The End of the Japanese Ninja

Grandmasters won't name heirs

Ryan O'Hanlon

There still are real, practicing ninjas in Japan—but that won’t be the case for much longer. According to the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum, 63-year-old Jinichi Kawakami of the Koka clan is the country’s last living ninja grandmaster. However, 80-year-old Masaaki Hatsumi claims he is also the leader of Togakure clan. So, there might be two living ninjas, but neither one plans to name an heir, which means the end of the ninja in Japan. Both men have day jobs—Kawakami is an engineer; Hatsumi runs an international martial-arts organization—and they claim that the ways of the ninja just don’t serve much purpose today. “In the age of civil wars or during the Edo period, ninjas’ abilities to spy and kill, or mix medicine may have been useful,” Kawakami said. “But we now have guns, the Internet, and much better medicines, so the art of ninjutsu has no place in the modern age.”