ninja studies
Mie University in Japan has a research centre and postgraduate course dedicated to ninja studies. Source: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

A university in Japan has made headlines for its unique postgraduate offering: ninja studies.

Did you know the ninjas were known as “shinobi” back in the day? Or that these elusive agents of the state were active in 14th century Japan, also known as the Nanbokucho period?

These merely scratch the surface of what you will learn as a student of the master’s degree in ninja studies.

Here are some essential facts to know about it.

ninja studies

A ninja takes part in the Shingen-ko event during the Grand Matsuri Festival dedicated to Japanese culture in Paris 2018. Source: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

Only offered at Mie University, Japan

Mie University is located in the city of Iga within Japan’s Mie Prefecture. This mountainous region 350 km away from Tokyo was once home to ancient ninjas.

The two-year master’s degree in ninja studies was introduced at the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences back in 2018. It is the first programme of its kind in the world.

According to Yuji Yamada, a professor of Japanese history at the Mie University, the course has around three students every year.

“Learn about the ninja, not become one”

In this course, you will study the history, traditions, and techniques of the elusive ninja — but Professor Yamada feels a disclaimer is necessary.

“We get many inquiries from overseas but I have to say one thing: This is a course to learn about the ninja, not to become one,” he said.

Expect a deep dive on historical documents and courses to help you hone fighting and survival skills so synonymous with the ninja lifestyle. Additionally, you will also learn to stealthily traverse mountainous areas.

ninja studies

Genichi Mitsuhashi is the first graduate of the master’s programme in ninja studies. Source: AFP

Its first graduate is a survivalist

Genichi Mitsuhashi, 45, became the first graduate student the course in March. Professor Yamada called him a “role model” for ninja students.

Coming for an undergraduate background in rural development, Mitsuhashi grows his own rice and vegetables to be self-sufficient. Though they are known for espionage and guerilla warfare, ninjas were also independent farmers.

“It has been a fulfilling two years because I lived in a mountainous farming village in Iga to study ninja and pursued my research in my own way,” Mitsuhashi said.

At the same time, he opened an inn to earn a living and a dojo to teach ninja skills. He is well-versed in kung fu and a Japanese martial art known as Shorinji Kempo.

Now, Mitsuhashi is pursuing a doctoral degree to further his education in what he believes is an increasingly localised world.

“Living independently for your own survival and prosperity is important for modern Japan,” he said.

There is a dedicated research centre for ninja studies

Mie University’s International Ninja Research Centre is the world’s first research centre devoted to the ninja. It was established in 2017.

This centre is a global authority for ninja studies and research. Its findings are communicated inside and outside of Japan. At the same time, it is particularly important to the revitalization of the Iga region.

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