" Without severe training, nobody could become a ninja"

A Japanese city is running out of ninjas despite offering a rewarding salary.

According to the Business Insider, the Japanese city of Iga is facing a ninja shortage even though the salary is competitive.

Iga is a small city in Japan’s Mie prefecture and is known to be the birthplace of the ninja. 30,000 tourists visit the city annually for its ninja festival.

However, Iga is suffering from a shrinking population. “It’s facing a shortage of those two key things you need to keep an economy humming: stuff to sell and people to buy the stuff,” says Sally Herships who ran an NPR ‘Planet Money’ podcast on the city.

Herships added that young people are less keen to enjoy the rural lifestyle, “they want life in the big city like Tokyo or Yokohama.”

Mayor of Iga, Sakae Okamoto, said the city is promoting ninja culture to attract more tourists.

“Right now in Iga, we are working very hard to promote ninja tourism and get the most economic outcome,” Okamoto said. “For example, we hold this ninja festival between late April to around the beginning of May. During this period visitors and also local people come here.”

“Everybody will be dressed like a ninja and walks around and enjoys themselves — but recently I feel that it’s not enough.” 

Iga’s lack of attention from tourists seems to be somewhat of an isolated problem compared to the rest of the country. The rest of Japan is thriving in the tourism industry with almost 29 million visiting the country in 2017 – an increase of 20% from 2016.

Consequently, the Japanese government is giving the city an undisclosed budget to help Iga relocate its city and build a second ninja museum in its place.

However, money cannot solve everything for the city. Even though Japan has a low unemployment rate of 2.5%, Iga is currently suffering from a lack of people wanting to become ninjas.

“There’s a ninja shortage,” Herships says, “or — to be accurate — a ninja performer shortage.”

“Ninja is not an inheritable class. Without severe training, nobody could become a ninja. That’s why they have silently disappeared in history,” Sugako Nakagawa, curator of the local Ninja museum, told Reuters in 2008.

To try and make the profession more appealing, ninjas are paid a rather handsome salary.

“This job does have a lot to offer,” Herships says. “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.”

Nonetheless Mie prefecture only attracted 43 new young residents last year whilst Iga alone lost 1000.