A Japanese city is fighting off a bombardment of wannabe ninjas after a viral story set off a frenzy of Internet interest locals are saying is “all wrong.”
Iga, a small city in central Japan about 280 miles from Tokyo, has long billed itself as the home of black-clad, star-throwing, sword-wielding ninjas – even going so far as to put on shows and offering “ninja experiences” for tourists.
Last week, the city was featured in an NPR report that has since gone viral, and which appeared to claim that Iga faced a shortage of ninja performers.
The report went so far as to quote potential salaries, claiming performers can earn anywhere between $23,000 and $85,000 a year.
“That’s wrong, all wrong,” said Motoyoshi Shimai, an official of Iga’s tourism strategy division, told Reuters. “There was no discussion about that, and we didn’t mention money.”
As of Wednesday, the city has received inquiries from 115 ninja wannabes from 23 countries, including Japan.
“Most were questions about whether we were really hiring, but there were a few that begged us to employ them and tried to promote themselves,” Shimai added. “Some had real confidence in their bodies and strength.”
He told the Japan Times that neither the city nor ninja performing groups have any plans to recruit new performers. The city was forced to issued a statement on its website warning people of “fake news.”
“(The city) is the Iga-style ninja birthplace. We can feel breath of ninja at every turn of downtown,” it said.
City officials said they were surprised – and not necessarily annoyed – by all the fuss and hope the interest will bring more tourists to the town.
“We were made to viscerally feel how high interest is in ninjas all around the world,” Shimai told Reuters.