In a recent economic podcast by National Public Radio, it’s been reported that the small city of Iga in Central Japan is experiencing a ninja crisis – and that’s not nearly as cool as it sounds.
The city of Iga is claimed to be the birthplace of the ninja, everyone’s favorite shadowy organization. But even the city’s heritage couldn’t save it from the depopulation issue that’s currently faced by the whole country.
Iga alone lost 1,000 residents last year.
The younger generations move to big cities like Yokohama or Tokyo, leaving the rural city in desperate need of workers and performers to maintain their economy.
Japan also has a really low unemployment rate, which makes it difficult to find people to hire, even with ninja performer salaries reaching up to $23,000 to $85,000.
“It’s facing a shortage of those two key things you need to keep an economy humming.” podcast host, Stacey Vanek Smith, explains. “Stuff to sell and people to buy the stuff.”
Iga attracts 30,000 tourists to its annual Ninja Festival, but the city aims to attract tourists year round.
“During [the festival] period, visitors and also local people come here. Everybody will be dressed like a ninja and walks around and enjoys themselves — but recently I feel that it’s not enough,” Iga mayor Sakae Okamoto told NPR.
The central government of Japan has noticed Iga’s plight and has plans for funding more ninja performers and adding a second Ninja Museum in Iga in the hopes of attracting more workers and tourists.