Two communities in the central Japanese prefecture of Mie, Iga and Nabari, have resurrected the culture of Ninjutsu as a means of injecting a boost to an otherwise faltering economy. The Japanese towns focus on the history of Ninja warriors of feudal Japan.
Iga and Nabari are homes of Ninja, most prominent in the 15th until 17th centuries, but antecedents may have existed even in the 12th century. A Ninja figure was originally an agent or mercenary specializing in unorthodox warfare – sabotage and assassination topping the list of expertise. A number of local residents of Iga trace their family roots to the Ninja dating back some 15 generations.
Iga offers an interactive training camp to followers of the Ninja culture both from Japanese society and tourists from around the world, who largely understand the shadowy arts through popular media. Secret Ninja texts are preserved in local archives as the Ninja Museum and the Iga Ueno Castle and local residents are experts in the Ninja arts.
Using these resources, Ninja events such as Ninja training camps are beginning to be developed to attract sightseers. Tourists can book a 1.5 hour Ninja adventure tour for 11,50 euros (1,500 yen). The participants dress in traditional Ninja style outfits and perform tasks as walking across water, climbing over walls, crawling along a rope, throwing steel darts and hike into the mountains to pray under waterfalls.
Stories of the Ninja are still prominent in Japanese folklore and legends. And the town of Iga celebrates the Ueno Ninja Festival every year to keep the culture of Ninjutsu alive. (EPA/EVERETT KENNEDY BROWN)