|This is the article on the rank. For the Konohagakure Anbu member, head to Kage.|
See also: Ninja Ranks
Kage (影, Literally meaning: Shadow) is a title reserved for the leader of one of the Five Great Shinobi Countries' hidden villages. They are collectively known as the Five Kage (五影, Gokage, Literally meaning: Five Shadows). A Kage oversees the activities of their village, from sending ninja on missions to making the hard decisions regarding the safety of their people. A village's Kage is generally acknowledged as its most powerful ninja. Due to the responsibilities and power held by the Kage, certain traits such as personality, intellect, and loyalty to the village are considered important as well. For example, Orochimaru, despite everyone agreeing that he has Kage-level abilities, was passed over as a candidate for Fourth Hokage by Hiruzen due to his lust for power and potential for betraying the village.
Each village has its own name for its Kage:
- The Hokage (火影, Literally meaning: Fire Shadow) of Konohagakure.
- The Kazekage (風影, Literally meaning: Wind Shadow) of Sunagakure.
- The Mizukage (水影, Literally meaning: Water Shadow) of Kirigakure.
- The Raikage (雷影, Literally meaning: Lightning Shadow) of Kumogakure.
- The Tsuchikage (土影, Literally meaning: Earth Shadow) of Iwagakure.
As a Kage's primary concern is their village, interaction between the Kage is rare; only during treaty-signing ceremonies or shared public events has a Kage been seen to interact with one of his or her peers. The only time that all five Kage are together is during a Kage Summit, which can be convened by any of the five to discuss topics that apply to all of their villages.
How a Kage is appointed appears to differ from village to village. In Konoha, the Hokage typically appoints their successor. If the Hokage dies or is otherwise incapacitated before they can choose a successor, the selection falls to the Land of Fire's daimyō, although that appointment must then be approved by the rest of Konoha's ninja. In Kumo, after the Third Raikage died, his son automatically became Fourth Raikage; this choice was apparently decided long before it came to effect, as seen when the latter was selecting a tag team partner for the purpose of aiding him in the future position as a Kage while the Third was still alive and active. If a Kage should ever choose to retire they will keep their title for the rest of their life, and can assist the new Kage with decision-making and other responsibilities. A retired Kage can even return to full-time leadership if their successor dies, as the Third Hokage did when the Fourth Hokage gave his life to save Konoha, being unable to find anyone worthy and willing to take on the title of Fifth Hokage at the time.
Because jinchūriki are so important to their village, it is tradition for a jinchūriki to be a relative of the current Kage, both to strengthen the jinchūriki's loyalties to the village and to display the Kage's might. For example, Killer B is the adoptive brother of the Fourth Raikage and Gaara is the son of the Fourth Kazekage.
- The Third Hokage was considered to be the strongest of the Five Kage of his time.
- In the anime, Hoshigakure has unofficially dubbed each of its leaders the Hoshikage (星影, Literally meaning: Star Shadow), signifying their ambition for Hoshigakure to be recognised as an equal to the hidden villages of the Five Great Shinobi Nations.