Japan’s era of shoguns and samurai is long over, but the country does have one, or maybe two, surviving ninjas. Experts in the dark arts of espionage and silent assassination, ninjas passed skills from father to son – but today’s say they will be the last.
Kawakami is the 21st head of the Ban family, one of 53 that made up the Koka ninja clan. He started learning ninjutsu (ninja techniques) when he was six, from his master, Masazo Ishida.
In the age of civil wars or during the Edo period, ninjas’ abilities to spy and kill, or mix medicine may have been useful,” Kawakami says.
“But we now have guns, the internet and much better medicines, so the art of ninjutsu has no place in the modern age.”
As a result, he has decided not to take a protege. He simply teaches ninja history part-time at Mie University.
Ninjas have taken on magical qualities thanks to pop culture.They couldn’t really disappear but could make smoke bombs misdirect attention and get away. They probably wore dark blue instead of black. They couldn’t fly or walk on water but their learned skills made them seem almost supernatural.
This marks the end of an era for this specialized training.
Check out this very entertaining and informative podcast on Ninjas – the myth and reality on Monster Talk: Unmasking the Ninja