The birthplace of the ninja is now having a major setback; ninjas are disappearing in Iga. The small Japanese city which holds a population of 100,000 people (assuming many were once ninja’s) is now taking a major hit to its once plentiful ninja lifestyle.
The younger Japanese generation has knowledge of the ninja life but refrain from joining into the lifestyle. Instead, the younger generation have begun moving to larger cities. While the young are turning their backs on the ninja life, Sally Herships took action by attempting to outline the benefits of the ninja lifestyle.
Sally Herships explains, “This job does have a lot to offer, first of all, the pay is quite competitive. Today, ninjas can earn anything from $23,000 to about $85,000 — which is a really solid salary, and in fact, a lot more than real ninjas used to earn in medieval Japan.” Sally also reported Iga’s ninja shortage on an episode of NPR’s “Planet Money” podcast.
$85,000 to anyone who wants to become a crazy-cool ninja sounds like an amazing idea but it’s not exactly what it sounds like. Though Iga is in dire need of ninjas, it’s not the kind of sword slicing, ninja-star throwing ninjas we all wish to be. Iga is searching for only “ninja performers” for tourism purposes. The tourism to Japan has continued to grow significantly which is increasing demand to see these iconic ninjas perform “ninja shows” to crowds of tourists.
Many who have tried to become a ninja have been turned away due to the lack of basic skills. Without these skills each ninja would need to be trained in acrobatics, concealment, unarmed combat and first aid causing much delay in the overall performance. Ninjas in Iga were not always just performers. Traditionally, ninjas were skilled in spying, endurance, and using weapons such as shuriken. The Ninjas prided themselves on their skills and always remembered violence was a last resort to any action. Before “performer ninjas,” traditional ninjas first emerged as mercenaries during an era of civil war, known as the Warring States period, and had been recruited to portray spies, raiders, assassins and possibly even terrorists. Guilds had different types of ninjas assigned to certain tasks that are often controlled by their own individual territories.
The ninja shortage in Iga has sparked over 100 applications to become a ninja after the NPR mentioned it on their podcast. Reports of the shortage led to 115 hopeful people from 23 countries to contact Iga officials, enquiring about possible jobs in the ninja lifestyle.