Thursday, October 13, 2016

ninjutsu, taijutsu, genjutsu 忍術, 体術, 幻術 - Meaning in Japanese

In the manga and anime Naruto ナルト, ninjutsu 忍術, taijutsu 体術, and genjutsu 幻術 (also romanized ninjitsu, taijitsu, genjitsu) are similar-sounding terms referring to how the ninjas fight. In this article, I'll explain what they mean in Japanese.

これは・・・・若き日の我が姿・・・・ いかなる幻術でしょうか?
Manga: Ya Boy Kongming!, Paripi Koumei パリピ孔明 (Chapter 1, 孔明、渋谷に降り立つ。)

Let's start with the meaning of jutsu 術, since ninjutsu, taijutsu and genjutsu all end in this ~jutsu.

A jutsu 術, also spelled jitsu in English, is an "art" or "technique." Note that waza 技 also means "technique," in the sense of a specific technique. Alone, jutsu can mean a random "trick" or "magic" of sorts, but when used as a suffix, it says something like "a discipline which you train real hard to learn so that can do this sort of thing." Some examples include:

  • shujutsu
    Surgery. Surgical operation.
  • juutsu
    Jiu Jitsu. Japanese martial art.
  • geijutsu
    Fine arts.
  • gijutsu
  • senjutsu
    Tactics. Battle arts.
  • kenjutsu
    Sword techniques.
  • jujutsu
    Curse techniques.

All of those things above are things you have to learn so you can perform things. They are, each of them, an art and/or a science.

In Naruto, you often see the phrase ~no jutsu の術, where the part before no qualifies what sort of jutsu it is, i.e. it's the name of the technique.

  • kage-bunshin no jutsu
    Technique of the shadow clone.
    Shadow clone technique.


Sometimes shi 師, "a master," is used after jutsu to say jutsu-shi 術師, "a master of an art." For example:

  • majutsu
    Black magic. Magical arts.
  • majutsushi
  • renkinjutsu
  • renkinjutsushi


The word ninjutsu 忍術 means pretty much "the art of the ninja." I mean, literally, "ninja" in Japanese is just ninja 忍者, and the ninjutsu would be the art that made a ninja a ninja, an art exclusive to ninjas.

In some series, like Katanagatari 刀語, ninja techniques are referred to as ninpou 忍法 instead of ninjutsu.

In naruto ナルト, the ninjutsu are probably the techniques which were most ninja-like. I mean, the taijutsu and genjutsu had nothing to do with ninjas, after all.


The word taijutsu 体術 would be the art of the body, since the first part, tai 体, has the same kanji of the word for "body," karada 体.

  • jintai

    Human body.
  • taijuu
    Body weight.

In naruto ナルト, the taijutsu 体術 are all about martial arts and punching and kicking stuff. As far as the show was concerned, as long as you used your body to assassinate people and not some funky chakra shenanigans, it would be considered taijutsu.

See also: names of body parts in Japanese.


The word genjutsu 幻術 would usually mean "witchcraft." Following the meaning of the suffix jutsu, and considering that genkaku 幻覚 means the sensation of "hallucination" and gensou 幻想 means "illusions," genjutsu can only be something which you train for to make these illusions. And if it isn't "hypnotism," saiminjutsu 催眠術, then it ought to be "witchcraft!"

これは・・・・若き日の我が姿・・・・ いかなる幻術でしょうか?
Manga: Ya Boy Kongming!, Paripi Koumei パリピ孔明 (Chapter 1, 孔明、渋谷に降り立つ。)
  • Context: Kongming 孔明, a 3rd century Chinese strategist, sees a mirror for the first time after being reincarnated in the modern world.
  • kore wa.... {wakaki} hi no waga sugata....
    This... is my appearance from the days [when] {[I] was young}.
  • {ikanaru} genjutsu deshou ka?
    {What sort of} illusion is this?
    {What sort of} witchcraft is this?

Ironically, in naruto ナルト, the genjutsu are actually like hypnotism. By using their magical ninja powers, ninjas would spawn illusions out of thin air to confuse their foes, which matches the literal meaning of the word.

See also: the meaning of sharingan, byakugan and rinnegan.

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