Fake internet news stories claiming “ninja” are in short supply and can earn extremely high salaries triggered a flood of applications to one area of the country from inside and outside Japan.
“Iga ninja earn an annual income of ¥9.45 million, but they’re still in short supply” — a fake news story with this claim began to spread on the internet starting around Friday. The city government of Iga, Mie Prefecture, famous as the hometown of ninja, and other entities were subsequently inundated with applications for the supposed ninja jobs from all over the world. The applications amounted to about 110 emails, including one that read: “I want to be a ninja. I have confidence in my physical strength.”
Most of the emails were written in English and came from 13 foreign countries.
Iga Mayor Sakae Okamoto, who had been interviewed by a U.S. radio network, flatly denied the story at a press conference on Tuesday. “The news was totally groundless. Iga city doesn’t recruit new employees to be ninja,” he said.
According to Iga city officials, a program on National Public Radio on July 16 triggered the fuss. In the program, a reporter said, “Today, ninja performers can earn anywhere from about $23,000 [¥2.56 million] to $85,000 [¥9.45 million], which is a really solid salary.”
Sources on the internet disseminated the news secondhand, embellished with the information that ninja are scarce and can earn an annual income of ¥9.45 million. It then spread worldwide through Facebook and Twitter, the officials said.
The job-seeking emails came from Japan, Spain, the United States, the Philippines and other countries. They included appeals such as “I am a 39-year-old Italian who has experience with martial arts,” “I belonged to the army and have been to sea as a sailor” and “I’ll devote my life to being a ninja.” Some applicants attached their resumes and mug shots. In addition to Iga, the applications were sent to the Iga-Ueno Tourist Association, the Ninja Museum of Igaryu and Mie University’s International Ninja Research Institute, officials said.
As for his interview with the U.S. radio network, Okamoto was surprised at the large reaction to the news.
“I explained that the city has been making efforts to promote tourism with ninja as a key element. But I never mentioned that ninja were in short supply and their annual income. I didn’t expect news about ninja would spread throughout the world in such a manner,” he said.