Sandayū Momochi”, Koei Wiki.ū_Momochi, last visited 11/1/2021.
  5. “Momochi Tanba”, Japanese Wiki Corpus., last visited 11/1/2021.
  6. “Tenshō Iga War”, Wikipedia.ō_Iga_War, last visited 11/1/2021.
  7. “Tenshō Iga War”, Wikipedia.ō_Iga_War, last visited 11/1/2021.
  8. “Tenshō Iga War”, Wikipedia.ō_Iga_War, last visited 11/1/2021.
  9. “Sandayū Momochi”, Koei Wiki.ū_Momochi, last visited 11/1/2021.
  10. “Tenshō Iga War”, Wikipedia.ō_Iga_War, last visited 11/1/2021.
  11. Yoda, Hiroko & Matt Alt. Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai, and Outlaws (2012), p. 85
  12. Yoda, Hiroko & Matt Alt. Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai, and Outlaws (2012), p. 85
  13. “Sandayū Momochi”, Koei Wiki.ū_Momochi, last visited 11/1/2021.
  14. Yoda, Hiroko & Matt Alt. Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai, and Outlaws (2012), p. 85