‘Modern Ninja’ promotes diversity in harmony across Japanese culture
The ninja has been a popular subject in Japanese films, period dramas, and manga. But he is also well known abroad.
Hiroshi Jinkawa, 51, residing in Akiruno, Tokyo, is the leader of Yanin, a group that offers outdoor ninja training programs. It cooperates with tourist associations in regions that have a link with the ninja to teach children and foreign tourists about Japanese culture through the ninja.
His Ninjutsu Experience Program is a hands-on program in which Jinkawa carefully explains ninja skills and tools to children while pretending to be a ninja himself. Dressed in black from head to toe, he creates the illusion that a true ninja has traveled through time to the modern world.
When organizing events for kindergartens or families, Jinkawa designs a variety of fun and educational activities, such as throwing shuriken (hidden blades) and interacting with nature.
A turning point in Jinkawa’s life
Born in Osaka Prefecture, Jinkawa worked in an automobile manufacturer after graduating from college, then joined a research firm. He remembers a pivotal moment in his life when his boss told him, “Now you’re a ninja.
Although his boss’ words were meant to be a mantra to encourage diligence in his research, they left a deep mark on him. “It was the first time I had become a ninja,” he laughs.
After working for the research firm for five years, Jinkawa became self-employed and worked primarily as a risk manager and consultant for companies.
Meanwhile, his state of mind changed dramatically when he witnessed the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the great earthquake in eastern Japan. “In a rapidly changing world, we will have to think about management from a different perspective. This was the starting point of his life as a “professional ninja”.
While trying to come up with a business idea that would take advantage of his management experience, he came up with the idea of outdoor educational activities. It matched his experience and he had always enjoyed outdoor activities such as mountaineering.
He developed the concept from the Boy Scouts, founded in England, and chose the theme of the “ninja” as a way to extend the reach of his business from Japan to overseas. After a year of preparation, it started its current activities in 2013.
Currently, he works with the local community of Odawara, in Kanagawa Prefecture, which once housed the headquarters of the Hojo clan during the Warring States period. He serves as a “full-time ninja” for the Kanagawa West Tourism Convention Bureau.
He also serves as the “Fuuma Clan Chief” for the Odawara Tourism Association, in order to spark interest in the historical Fuuma ninjas, who are said to have worked under the Hojo clan. Jinkawa chose the city of Akiruno as the base of his activities because it was once the power front line of the Hojo clan.
The diversity of Japanese culture
Jinkawa is involved in many other activities, including organizing monthly dōjō classes in Hachioji and participating in eco-tours in the village of Hinohara.
In recent years, some incoming tourists have participated in its program. Often these tourists are relatively older people who participate because they want to learn more about Japanese culture.
Jinkawa hopes to convey Japanese culture to Washington, which encompasses the concept of diversity and is often translated into English as “harmony”.
Jinkawa says, “Even if you look at how we treat the environment, the Japanese firmly believe that they should aim for ‘symbiosis’ with nature. I think it is important to spread such values to the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic created a difficult situation for its hands-on programs, but Jinkawa continued its efforts online.
He says, “The world is at a standstill due to COVID-19, but I believe the Japanese way of thinking provides clues to solving many problems. Through the ninja, I would be happy if I could help people all over the world harness the Japanese way of thinking so that society can move in the right direction.
(Read The Sankei Shimbun report in japanese on this link.)
Author: Tai Ota