After a news story went viral, the city of Iga has been inundated with wannabe ninjas
Japanese officials have been left “puzzled” after a news report led to wave of applications for the position of ninja to the birthplace of the shuriken-wielding spies.
It began with a segment on American radio station NPR about Japan’s depopulation and labour shortage, with a hook about how the city of Iga is using their history of ninja to attract tourism, and hopefully jobs.
In order to do so, the city’s mayor wants to open a second ninja museum. After a throwaway line from the reporter about there not being enough ninja performers, and the salaries paid – about $23,000 to about $85,000 – the internet went to work.
Soon there were headlines such as: “This town in Japan will pay you an $85,000 salary to train as a ninja,” doing the rounds on social media.
Within a week, more than a hundred assassin applicants had contacted the city from all over the world. Hopeful spies from 23 different countries had reached out.
Officials were puzzled, and have felt the need to come out and call the whole thing “fake news”.
“Iga didn’t put out information about ‘a lack of ninja in Iga’ or the ‘annual income of ninja,’ that is currently reported by some news sites on the Internet,” reads a statement called Please be Careful About Fake News on their website.
“Please be careful because we do not recruit ninjas in Iga-shi.
“[The city] is the Iga-style ninja birthplace. We can feel the breath of the ninja at every turn of downtown,” it said.
Motoyoshi Shimai, a city official, told the Japan Times: “We are just puzzled.
“So far, neither the city nor ninja performing groups here have any plans to recruit ninja performers.”
Shimai said that Sakae Okamoto, the city’s mayor, had expressed “surprise at how big the impact of the word ninja is”.
“Most were questions about whether we were really hiring, but there were a few that begged us to employ them and tried to promote themselves,” Shimai added. “Some had real confidence in their bodies and strength.”
While the city may not be hiring ninja, these statements appear to show it is leaning into the crisis. Now, at least, many more people know that it’s the birthplace of the ninja, that it has at least one museum, and that there are performances and training available. That’s a win of sorts.