Iga, Japan, a small city that claims to be the birthplace of the ninja, is facing a very unusual challenge. The city, which is a little less than 300 miles from Tokyo, wants to bring in more visitors. But they’re lacking their central attraction: ninjas, or technically, ninja-performers. While many would assume that Japan would be the last place to face this problem, there’s a fairly reasonable explanation...
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This issue comes from where it’s located, within The Mie Prefecture, and the shifting population, but Iga has an advantage. Their annual ninja festival typically brings in around 30,000 tourists, which is almost a third of the population. But recently the number of residents is going down, by up to 1,000 just last year. The city’s struggling economy would benefit greatly from more visitors, and they have a plan.
With Japan as a whole seeing a 20% increasing in tourists, peaking at around 29 million visitors in 2017, Iga wants to take advantage of the influx. The ninja festival is the city’s biggest event, so they want to expand and offer similar attractions to keep tourists there for longer periods of time. They hope that by having more options around this theme, people will want to stay for more than a day.
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They’re going to build another ninja museum and try to hire more ninjas. This shouldn’t be too hard, considering the annual ninja salary is anywhere from $23,000 to $85,000. The International Ninja Research Center states that ninjas in Iga earned an inflation-adjusted $8,000 to $17,000 a year. Unfortunately, it’s still an uphill battle, with many young people leaving the rural countryside, which boasts a 2.5% unemployment rate. Hopefully these changes work.
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