The hopes of dozens of wannabe ninja have been dashed after officials in the Japanese city of Iga – famed as the of home of the legendary warriors – said media reports that they were hiring trainee ninja were incorrect.
The confusion began last week, when a reporter with National Public Radio in the United States claimed that Japan is suffering from a shortage of workers due to the declining national birth rate.
The report quoted Sakae Okamoto, the mayor of Iga, as saying the problem has even affected Iga’s ninja, who work for the local tourist association to promote the city as a destination for visitors.
Unhelpfully, the report added that ninja in Mie Prefecture can earn as much as £65,000 a year, although it never claimed that the city is looking to hire more black-clad assassins.
The report was seized upon by social media and news sites that embellished the mayor’s words to suggest that Iga is recruiting.
City officials arrived at work on Monday to find 115 emails from would-be ninja offering their services and asking when they could start. Other applications were sent to a nearby ninja museum, the regional tourist board and a research institute at Mie University that documents ninja.
Applications for positions – many including CVs and photos of the applicant – have been received from 14 nations, including Italy, India, Ecuador and the US. No fewer than 16 people from Spain expressed a desire to become a ninja.
On Tuesday, Mr Okamoto was forced to call a press conference in which he expressed surprise at the amount of interest in becoming a ninja – but flatly denied the reports.
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“The news was totally groundless”, he said. “Iga city is not recruiting any new employees to work as ninja”.
The city has also placed a message on its website reiterating that it is not looking to hire ninja are incorrect. In an attempt to cash in in on the inadvertent advertising, however, it adds that anyone interested in the mysterious warriors is welcome to visit to learn about ninja history and culture.