Most teachers are regular folks. Before they entered education, maybe they worked in an office. Maybe they were students themselves. But how many of them were ninja, head-butting trees in the forest?
While centuries ago, there were real ninja sneaking about, spying and assassinating targets; they are now part of the popular imagination in both Japan and aboard. Trained in a variety of deadly arts such as poison and weaponry, the stealthy Ninja regularly appear in comic books and video games. They're pop culture.
Except for one man: Jinichi Kawakami. There are many charlatans and quacks pretending to be ninjas or descended from ninjas or know ninja secrets. Kawakami, however, is called "The Last Ninja".
Kawakami began his study as a young boy, learning how to use throwing stars from his predecessor. By the time he turned 18, he became the 21st head of a 500 hundred-year-old ninja clan and is now the honorary director of the Iga Ninja Museum, a museum dedicated to ninja and ninjitsu, in Mie Prefecture. The area is famous for its ninja history and ancient ninja training grounds.
There is debate whether there are still "real" ninjas and what constitutes one. According to online reports, Kawakami is apparently an electrician by trade. Other rumors include that supposedly eats only brown rice and unprocessed food, kicks and head-butts trees for his training, and even punches a metal plate while he drives, causing his knuckles to become abnormally large and disfigured.
The 62-year-old ninja was appointed a special position at Mie University, passing on what he knows about ninjitsu. The university aims to increase its ninja scholarship, the Mainichi Daily News reported. Kawakami told, "I want to tell students studying the history of ninjitsu about this aspect of the local culture as well as introduce what parts can still live on today."
"Real" ninja or not, Kawakami not only sounds knowledgable and experienced, but like a real tough motherfucker.
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(Top photo: Iga Ninja)