There is not a city as connected to the depth and breadth of its cultures as Japan, it seems, as the city of Japan, Iga, has announced that they will be paying people who are willing to take up being a ninja if it means they can solve the city’s problem with overpopulation.
According to Business Insider, Iga might just be gathering ninja applicants to curb the weakened tourism industry of the city, but it is still reminiscent of a different time.
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Iga is known to be the birthplace of the ninja, and so, in an episode of NPR’s “Planet Money” podcast, it is revealed that the tourism problem of Iga is connected to the lessened frequency of tourist visits to the countryside. Sally Herships, who talks about this problem on the podcast, says that Iga is trying to inject renewed vigor for the economy by trying to offer “stuff to sell” for “people to buy the staff.”
The addition of ninja tourism is seen by Iga mayor Sakae Okamoto as a way to promote “the city’s ninja heritage with the aim of drawing more tourists.”
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So far, Okamoto has shared that the city is already holding ninja festivals to welcome potential visitors and local people.
“Everybody will be dressed like a ninja and walks around and enjoys themselves -- but recently I feel that it’s not enough,” Okamoto admits. This is where the ninja salaries come into play because as the city grapples with their tourism problems, the Japanese government has pledged support in what the city wants to do.
Currently, Okamoto says that the ninja festival events will also be helped by the plan to shuffle around certain city structures to promote ninja-based tourism. As reported by the Business Insider, Iga wants to relocate the city hall and “build a second ninja museum in its place.”
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It’s just in time, too, considering all these efforts have so far helped the city’s 100,000 annual tourist population rise by 30,000 since the ninja festivals. In addition, Iga’s efforts might just continue to help them secure tourist populations. In case they do, they will be reaping the benefits of Japan’s 29 million tourist rise since 2017, which rose from last year's 20%.