As the 21st head of the Ban clan, a line of ninjas that can trace its history back some 500 years, Kawakami is considered by some to be the last living guardian of Japan’s secret spies.
Jinichi Kawakami, Japan’s Last Ninja
A 63-year-old former engineer may not fit the typical image of a dark-clad assassin with deadly weapons who can disappear into a cloud of smoke. But Jinichi Kawakami is reputedly Japan’s last ninja. Mr Kawakami, a former engineer who began teaching ninjutsu – the art of the ninja – ten years ago, said the true history of ninjas was a mystery.
He began training in ancient art of ninjutsu aged six under Buddhist master
Kawakami first encountered the secretive world of ninjas at the age of just six, but has only vague memories of first meeting his master, Masazo Ishida, a man who dressed as a Buddhist monk. Kawakami said training ranged from physical and mental skills to studies of chemicals, weather and psychology. And at the age of 19, he inherited his master’s title along with a cache of secret scrolls and ancient tools.
For concentration, he would stare into a candle until he was ‘inside’ flame
He was also trained to withstand extreme heat and cold as well as go for days without food or water. The training was all tough and painful. It wasn’t fun but I didn’t think much why I was doing it. Training was made to be part of my life,’ he said.
He is trained to hear a needle drop in the next room, to disappear in a cloud of smoke or to cut a victim’s throat from 20 paces with nothing more than a two-inch ‘death star’. He climbed walls, jumped from heights and learned how to mix chemicals to cause explosions and smoke. The training was all tough and painful. It wasn’t fun but I didn’t think much why I was doing it. Training was made to be part of my life,’ he said.
Also, they are experts with weapons such as shuriken, a sharpened star-shaped projectile, and the fukiya blowpipe, usually filled with a poison dart. And they were also skilled at making both poisons and medicines.
Kawakami Runs A Ninja Museum
Kawakami now runs the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum, in Iga, 220 miles southwest of Tokyo and Kawakami recently began a research job at the state-run Mie University, where he is studying the history of ninjas. But, he said as he showed an AFP team around the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum and its trick house with hidden ladders, fake doors and an underfloor sword box, he is resigned to the fact that he is the last of his kind.
Says he will let the art die with him because ninjas ‘don’t fit with modern day’
He says he has decided not to take on an apprentice to pass on the legacy, making him the last in the line of Ban clan ninjas. There will be no 22nd head of the Ban clan because Kawakami has decided not to take on any more apprentices. “Ninjas just don’t fit in the modern day,” he said.