Iga, located in Mie Prefecture, Japan, is reportedly having a lesser-known crisis compared to the demographic one that the country is currently facing –
The small city, which believes to be the birthplace of the popular ninjas, receives about 30,000 tourists to see and experience the annual ninja festival held in Iga. But while this may be good news to some, the city is actually suffering from depopulation and young people are now moving away from rural countryside, Business Insider reported.
Last year, Mie Prefecture only attracted 43 new young residents as a whole while Iga lost about 1,000 residents.
To help bring back the local economy’s boom, Iga’s mayor, Sakae Okamoto, plans to use its ninja heritage to attract both local and international tourists during its annual celebration. However, with the problems listed, pulling this off may post some difficulties.
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“Right now in Iga, we are working very hard to promote ninja tourism and get the most economic outcome,” Okamoto told Sally Herships, the host of National Public Radio’s “Planet Money” podcast. “For example, we hold this ninja festival between late April to around the beginning of May. During this period visitors and also local people come here. Everybody will be dressed like a ninja and walks around and enjoys themselves — but recently I feel that it’s not enough.”
Japan saw a large influx of tourists last year at almost 29 million, which is almost 20% from the numbers in 2016. While this, in its entirety, is good news, rural areas like Iga and other else, are being left out.
To attract more tourists and make them stay longer than a day, Okamoto made the ultimate decision to relocate the city hall and build a second ninja museum in its place. They are also receiving funding from central government – though the amount they are getting was not disclosed.
Iga also needs to employ people to work as ninjas. But to make it clear, these ninjas are actually performers, not the real covert assassins from feudal Japan. But since the country has an extremely low unemployment rate, the local government finds it hard to fill in the free spots for ninja performers – and to make it even more difficult, the position requires the right physique.
“Ninja is not an inheritable class. Without severe training, nobody could become a ninja. That’s why they have silently disappeared in history,” curator of the ninja museum in Iga, Sugako Nakagawa, told Reuters back in 2008.
“But this job does have a lot to offer. First of all, the pay is quite competitive. Today, ninjas can earn anything from $23,000 to about $85,000 — which is a really solid salary, and in fact, a lot more than real ninjas used to earn in medieval Japan,” Herships said.
The International Ninja Research Center, meanwhile, was quoted as saying that the typical ninja can earn an inflation-adjusted annual income of $8,000 to $17,000.
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