Facing a ninja shortage, one Japanese town is willing to pay anyone $85,000 if they want to be one. Since the ninja population is on the decline and aging, the town of Iga is hoping to boost their numbers.
Iga is about 280 miles from Tokyo in central Japan and claims to be the birthplace of the ninja. Sally Herships recently reported the town of Iga’s woes on an episode of NPR‘s “Planet Money” podcast. However, there were also several benefits of the ninja lifestyle outlined as well.
“This job does have a lot to offer,” Herships explains. “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.”
There is one stipulation, however, according to Maxim. Iga is not seeking bonafide ninjas to run around cutting off heads with swords and chucking ninja stars. Instead, Iga merely seeks “ninja performers” for tourism purposes. The mayor, Sakae Okamoto, simply wants to boost tourism to the town and is relying on the heritage of the ninja to do so.
Each year the city of about 100,000 increases by about 30,000 as tourists come to experience the annual ninja festival. “Right now in Iga, we are working very hard to promote ninja tourism and get the most economic outcome,” Okamoto told Herships. “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.”
In hopes of encouraging tourists to stay longer than a day in Iga, Okamoto going to be relocating city hall and building a second ninja museum in its place. While the budget is not disclosed, Okamoto has received funding from the central government from the public — “Japan’s government is funding ninjas,” Herships says.
This issue is also compounded considering Japan’s extremely low unemployment rate, which is around just 2.5%. It is therefore hard to find any workers in Japan, let alone highly specialized ninja performers. “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, the curator of the local ninja museum, told Reuters in 2008.
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