Ninja Squad Parades In Plain Sight For Tokyo Promotional Tour

Ninja squad parades in plain sight for Tokyo promotional tourThey’re famed for creeping around in the dead of night, but nearly 100 “ninjas” were less than covert as they captured the attention of the weekend throng in central Tokyo.
The costume-clad “spies” took to the capital’s streets on Dec. 6 to promote the two best-known historical homes to ninja, Iga and Koka, both in Western Japan.

The tour in such Tokyo districts as the Harajuku district was part of an activities program endorsed by the Japan Ninja Council. The council was set up in October with the participation of 10 local governments, including Iga, Mie Prefecture, and Koka, Shiga Prefecture.

The program’s events are designed to promote the history of ninja in feudal society ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Harajuku is closely associated with Iga ninja,” said Yasaka Inagaki, managing director of the Iga-Ueno Tourist Association, based in Iga, which was also a founding member of the council. Inagaki took the initiative of organizing the excursion in collaboration with the Koka City Tourist Association.

"Are they ninja?” foreign tourists cried out and began taking pictures of the squad as they suddenly appeared in the Shibuya Ward district, a major fashion center in Tokyo packed with young people.

Yuji Yamada, a professor at Mie University and an expert on ninja studies, acted as a tour guide. He explained that what is now called Harajuku was the land given to a group of guards originating from Iga ninja who were assigned to guard Edo Castle in the Edo Period (1603-1867).

As well as people from Iga and Koka, ninja fans from in and around Tokyo participated in the event.

Other sites that the ninja squad visited included Hatonomori Hachimanjinja shrine, historically related to Koka ninja, in Shibuya Ward. Yamada said the descendants of Koka ninja were leading parishioners of the shrine.

The participants also paraded past Jingu Stadium, the home baseball park of the Central League's Yakult Swallows.

The area containing the stadium’s site formerly was a shooting range used by those originating from Koka ninja, who were also assigned to protect Edo Castle, said Yamada.