Academic study of ninja

TSU - Mie University in Tsu puts emphasis on the academic study of ninja, intending to explore their roles and lifestyles by dispelling their stereotypical combatant image created by films and manga.

"The most important role of ninja is to collect intelligence.

They tried to avoid fighting as much as possible," said Prof. Yuji Yamada, 47, of the university while showing a ninja film to students during his "Ninja Study" class.

"They were required to have good memories and communication skills first and foremost, rather than physical strength."

Yamada, an expert of Japanese medieval history, began studying ninja in early 2012 at the request of the university.

As there are few academic papers on ninja, he initially thought academically studying them would be difficult as ninja skills have mostly been handed down by word of mouth.

However, once he began carefully researching books on ninja at the Ninja Museum of Igaryu, he gradually learned what ninja were really like.

These books are not open to the public.

The Ninja Study class began at the university in the 2013 school year.

In the last and current school year, 230 students took the class after winning a lottery.

More than 400 students applied to join the class.

Jinichi Kawakami, 65, also teaches the class elements such as walking stealthily and a breathing method to prevent runners from tiring.

Kawakami mastered the Koga-ryu ninja skills.

This school year, a similar ninja lecture was also given twice at Mie Terrace, a promotion base of the prefecture in Tokyo, to a packed audience of 70 people per lecture.

"Ninja insisted on having an existence like a shadow," Yamada said.

"They accomplished their duties behind the scenes and through unofficial negotiations. They share those characteristics in common with Japanese today. I would like to introduce the good traits of Japanese to the global community through the ninja culture."