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.
Japan‘s ninjas were all about mystery. Hired by noble samurai warriors to spy, sabotage and kill, their dark outfits usually covered everything but their eyes, leaving them virtually invisible in shadow - until they struck.
Using weapons such as shuriken, a sharpened star-shaped projectile, and the fukiya blowpipe, they were silent but deadly. Ninjas were also famed swordsmen. They used their weapons not just to kill but also to help them climb stonewalls, to sneak into a castle or observe their enemies.
Most of their missions were secret so there are very few official documents detailing their activities. Their tools and methods were passed down for generations by word of mouth.
The two remaining masters Kawakami and Hatsumi are united on one point. Neither will appoint anyone to take over as the next ninja grandmaster.
“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 prot?g?. He simply teaches ninja history part-time at Mie University. Despite having many pupils, Hatsumi, too, has decided not to select an heir.
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