Newly established Japan Ninja Council promises to be your one-stop website for all things ninja

RocketNews 24:

When you think of “cool Japan,” it’s hard to overlook ninjas, those stealthy spies and assassins with more tricks up their sleeve than a magician in a parka. And yet it seems these timeless icons of Japanese culture have largely been overlooked by the national government’s Cool Japan in favor of AKB48 spin-offs and abacuses.

So instead, a band of 11 Japanese governors and mayors have assembled to create the Japan Ninja Council (JNC) with the sole aim of reminding everyone how cool ninjas are. Having officially launched on 9 October they aim to collect every bit of information on ninjas, including their history and culture, and provide it to anyone who wants to learn more about these elusive figures.

All 11 founding fathers of the JNC took part in an opening ceremony last Friday to celebrate its birth. They include the governors of Kanagawa, Shiga, and Saga Prefectures along with the mayors of Odawara, Ueda, Iga, Koga, and Ureshino.

The council will be led by its president, Mie Prefecture Govenor Eikei Suzuki, and vice-president, former Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Hiroshi Mizohata. Rounding out the group is prominent kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo the Eleventh in a supporting role.

▼ Most members decided to look the part for the council’s launch

Unfortunately since they decided to launch on a Friday before a long weekend, nothing much has happened yet. The JNC website “ninja-official.com” is up but only has a brief history of ninjas and a video about a ninja weapons show in Iga. It is a fairly cool video though.

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The 11 Cat Islands of Japan

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In the never-ending debate as to whether cats or dogs are the superior animal, it’s pretty safe to say felines have the edge as far as tranquility is concerned. For example, an island full of stray dogs is likely to be visited by animal control, whereas an island covered in cats instead gets visited by tons of tourists.

This ability to live in general harmony with the human population means that Japan is filled with places that have earned the nicknameNekojima,” or “Cat Island.”Today, we take a whirlwind photo tour of 11 of them.

 

1. Enoshima, Kanagawa Prefecture
Closest station: Katase Enoshima

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For residents and visitors to Tokyo, the closest isle worthy of the Cat Island designation lies in Kanagawa Prefecture, the capital’s neighbor to the south. Enoshima, which can be walked onto from a bridge across the street from Katase Enoshima Station, is most famous for its shrine located inside a cave and the connected legend of a dragon that fell in love with a beautiful maiden. The area’s beaches also make it a popular summertime destination for surfers, sunbathers, and partiers.

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Stop by Enoshima on an offseason weekday afternoon, though and you’re likely to run into as many cats as people as you stroll up the path that winds to the top of the island.

2. Okishima, Shiga Prefecture
Nearest port: Horikiri

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Not every Nekojima is on the ocean, though, as Okishima is actually a floating island in the middle of Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater depository in Japan. With just 350 residents, the fishing community is small enough that bicycles are the main mode of transportation on the island, meaning its feline inhabitants to live without fear f being hit by a car.

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3. Sanagishima, Kagawa Prefecture
Nearest port: Tadotsu

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This is the one of several Cat Islands located in the Inland Sea, which is dotted with fishing settlements and blessed with a temperate climate. Sanagishima lies of the coast of Kagawa, Japan’s smallest prefecture which makes up the northeast corner of the island of Shikoku.

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4. Aoshima, Ehime Prefecture
Nearest port: Nagahama

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Moving west, we come to Ehime Prefecture, which is also a part of Shikoku. Aoshima might be the most sparsely populated of Japan’s Cat Islands, with just 15 permanent residents compared to several times as many felines.

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This is strictly a day-trip destination, though. The advanced age of most of the community’s members mean that on Aoshima you won’t be able to find a hotel to spend the night, a restaurant to have dinner in, or, shockingly for Japan, even a vending machine to buy a drink from (make sure to stock up on supplies before you get on the boat).

 

5. Muzukijima, Ehime Prefecture

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While many Cat Islands are home to fishing communities, Muzukijima instead is covered with citrus groves, keeping with Ehime’s popular image as growing the best oranges in Japan.

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6. Manabeshima, Okayama Prefecture
Closest port: Kasaoka

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31 kilometers (19 miles) off the coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu, Manabeshima’s isolation has helped preserve its natural beauty, which along with its warm climate has made the island a historically popular choice for film crews (and, yes, cats).

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7. Iwaishima, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Nearest port: Yanai

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Our last stop in the Inland Sea, visitors arrive at Iwaishima at the end of a stretch of island hopping that begins at the port in the historic town of Yanai.

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8. Aijima Fukuoka Prefecture
Nearest port: Kokura

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Moving to the country’s opposite coastline, we come to Aijima, on the Sea of Japan. Aijima is one of the easiest Cat Islands for busy travelers to get to, as the Shinkansen bullet train stops just a few minutes’ walk from where visitors can catch a boat at Kokura Port.

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9. Aishima, Fukuoka Prefecture
Nearest port: Shingu

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Also in Fukuoka, the name of vaguely heart-shaped Aishima is, sadly, not written with the same kanji character as ai, or “love.” Nonetheless, the island’s romantic geography does seem to be having an influence on its feline population, if these photos taken there are anything to go by.

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10. Genkaishima, Fukuoka Prefecture
Nearest port: Hakata

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Another easy to access Cat Island, Genkaishima can be reached from Hakata Port, which is located in Fukuoka City the prefectural capital and largest city in the region.

