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Japan is Running Out of Samurai, Ninja Due to Tourism Boom

Japan is being challenged by an unexpected shortage of both samurai and ninja, and this is not a joke.

Employers seeking such workers for exhibitions and rides for foreign tourists are having trouble finding enough personnel with the appropriate skills or body types.

As reported by Nikkei Asian Review, entertainment companies like Yumenoya Entertainment are being hit the hardest by the shortages. Yumenoya is based in Kanazawa, in central Japan. The firm offers cultural experiences to travelers in popular tourist regions and employs 10 samurai performers. However, thanks to a recent surge in tourism, they are sometimes too busy to meet the demand for their skill set.

According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, nearly 16.4 million tourists had visited Japan by the end of July, an increase of 2.4 million compared to the same period last year.

Yumenoya's president, Tomohiro Tsunoda told the news source: "We are very happy about [increased demand], but we need at least five more samurai.” It's possible this sentence has never been uttered aloud before in the history of language.

Samurai skills are not easy to come by in the 21st century. Yumenoya is responding to surging demand by offering on-the-job sword-fighting and sword dancing training for people who wish to become samurai performers. Tsunoda continued: “There is a growing interest [among Japanese people] to learn Japanese cultural practices, which is good news for us.” The company intends to hire the trainees to work as paid samurai once their training is completed.

Quick Samurai, a Japanese sword fighting school, is also grappling with a scarcity of performers, the news source shares. The school’s operator, the Japan Tatedo Association, told Nikkei: "When a lesson with a large group of tourists coincides with a show, it is extremely difficult to arrange for the necessary performers.” The Osaka-based school is a hotspot for foreign tourists, with 1,500 people taking lessons last year. In the first half of this year, some 1,000 tourists, mostly from overseas, passed through the school.

The utter dearth of ninja is even more striking than that of the samurai.

Aichi Prefecture, located in central Japn, has set up a group of ninja in order to promote local tourist attractions. This group, dubbed Hattori Hanzo and the Ninjas, was put together in the spring of 2016. Word hit the street at that time that the local government was looking to hire ninja, and the news went viral. The prefecture received 235 applications for ninja positions, but this year the number dropped to just 22. The local government says that the growing number of ninja-themed attractions in Japan is at least partially to blame.

[Photo via jgninfo]

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