A Japanese city is clarifying that it does not, in fact, have a ninja shortage, and it is not hiring ninjas.
As BBC News reports, the city of Iga, Japan (population: 90,000), has been deluged with applications for ninjas, even though they’re not hiring. That’s because, thanks to translation errors and sloppy journalism, a news story reported that they were hiring modern versions of the ancient assassins.
Here’s what happened: Iga, which is about 55 miles from Osaka, touts itself as the birthplace of ninja-dom, and even has a ninja museum. Ninjas are part of Iga’s tourism strategy, in much the same way that mice are part of Orlando’s tourism strategy. The city even has an annual ninja festival during which visitors can rent ninja “costumes” and do “real” ninja things like throw stars and blow blowguns.
For reasons that remain unclear, National Public Radio (NPR) reported about Iga on its “The Indicator from Planet Money” podcast that the city was hiring ninjas – or more specifically, ninja performers – for its ninja museums.
“Iga will build a second ninja museum [but faces a] labor shortage…. [which] also extends to ninjas. There’s a ninja shortage, or to be accurate, a ninja-performer shortage.”
The podcast also reported that ninjas could earn between $23,000 and $85,000 per year performing.
From there, other news sites reported NPR‘s report, adding some embellishments along the way. Before long, Iga had received 115 applications from applicants in 23 countries. Tourism strategy official Motoyoshi Shimai was impressed.
“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. Some had real confidence in their bodies and strength.”
That would be great and all, if Iga were actually hiring ninjas. They’re not.
“Iga is not officially hiring but this is where ninjas originated. You can feel and experience their history throughout the city, so please visit us.”
NPR, for its part, issued a retraction, saying that “portions” of the story “may have been” misrepresented. Great apology, NPR.
Just about everything you think you know about ninjas is wrong, according to Kotaku. For starters, they most certainly did not wear black: they would have stood out like sore thumbs. As mercenaries and assassins, their job was to blend in and go unnoticed, and they usually dressed as farmers (some even were farmers). Similarly, they weren’t all about killing – they served as spies in addition to assassins. And those “ninja stars” that you buy at the head shop for $25? Shuriken, as they’re known in Japanese, were mostly used by samurai, while a ninja’s weapon of choice was the kusari-gama – which was a sickle with a chain attached; perfect for blending in as a farmer.