Nov 14, 2011

Weapons & Warriors: The Black Egg of the Ninja

This device is based from a Samurai police tool called Metsubushi. Samurai carried small boxes and filled them with ground up peppers or dust. The box had an opening for blowing into and a tube on the other end for aiming the spray. It was specifically used to blind an enemy either to subdue or kill. This device still exists today and is carried by a lot of women, known as pepper spray.

The Black Egg Art by TL Jeffcoat
The Ninja adopted this and then took it to a further extreme. Ninja were not wealthy, so designing a box to do this specific task was beyond what most could afford to buy or had time to carve. The ever improvising Ninja turned to what was readily available, the bird egg. After emptying the egg carefully, they would then fill the egg with whatever they had at their disposal. In many cases this was a ground pepper sauce, like the Samurai used, but it also wasn’t uncommon for many Ninja to grind glass. The key to keeping the fragile eggs from shattering in their pockets was to use a flame to cook the outer edge of the egg to harden some of the interior and then empty the yolk and any uncooked white through a hole on one end. This made the egg more flexible, so that even if the thin shell cracked, it wouldn’t leak as long as the interior wasn’t broken.

Once the eggs were filled and sealed up, they were painted black. Camouflaged by the dark paint, they could not be spotted very easily once thrown. The automatic response for someone who glimpses something flying through the air towards them would be to duck, but the blackness of the egg made it difficult to see. All the Ninja would have to do is throw it into the face of his opponent. If even a small amount of pepper got into the eye it would cause extreme irritation. Glass was even worse as it would dig with every blink of the victim’s eye and could cause permanent damage to his vision.

Some Ninja even filled the eggs with ash and powder which was used for masking their retreats or disorienting their target. This is where the legend that the Ninja could vanish in a cloud of smoke came from. It is more realistic that the Ninja threw it at his victims head instead of at his own feet in total Hollywood fashion. Once blinded by the cloud, a Samurai became an easier target. A very simple and effective device and cheap enough that any farmer would be capable of making them by the dozens.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.


  1. I love the .gif from Kung Pow, very nice touch.

    1. Thanks, I thought it was pretty fitting. One of my favorite spoof comedies.