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Genkaishima was home to Japan’s largest island-based cat population until the community was hit hard by an earthquake in 2005, although its number of felines is now said to be on the rise once again.

 

11. Kadarashima, Saga Prefecture
Nearest port: Yobuko

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Finally, we come to Kadarashima. Legend holds that long ago, a dog earned the wrath of the deity of the Kadarashima’s Yasakajinja Shrine, and the species was driven from the island, which today is completely absent of canines.

With their bitter rivals gone, will the local cats be able to redirect their energies into unlocking their true mental, and, dare we say it, cultural potential? Could Kadarashima be the starting point of a new phase of feline evolution, where cats learn from, and begin to emulate, their human neighbors, such as the elderly gentleman pictured above?

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Company in Japan now hiring for the position of Ninja Master

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RocketNews 24:

One company in Japan has put out an honest-to-goodness help-wanted ad for a ninja master.

Twitter user Hojinga recently shared the job posting he came across on a government-run employment website. While it’s likely most visitors to the site are searching for office work, or perhaps positions in the service or industrial sectors, one lucky candidate can walk away with gainful employment as a ninja dojo instructor.

 

View image on Twitter

The employer is listed as Koka Kanko Kaihatsu Kabushikigaisha, and while we’re not 100-percent convinced it’s not a cover for a clan of shadow warriors, the organization’s name translates out to Koka Tourism Development, Inc. According to the posting, the selected candidate will be working in Shiga Prefecture’s Koka City, the same town where last week some civil servants performed their duties dressed as shinobi, in honor of the local area’s ninja heritage.

Specifically, the professional ninja will be plying his or her trade at the Koka Ninjutsu Village, which houses a ninja-themed museum, ninja house equipped with trap doors and other contrivances, and a ninja training center where visitors can receive instruction in one of nine different shadow arts.

▼ If, for some strange reason, guests don’t already own their own ninja uniforms, rentals are available.

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It will be up to the newly hired ninja master to get these new recruits up to speed so that they can start carrying out acts of subterfuge for their samurai lords as soon as possible…or perhaps show just off their certificates of completion to their non-ninja-trained friends. As is often the case in Japanese employment listings, details are vague on exact responsibilities, but the successful applicant will be expected to participate in performances for visitors, and climbing stone walls is specifically mentioned as one of the employee work duties.

▼ Just another day at the office.

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The initial contract is for three months, with the possibility of an extension once the period is completed, with shifts lasting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The ninja master’s skills will only be necessary on Saturdays and Sundays, leaving the successful candidate free to live weekdays under their secret identity.

Hourly pay is to be determined during the interview, but will be in the range of 750 to 1,000 yen (US $6.35 to $8.50). While that’s not a particularly high wage, this job still remains a rare and excellent opportunity to get your foot in the door of the shinobi industry, and may just be the first step to someday becoming Chief Operating Ninja of your own enterprise.

February 22 is Ninja Day, as these cosplaying civil servants at Koka City Hall just reminded us

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Are you feeling bummed out that February’s two most high-profile holidays, namely Twin Tail Day and Valentine’s Day, are both already over and done with? Cheer up! While it may not necessarily tug at the heartstrings like February 2 and 14, what’s arguably the coolest holiday of the month is coming up this weekend.

That’s because February 22 is officially Ninja Day, and one town in Japan is helping people get into the spirit with a bit of shinobi-style cosplay at its city hall.

The kanji for Shiga Prefecture’s Koka City can also be read as “Koga,” which is a name Japanese history buffs might be familiar with. The Koga Ninja who were based in the area were one of the most formidable shadow warrior forces of Japan’s feudal era, and present-day Koka wholeheartedly embraces this part of its history.

▼ Even the floor of this Koka train station is decorated in a throwing-star pattern.

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Japan loves its puns, and someone noticed that ni, the Japanese word for “two,” is pronounced just like the first of the three syllables in “ninja” (yes, in Japanese, “n” is a syllable all of its own). Before long, support grew for February 22 (2-22) to be known Ninja Day, a designation now officially recognized by the Japan Anniversary Association (the same group which has given its nod of approval to the aforementioned Twintail Day).

In celebration, the five-employee team at the Koka City Tourism Promotion Office has spent the week commuting and working in attire that reflects their city’s claim to fame.

Just to be clear, their workspace isn’t located in the middle of an amusement park or museum. These civil servants go about their duties right smack in the middle of Koka City Hall, just a shuriken’s throw away from the sections of the municipal government responsible for registering marriages and official residence addresses.

Speaking of shuriken, this week the members of the Tourism Promotion Office have also been handing out origami throwing stars to visitors who’ve come in to ask for information about local attractions. On Ninja Day itself, they’ll also be onboard trains on the local Shigaraki Kohgen Railway, once again making paper versions of the tossable tools of the ninja trade.

▼ The mysterious shinobi keep their masks on at all times, even when doing desk work or talking on the phone.

View image on Twitter

Obviously, the Tourism Promotion Office staff would be happiest if you celebrated Ninja Day by taking a trip to their lovely town, maybe to see Koka’s Minakuchi Castle. If you absolutely can’t make it to the home of the Koga Ninja, though, you’ll be happy to know that other organizations across Japan are also doing something special to mark the occasion, with specific details available here on the English-language version of the official Ninja Day website.

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