Aichi fights for visitors with ninja lessons
IF ANYONE wants to learn some cool ninja moves in Japan, which gave the world the legend of the stealthy fighters, visit Nagoya Castle before Sept 25. You can get an hour of free instruction from seven trainers and walk away at the end with a certificate.
The seven are from the Ieyasu Tokugawa and Hanzo Hattori Ninja Team, which is named respectively after the 16th-century warlord who founded Japan's last shogunate and the samurai who once saved his life with a group of ninjas and aided him in securing power.
The team, formed in August by the tourism bureau of Aichi prefecture, settled into its current members only around May.
Now, the team, comprised of "Hattori" and his six "followers" who were chosen from over 200 applicants, offers lessons to the first 42 visitors to sign up on days when the castle is open, reported Aichi's Chunichi Shimbun.
Aichi, about 260km west of Tokyo, is the home of the castle which was built in the early 16th century.
It stands not far from the birthplaces of Tokugawa and Hattori.
Aichi's official ninja-Japan website touts the seven, including a Japanese woman and a Westerner, as skilled in close-combat fighting, soundless movement, deception and ingenious warcraft.
However, what visitors will get to see and learn are martial stunts involving special ninja weapons, reported the Japan Times.
The seven, in ninja outfits, will demonstrate, for example, how to use kusarigama, a Japanese sickle connected to a heavy iron weight by a metal chain that can be thrown at an enemy from a distance.
They will also show how to tap on a shikomizue, a concealed sword disguised as a cane.
The seven said they hope to attract 10,000 people to become their certified "ninja apprentices".
Noting that many people worldwide dream of becoming a ninja, the head of the school, appointed by Aichi's governor, reckoned that "ninja tourism" would be a money-spinner, reported Nikkan Sports.
Aichi is now aggressively wooing foreign tourists, who are again flocking to Japan with the nuclear shadows of the 2011 earthquake receding, HK01, a Hong Kong news website, pointed out.
Also, Chinese tourists are coming en masse after Beijing relaxed travel restrictions to Japan last year.
Nagoya is worth visiting for ninja fans as it is less than two hours by train from Iga Ueno, where the fighters first emerged in history, noted HK01.
Osuke Sugiura, a seven-year-old from Aichi, was one of the visitors who recently took lessons with the ninja team.
He managed to hit his target with a shuriken, a weapon in the form of a star with projecting blades.
"That's the first time I was able to do it. I've long waited for this day."
Chinanews.com quoted nine-year-old Yudai Mano as saying: "Look how cool the ninja manoeuvres are."