Small Japanese town is facing a ninja shortage - and the job pays up to $117,000

A actor posing as a ninja in a show at the Grand Ninja Theatre at Edo Wonderland, a theme park in Japan.
A actor posing as a ninja in a show at the Grand Ninja Theatre at Edo Wonderland, a theme park in Japan.PHOTO: MY PAPER

If your dream job is to be a ninja, the Japanese city of Iga might just be the place for you.

The city, located in Mie Prefecture, is reportedly facing a ninja shortage crisis. According to media outlet National Public Radio, popularly known as NPR, the city of about 100,000 people is suffering from depopulation.

This has affected the number of people who can work to sustain the city's economy, particularly during the tourism periods when about 30,000 visitors arrive for the annual ninja festival.

Young people are migrating from the rural Iga because they do not want to live in the countryside, said mayor Sakae Okamoto.

As a result, the city is trying to promote ninja festival heavily to attract more tourists, he added.

"For example, we hold this ninja festival between late April and around the beginning of May. During this period visitors and also local people come here," Mr Okamoto said.

However, he added that it is not enough to simply attract more tourists to the city.

To meet tourism demand, Iga will need more people to become ninja performers.

To become a ninja requires "severe training" as it is "not an inheritable class", according to the curator of Iga's ninja museum Sugako Nakagawa.

The job, however, offers competitive pay of between US$23,000 and US$85,000 (S$31,600 and S$116,800) - a lot more than what real ninjas used to earn in mediaeval Japan, which was about US$8,000 to US$17,000 a year after accounting for inflation, according to the NPR report.

Being a ninja performer will likely involve skills with Shuriken or ninja stars, swords and a traditional Japanese metal-chain weapon called kusarigama.

The annual festival runs for five weeks from the first weekend in April.