by Graham Pierrepoint
Japan is famous for plenty of things – far too many to list on one page, arguably – but when you think of the far Eastern country, it’s very likely you’ll picture skilful ninjas, experts in martial arts. After all, those who practice the ancient art of ninjutsu are considered some of the most talented fighters in the world – to such an extent that they’ve found their way into a myriad of pop culture overseas. Surely enough, you’ll likely find plenty of people in the West who dream of becoming a ninja some day – and if things in Japan at present are to be believed, this isn’t too much of a stretch.
Japan’s martial arts experts are growing increasingly concerned that there simply isn’t enough talent available to fulfil the tourism need for ninjas – an incredible notion – but one which is fairly understandable. Ninja shows and presentations are growing ever more popular with visitors from abroad, which of course means that the recruitment drives involved have needed to be stepped up. However, getting people good enough to step up to the plate is proving to be something of a challenge.
Speaking with Asahi in Japan, martial arts manager Takatsugu Aogi advised that, as interest in the ninja arts continues to increase, so does the demand on resources. “With the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan on the increase, the value of ninja as tourism content has increased,” he advises. “There are more employment choices, while ninja shows across the country have become popular – I feel there is a ninja shortage.” The news comes as it appears that even those who apply to become ninjas are simply not up to scratch – at least when it comes to possessing the requisite skills to perform amazing feats of acrobatics, sword fighting and more besides.
The thought of Japan running out of ninjas is a bizarre one, yet it makes sense in context – this does, however, make very good news for those of us who aspire to don the traditional attire and throw a star or two – though as discussed, the bar is set extraordinarily high! Regardless, the Japanese tradition of ninja displays will very likely persist – it is the recruitment drive, according to local experts, which will need to change and evolve over time! Fancy yourself a ninja? You’d better start your training sooner and not later!