Sunday, August 19, 2012
The Last Ninja
Raw Story reports:
"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.
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.
“I think I’m called (the last ninja) as there is probably no other person who learned all the skills that were directly” handed down from ninja masters over the last five centuries, he said."
"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.
“I kept practising without knowing what I was actually doing. It was much later that I realised I was practising ninjutsu.”
Kawakami said training ranged from physical and mental skills to studies of chemicals, weather and psychology.
“I call ninjutsu comprehensive survival techniques,” though it originated in war skills such as espionage and guerrilla attacks, he said.
“For concentration, I looked at the wick of a candle until I got the feeling that I was actually inside it. I also practised hearing the sound of a needle dropping on the floor,” he said.
He climbed walls, jumped from heights and learned how to mix chemicals to cause explosions and smoke.
“I was also required to endure heat and cold as well as pain and hunger. 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.”
Kawakami says much of the ninja’s art lies in catching people unawares, rather than in brute force.
“Humans can’t be on the alert all the time. There is always a moment when they are off guard and you catch it,” he said.
It is all about exploiting weaknesses that allows the ninja to outfox much bigger or more numerous opponents; distracting attention to allow a quick getaway.
It is possible to hide — in a manner of speaking — behind the smallest of things, Kawakami said.
“If you throw a toothpick, people will look that way, giving you the chance to flee.
“We also have a saying that it is possible to escape death by perching on your enemy’s eyelashes; it means you are so close that he cannot see you.”
This last part about deception reminds me of another Ninja story I read years ago; An old Japanese lady told her family about her father, a ninja.
Could he disappear, they asked?
"Once when we were being attacked, he hid us in a manure pile".