Japan's Iga city 'does not need ninjas' after reports it was hiring

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Ninja at Toei Studio Park or Toei Uzumasa Eigamura - a film set and theme park in Kyoto.Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Hoping to be a ninja? Sorry, but the Japanese city of Iga is not hiring

A Japanese city has been forced to clarify it is not in fact recruiting ninjas, following reports that it was facing a shortage of skilled assassins.

Local officials in Iga, which styles itself as the birthplace of ninja-dom, had received a flood of applications from around the world.

The mix-up apparently began with a report by a US broadcaster.

A ninja shortage?

On 16 July, National Public Radio (NPR) reported in its The Indicator from Planet Money podcast that Iga was struggling to expand its ninja-based tourism strategy because of a labour shortage.

"Iga will build a second ninja museum [but faces a] labour shortage.... [which] also extends to ninjas," said journalist Sally Herships in the NPR podcast. "There's a ninja shortage, or to be accurate, a ninja-performer shortage."

Ms Herships also added that ninja performers in Japan could make anywhere between $23,000 and $85,000 a year, though she did not say that there were immediate vacancies for ninjas available.

The NPR podcast fuelled a frenzy of online reports, with many suggesting that the city was looking to hire ninjas at a salary of $85,000 a year.

NPR later said that a summary of its podcast had been "incorrectly stated", and that its story may have been misunderstood.

Image source, NPR/Screenshot
Image caption,
The podcast by NPR said that Iga faced a 'ninja shortage'

NPR had posted a summary which said that Iga "is facing a serious problem, there aren't enough people training to be ninjas, not even for $85k a year".

"That characterisation was incorrect," an NPR spokesman told the BBC.

"After the story was posted online, portions of the story may have been misconstrued on social media or abridged in other media outlets."

'Real confidence in their bodies'

But those reports led at least 115 ninja hopefuls from 23 countries to contact Iga officials, enquiring about possible jobs.

"Most were questions about whether we were really hiring, but there were a few that begged us to employ them and tried to promote themselves," tourism strategy official Motoyoshi Shimai told Reuters news agency.

"Some had real confidence in their bodies and strength."

Iga has wasted no time in capitalising on the confusion, turning it to its advantage.

In its statement, it extolled the virtues of its "splendid tourist attractions including facilities about ninjas". Besides its first ninja museum, the central Japanese city also has several ninja costume rental shops and holds a yearly ninja festival where visitors can "throw ninja stars and use blowguns", according to Iga's tourism website.

"Iga is not officially hiring but this is where ninjas originated," the city said in its statement. "You can feel and experience their history throughout the city, so please visit us."