20+ Differences Between Samurai And Ninja (Explained)

Samurai and ninjas are quite inseparable from Japanese culture, given how they are presented in the media.

Both of them were highly trained experts and were good at their job. However, be it a ninja or a samurai, they had to face danger and face the risk of death many times because they were warriors.

Apart from the similarity mentioned above, there are a lot of differences that distinguish a samurai and a ninja from each other. Not only do they look different, but they also have different jobs, which is why they carry different weapons that work the best accordingly.


Key Differences between Samurai and Ninja:


  1. Samurai wore a traditional kimono with metal pieces of armor and a helmet.
  2. Samurai were a part of the imperial forces and engaged in wars.
  3. The weapons were larger and included katana, long spears, bows and arrows, and clubs.
  4. The people were from the upper classes of society.


  1. Ninja outfits covered the whole body but not the eyes. These were mostly black.
  2. Ninjas were civilians who worked with silence and deception. They were independent spies or assassins.
  3. The weapons were small and concealable and included shuriken, knives, and the chained sickle.
  4. These people worked as farmers and were mostly from the backward sections.

Comparison Between Samurai And Ninja

Social HierarchyPeople from the warrior class and reputed families became the samurai.Farmers, peasants, and people from the lesser sections became the ninja.
Location of ResidenceThey lived and had postings everywhere in Japan.They lived among the croud but mainly resided in the Iga and the Koga provinces.
LoyaltyThe samurai served whoever ruled the region, mainly the emperor of that state.The ninja served no loyalty and worked jobs on a quid pro quo basis.
RemunerationThe samurai did not work for a fee but enjoyed multiple privileges and received rations.The ninja worked for a fee and they did not have a proper source of income.
The OutfitSamurai wore kimono and armor to protect their body.Ninja did not wear armor but wore full-body clothing to hide or blend into the surroundings.
The ArsenalSamurai weapons were big, heavy, and unconcealable. This included the katana, long spears, clubs, and bow and arrows.Ninja weapons were small, portable, and concealable. These included shuriken, knives, and short swords.
HorsebackThe samurai generally had horses with them.The ninja never had horses with them.
Code of ConductThe samurai adhered to Bushido- an ancient code for fighting.The ninja never had a code to follow and used unorthodox ways to defeat their enemies.

Major Differences Between Samurai And Ninja

What Is A Samurai?

The samurai were warriors who belonged to the higher sections of society as a separate caste. They were also a part of the Japanese military for centuries.

Samurai were also commonly known as bushi. Training to fight solely made the samurai highly respectable among the elites.

These warriors strictly followed an ancient code of conduct called Bushido, which influenced their fighting skills and ethics. Because they were important subjects of the emperor, the samurai mainly engaged in large-scale operations like infiltration and battle.

What Is A Ninja?

The ninja, also known as shinobi, was a prominent class of warriors that emerged in fifteenth-century Japan.

Unlike the samurai, who were from elite families and were born to fight, the ninja belonged to the lesser sections and were mainly farmers and peasants by occupation.

Ninjas used lighter weapons for combat, but their main tools were deception and stealth. Since they did not belong to the imperial forces and were primarily poor or marginal, they worked as spies or mercenaries for anyone ready to pay them.


Samurai vs. Ninja- All you need to know.


  1. These warriors belonged to the upper classes and reputed families.
  2. The samurai were an important part of the military forces.
  3. The samurai specialized in infiltration and full-scale war.
  4. The warriors followed a code of conduct as a way of combat.


  1. These warriors were lower-class people like farmers or peasants.
  2. The ninja acted as spies who stole information or assassinated the target.
  3. The ninja specialized in espionage, sabotage, stealth, and deception.
  4. People who worked as ninjas never followed a code of conduct.

Contrast Between Samurai And Ninja

The Societal Class

  • Samurai- Samurai warriors were a separate caste that included families from the respected sections of society. Being a part of the military, they also enjoyed various privileges provided by the emperor or the higher official.
  • Ninja- Ninja warriors were not a separate caste but from many lower classes. Most ninjas worked as farmers, peasants, or other petty jobs that not only served their livelihood when they were not on a mission but also helped them blend in.

Place of Residence

  • Samurai- The samurai lived and had postings all over Japan to carry out jobs such as patrolling to maintain order in the region. They did not require to be confined to a single place.
  • Ninja- The ninja warriors mainly belonged to two areas, the Iga and the Koga provinces. While they also lived in multiple areas, they concentrated in these two areas to avoid ambush.


  • Samurai- While the samurai also committed crimes, they were traditionally loyal to the emperor or whoever they served. In the feudal era, the samurai were instrumental in helping the rulers gain victory over territories.
  • Ninja- The ninja mainly worked as independent spies or assassins. They were ready to work for anyone willing to pay them. 


