The way of the ninja
Japan is hoping to capitalise on foreigners’ fascination with the feared warrior spies.
Ninjas are one of Japan’s most instantly recognisable symbols – feared warrior spies turned pop culture icons through their portrayal in comics and films.
Their masked faces and fabled powers of stealth continue to inspire wonder today – something Japan’s tourist board is hoping to capitalise on.
A ‘‘ninja council’’ was set up last week to generate interest in ninja history and ninja-related activities as part of a new tourism campaign.
Mayors and governors from prefectures around Japan ditched their trademark dark business suits and dressed up as ninjas, complete with headbands, to launch the initiative.
‘‘Through ninja, we want to revive our communities,’’ Eikei Suzuki, the governor of Mie prefecture and one of those who dressed up in black costume, told the Japan Times.
The Mie region is where the famous Iga school of ninjutsu was born. In recent years, anyone hoping to have a go at throwing a ninja star while on holiday in Japan has had to travel down to Iga – a city that is a 21⁄ hour train trip from Osaka – where they can contact, by email, the ninja school in a small town called Akame.
There is a museum in town (iganinja.jp/en/) containing centuries-old ninja texts and shows are put on for tourists to demonstrate traditional assassination methods used by the ninja. There is also a shop where the whole family can deck themselves out in ninja dress. Iga also holds an annual ninja celebration called the Iga-Ueno Festival.
Now officials want to expand the list of attractions relating to the feudal-era martial arts masters available on the Japanese Tourism Agency website, so that tourists who want to learn more, can.
Ninjas are a ‘‘subject that always comes up whenever we go abroad to promote tourism’’, said Hiroshi Mizohata, former head of the Japan Tourism Agency.
Officials are hoping that raising the profile of ninjas will set in motion a wave of visitor interest that will continue until the Olympic Games, due to be held in Tokyo in 2020.
Icon: Aninja council has been set up to generate interest in ninja history and ninja-related activities as part of anew tourism campaign.