On 31 January, Mie University’s Social Studies Department announced the hiring of their newest teacher – “the last living ninja” Jinichi Kawakami. Would-be students from all over are lining up to learn from the 21st head of the approximately 500 year-old Koga Ninja Clan.
Mie Prefecture, which is home to Iga city and its famous ninja museum, intends to spread the word of ninja culture to Japan and beyond, with the added benefit of promoting their own ninja-based-tourism industry.
However, don’t unpack your throwing stars and grappling hook just yet. Mr. Kawakami’s course is designed to teach how to apply ninja philosophy to everyday life and business.
Mr. Kawakami began his training at the age of 6, learning various ninja tools like throwing knives in addition to the skills of climbing, disguise, infiltration, and mixing gun powder or poisons. By the time he was 18, he had inherited the five century-old secret ninja scrolls of the Koga Clan. About a decade ago, he opened his own dojo where he and his pupil have taught over 150 people both Koga and Iga ninjutsu techniques.
Now 62 years old, Mr. Kawakami is enthusiastic about his latest endeavor. When asked what the course would cover, Mr. Kawakami energetically explained: “Ninjutsu is basically a compilation of various survival skills. Seeing as the world is mostly at peace, there doesn’t appear to be much need for it. On the contrary, this course shows how anyone in modern society would benefit from the mental discipline and wisdom expressed through ninjutsu.”
Although there aren’t any classes on smoke bombs or walking on water, this course can give a unique insight to an almost forgotten culture with a very obscure past. Of the original 49 ninja clans in Japan, only two (Koga and Iga) are widely remembered. Since most ninjas’ missions were covert, there are very few official documents of their activities or even names. As a result, most knowledge was spread by word of mouth until they became exaggerated legends of supernatural powers (like turning into animals) that were largely embraced by people in foreign countries.
Original Story: Nikkansports.com (Japanese)
Jinichi Kawakami’s Dojo: Banke Shinobinoden Kenshujo (English)