  • Samurai- The samurai had a more stable remuneration as they were paid in rations by the higher bodies.
  • Ninja- Because the ninja work in different jobs for different people, their remuneration is not consistent and can sometimes be low if they do not find the right work.


The Role in Society: Samurai vs. Ninja


  1. The samurai were from the respected sections and enjoyed privileges.
  2. They were at every place in Japan to oversee the civilians.
  3. These warriors served the higher officials, especially the emperor of the state.
  4. The samurai never worked for anything in return but were granted rations by the shogunate.


  1. The ninja were from the oppressed sections, and most of them were poor.
  2. They lived among the civilians but were in large groups in the Iga and the Koga provinces.
  3. Ninja did not swore loyalty and served anyone who would pay.
  4. Ninja had an inconsistent source of income as it greatly depended on the job and the client.

The Outfit

  • Samurai- Samurai had to engage in large-scale combat, which also meant facing more than one enemy.

    So they wore armor pieces over their clothing, a kimono. Samurai covered their legs, torso, head, and arms with metal plates, providing security from enemy weapons.
  • Ninja- Ninja had to avoid combat as much as possible, as it would blow their cover. However, wearing heavy armor would affect their mobility and ability to hide silently.

    So they wore tight clothing which covered their entire body except for the eyes. The color is usually black, but it could depend on the surroundings because the outfit is vital for camouflage.

The Arsenal

  • Samurai- Samurai not only put on heavy armor but also carried larger weapons. Their most common weapon is the katana or the samurai sword.

    They also fought using bows and arrows, shotguns, long spears, and clubs. The weapons were generally bigger and heavier than what the ninja carried.
  • Ninja- The weapons used by the ninja were smaller and lighter for portability. Most weapons were either work tools or inspired by them.

    These included the shuriken(ninja stars), kunai(knives), kusarigama(chained sickle), and even a short sword called ninjato. These were mainly for self-defense and not close combat.


  • Samurai- Since they were military warriors, the samurai were also segregated into infantry and cavalry. Therefore, almost all the samurai warriors had horses for travel and war. Horses helped samurai gain a stronger edge while battling against their foes.
  • Ninja- Not all the ninja could afford horses or even maintain them. Moreover, horses do not go in line with their work which relies on not being seen or noticed. Therefore, using horses is very rare for ninja, and even if they use them, it would not be for the job.

Code of Conduct

  • Samurai- The samurai religiously followed a set of rules called Bushido that laid the foundation of how they fought. To them, combat and dying in battle were an honor. This set was also passed to the next generations and became an integral part of the samurai.
  • Ninja- The ninja never followed or, in other words, were bound to a code of conduct. They would use whatever means to deceive, steal, or assassinate to get the assigned job done. Often they used innovative or unorthodox methods for their work.


The Outfit and Weaponry: Samurai vs. Ninja


  1. Samurai wear a kimono and metal pieces of armor to protect their body. They also wear a helmet to protect their heads.
  2. They carried larger and heavier weapons which were more powerful.
  3. Most samurai carried horses for travel and war.
  4. Samurai engage in hand-to-hand combat and follow bushido, a common code of conduct for warriors.


  1. Ninja do not wear armor to retain mobility. To blend into the surroundings, they wear full-body clothing, which is mainly black.
  2. They carried smaller, lighter weapons they could easily wield and hide in their outfit.
  3. Most ninja never used horses as they were too poor, and horses did not help with stealth.
  4. The ninja did not follow a code and avoided close combat as much as possible. They used unorthodox methods to overpower enemies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Who would win if a samurai and a ninja faced each other?

The samurai mainly trained to fight and wore armor for protection. So they can easily overpower ninja warriors who do not have equal strength, and their weapons do not penetrate the armor easily.

The samurai would also win if there were a battle between large groups of the two.

Q2. Could a ninja with no armor defeat a samurai?

A ninja can win if they have to kill them silently or in the mountains where the environment suits their way of combat. Another way a ninja can win is by outnumbering the samurai by a larger margin.

Q3. Why did the ninja carry a short sword?

The shorter length of the blade allowed the ninjas to attack faster. In addition to this, they could also quickly stab the enemy. A short sword was also more portable, so it was better to carry them than a katana.

Q4. Were the ninja real or fiction?

The ninja or shinobi was not popular by the name ninja. However, they did exist particularly in the Sengoku era, where multiple states fought for territory and were vital for gaining information.

Q5. Did samurai exist before ninja?

Yes. The samurai existed in the middle of the Heian era(794 AD- 1185 AD).

The ninja from the Iga and the Koga provinces existed in the fifteenth century but could indeed exist during the emergence of the samurai. However, there is not enough evidence to prove it.

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