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article imageEngineer may be Japan's 'last ninja'

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By Abigail Prendergast     Aug 22, 2012 in Lifestyle
Jinichi Kawakami, a former engineer and martial arts instructor, may be Japan's last living ninja. Kawakami states that ninja do not belong in the modern world and are now confined to comic books and movies.
The 63-year-old martial artist, Jinichi Kawakami, is reportedly land of the rising sun's last true ninja. According to Japan Times, the former engineer is the 21st head of what is known as the Ban clan. The ninja collective dates back as far as 500 years to the days where they acted as official covert operatives.
Kawakami is being hailed as the last surviving guardian of these highly trained mercenaries.
"'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 told the publication.
Claiming that "ninja proper no longer exist," Kawakami demonstrated the weaponry and techniques that were utilized and handed down by generations of warriors who fought valiantly for their samurai masters in days long past.
In today's world, ninja pretty much stay within the confines of movies, animation, graphic novels and various other forms of fiction and literature. Their only real purpose in this day and age being to promote Iga, a town surrounded by mountains near Kyoto - which used to be Japan's capital and home to many ninja warriors.
"The true history of ninja is a mystery," as many traditions were passed down verbally and many details of ancient weapons cannot be verified, said Kawakami. He began instructing ninjutsu - the art of the ninja - 10 years ago.
Another reason for the ninja being a thing of the past is that, quite simply, there is no way they can use their skills in the 21st century.
"We can't try out murder or poisons. Even if we can follow the instructions to make a poison, we can't try it out," Kawakami added.
He initially encountered the world of the ninja at age 6, but vaguely recalls coming in contact with his first master, Masazo Ishida.
"I call ninjutsu comprehensive survival techniques," despite the skills stemming from war tactics like espionage, Kawakami said.
During his training 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,” he said. "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."
Currently studying ninja history at Mie University in Tsu, Kawakami doesn't plan on taking in any more apprentices to be the 22nd head of the Ban clan.
"Ninjas just don't fit in the modern day," he stated.
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