Here’s an interesting topic I figured I’d write about, while the story is still hot. Lately, there has been various posts on social media (i.e. Facebook) and news-related media sites about Japan was in need of hiring people to become ninja due to a ninja shortage. The basis of these posts stem from an interview Iga City Mayor Sakae Okamoto had with one of the hosts from National Public Radio’s “Planet Money” podcast, which was aired July 16th, 2018. Some information, such as a need to use tourism to attact visitors, as well as improving Iga City’s economy by providing more jobs, with one of those jobs being a ninja performer, was mentioned.
Here’s some background info related to the topic. Iga City is located in Iga-Ueno, Mie Prefecture, which is one of Japan’s famous areas where the legendary image of ninja and ninjutsu was born. Over the years, through the efforts of Mayor Okamoto and the Iga-Ueno Tourism Association, there has been a push to increase tourism in Iga-Ueno. Using this area’s ninja history as a basis, strategies to attract tourists is done by such means stemming from experiencing ninja culture through the “Ninja Museum of Iga ryu”, celebrating the annual “Ninja Day” on February 22, down to holding a ninja festival during Golden week in Japan. Those who have been to Iga City and have visited the Ninja Museum and/or have seen these ninja-related events should know that most, if not all, those individuals who are dressed in the typical ninja costume are just performers, and usually are not associated to those few martial schools in Japan that may teach ninjutsu in their curriculum.
Back to the main topic, the contents of the interview spread around online through different outlets in many countries to the point where it became slightly different from the original source. The latest posts have headlines that give the impression that Iga City, or Japan as a whole, is looking to hire potential candidates to become ninja…but leave the “performer” part out. Some of these posts also try to attract readers that a maximum salary of over 85K can be made by qualifying candidates.
In the Yahoo News article mentioned in the picture above, it was disclosed that for the last couple of days over a 100 inquiries from many countries (including the United States) in the form of emails and phone calls have been made to Iga City’s City Hall, as well as to Iga-Ueno Tourism Association. Seeing as there is a potential issue, Iga City Mayor Okamoto has made a public announcement online. This can be seen here on Iga City’s official website:
The main point stated in regards to those posts online regarding Iga City’s shortage of ninja, as well as salary that a ninja can make, is that their source of information did not come from Iga City. On top of that, Iga City is not, and has not, publicly put up job openings looking for those who want to work as a ninja. While this announcement is in Japanese, it is said that it will also be available in different languages, including English.
It should be understood that Iga City is not out to recreate its ninja history by hiring (recruiting) people to become ninja. Purely economic and an effort to improve Iga City’s population, Mayor Okamoto is working to utilize Iga-Ueno’s ninja heritage to promote interest in ninja, which not only includes having more tourists (from throughout Japan as well as around the world) to visit, but to have (most likely) Japanese citizens live in Iga City who would be interested in working as a ninja performer.