Japan produced its first ninja degree after Genichi Mitsuhashi spent two years honing his martial arts skills and absorbing the finest traditions of feudal martial arts agents.
The 45-year-old man completed the master’s course at Mie University in central Japan, the region considered to be the home of the ninja.
In addition to researching historical documents, Mitsuhashi told AFP that he had the practicality of being a ninja at heart.
“I have read that ninjas work as farmers in the morning and train in the martial arts in the afternoon,” he said.
Mitsuhashi therefore grew vegetables and worked on his martial arts techniques, in addition to an abundant study of ninjas in class.
“With this combination, I thought I could learn more about the real ninja,” he said.
Best known as black-clad assassins famous for their secrecy and stealth, the ninjas also possessed “full survival skills,” he added.
Mitsuhashi, who also learned kung fu and a Japanese martial art known as Shorinji Kempo, teaches ninja skills in his own dojo and runs a local inn while pursuing his doctorate.
Mie University created the world’s first ninja research center in 2017 and opened a graduate course a year later.
It is located in Iga – 350 kilometers southwest of Tokyo – a city surrounded by mountains that once housed many ninja.
Yuji Yamada, a professor of Japanese history at the university in charge of the ninja center, was surprised by Mitsuhashi’s dedication to this task.
“We provide historical courses and courses on ninja skills. But I did not expect him to commit to this point” like a real living ninja, said Yamada.
To register, students must take a Japanese history exam and a reading test on historic ninja documents.
“About three students register each year. I think there is a demand,” said the professor.
“We receive many inquiries from abroad, but I have to say one thing: this is a course to learn more about the ninja, not to become one.”
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