Japan forms 'ninja council' to kick up tourism

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese officials are enlisting one of the country's best-known historical figures - the ninja, martial-arts master and stealth agent of feudal times - to encourage tourism.

Governors and mayors from prefectures around the country traded their usual bland suits for ninja costumes Sunday to announce the launch of the "ninja council".

It sees local authorities forming an alliance with tourism agencies to thrust ninjas - usually known for their ability to become nearly invisible - into the spotlight.

Ninjas are a "subject that always comes up whenever we go abroad to promote tourism", said Hiroshi Mizohata, former head of the transport ministry's Japan Tourism Agency.

The not-so-stealthy move comes as local governments turn to tourism as a promising economic growth driver ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

"Through ninja, we want to revive our communities," said Eikei Suzuki, governor of Mie prefecture, known for the "Iga" school of ninja.

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