KOKA, Shiga Prefecture--Fourteen municipal government employees descended upon a ninja experience facility here to learn to throw "shuriken" star-shaped daggers, as well as climb castle walls.
The special trip in mid-December, led by Kaoru Kurata, the mayor of Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, was part of the Ikeda Koka ninja group project, which was launched seven months ago at the initiative of the Ikeda municipal government to turn the city into a ninja hub.
About 50 Ikeda municipal government staff members have been enhancing their ninja skills outside work hours through lectures and actual practices since July last year, with 23 of them "certified" as ninja by the city government.
The goal of the participants is to perform their ninja skills in the park of the ruins of Ikeda Castle in a bid to draw tourists.
Koka Ninja Village, which is situated in a mountainous area of the Kokacho district, features a museum of Koka ninja arts, a ninja house and a training hall for shuriken throwing.
Koka is considered to be a home of ninja, along with Iga in Mie Prefecture.
After the training, Ikeda Vice Mayor Masaya Fujita, an elder of the ninja troupe, said, "It was really cold, but it was a good session."
Yuji Matsukubo, of the Ikeda department of roads and rivers, was the only member who "walked" across the surface of a pond wearing special "mizugumo" floating slippers while clutching a rope for about 20 meters.
"Although I couldn't perform showy feats of agility, I managed to reach the other side of the pond, which gave me confidence," Matsukubo said. "We would like to create a facility in Ikeda that provides a similar experience."
The party then visited the Koka municipal government office where they had a ninja meeting with Hiroki Iwanaga, mayor of the city, and other staff members.
"Let's spread the charms of the ninja arts together," said Iwanaga.
"We are very much behind others in serving as a ninja hub," Kurata said. "We would like to enhance the connection between our city and Koka."
Toshinobu Watanabe, a descendent of a Koka ninja and member of a Koka ninja arts study group, gave a talk at the meeting on the history of ninja and how they lived.