What Does That Weird Text in Ninja Games Mean?

AwesomeBrand asked a question about Tenchu 3:

Randomly when looking up some random tenchu stuff (and finding out the Japanese and Western versions of the 2nd game are very different) my mind suddenly went to two different things and then my brain sorta collided them. Mato could translate that string of characters in Tenchu 3?

Basically when you assassinate some guards in Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven (or Return from Darkness on the original Xbox) one of a collection of Japanese symbols above your health light up. When they’re all lit up in a level you learn a new skill and apparently your attacks do more damage.

I guess what I wanna ask is can you share what the string of text in this screenshot says?

This isn’t too hard – in fact it looks like this text appears elsewhere in the game:

What’s being said is:


This is something called a “kuji-in” or “nine mantras”. There are a handful of these, and this particular one is one of the most well-known. I only very barely know about them from a report I did about ninjas back in high school, but for more information, the Wikipedia article on kuji-in has a ton of details.

Basically, though, these mantras are connected to a type of Buddhism, and they were later incorporated by certain schools of ninjutsu. Which is why it appears in ninja-themed games, including the Tenchu series.

All-kanji Buddhist text is usually a bit tricky to pronounce and translate, but looking at some Japanese resources, here’s how it’s meant to be pronounced:

rin pyo tou sha kai jin retsu zai zen

And, according to Wikipedia and other sources, it translates to something like:

(Celestial) soldiers/fighters, descend and arrange yourselves in front of me!


May all those who preside over warriors be my vanguard!

Again, check out the Wikipedia article for more details.

Because of the connections this particular line has to ninjutsu, it’ll sometimes pop up in ninja stuff. But because it also has religious connections, it’s not uncommon to see it used in religious contexts too. Here’s one such example:

So it turns out there’s actually a lot of culture, history, and religion behind this tiny string of text that pops up in Tenchu and other games with ninja stuff in them!

Of course, things like this always go really, really deep, so I’m definitely just scratching the surface here. So if anyone out there can shed more light on this or provide more information, share it in the comments!

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        1. Hover your mouse cursor over the image. Any images you find in these articles have those secret messages in them. Much as I hate to kiss and tell, it’s a part of the site’s experience IMO, so have fun with it! XD

          (Don’t ban me plz matosama)

  1. Ah, the 90s. When you could do your high school projects about ninjas. 😀

    On a serious-er note, I’m fairly sure that is the exact mantra that Sailor Mars chants when she does that… thing she does with the scrolls that paralyses monsters. I’ll have the wife verify that when she gets home, since she knows her some Sailor Moon.

    1. Yes, this is also used in Sailor Moon, in the context you cite.

      I’ve actually wondered more about the series of “hand seals” she does while chanting it than about the words themselves… is there anything specific about those, or is it just something the animators chose arbitrarily?

        1. In the episode Sailor Mars made her debut, her seiyu actually did the paralysis mantra wrong with one mistake in the kanji. It was rather infamous at the time and Michie Tomizawa still remembers that goof she made.

  2. Speaking of Ninja Gaiden, I’ve always wondered something about the story in the NES original. I don’t know if you’d be able to compare this with the Japanese text of the game, but when Foster is prepping Ryu for the infiltration of Jaquio’s temple, he says something like “take this and go to their base”, but it never explains what “this” is. I thought maybe the original Japanese text might have given some hint as to what’s being referred to here. Also, I was wondering if it’s alright to submit these sort of questions in the comments section of these posts, or is there another place I should be submitting them? Anyway, thanks for the great site and keep up the good work!

    1. To answer the question at the end of your comment, this article is an answer to a question somebody asked in the comments of another article, so yeah, Mato does read these comments. If you wanna make sure he sees it eventually, you can send it to his email (mato@starmen.net).

      Wow, I seem to know a lot about this place, I must be a mod or something. 😉

    2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-BLdqzh-GQ&#t=9m19s


      “They’re after you. Reach their headquarters using this, and take back the devil statue.”

      He’s referring to the helicopter. You’re ‘taking’ something as in ‘taking a ride in it.’

      1. Or rather, it’s more clear than that since the English is already “use this,” although it should probably be “use this TO reach” not “use this AND reach.”

  3. I now realize that a few of the Ninjutsu skills in City of Heroes (rest its soul) were references to this same thing. Funny, I always wondered what was up with those, but I never thought to look into it.

  4. The first time I remember hearing this was in Yu-Gi-Oh when one of the characters (Otogi) used a card called Black Ninja that performed an oddly well-animated set of hand seals accompanied by the kuji-in.

    What an odd way to learn that…

  5. Shinobi for the PS2 also has this äčć­—. In fact, you may want to cover that game as it also has something very cool with the level names for each stage, where each stage is named after a star in the Big Dipper/ćŒ—æ–—æ˜Ÿćș§… using the modern and ancient names for the first and second parts of each stage respectively O_o


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