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Japanese University Offers Ninja Studies Program And Getting In Isn't Easy

Although a lot of children grew up wanting to be astronauts and rock stars, others dreamed of paths in life that are not just incredibly difficult but next to impossible.

This was the sad reckoning for the now-embarrassed group among us who wanted to be Transformers or fire trucks — not firefighters but the trucks themselves — but it was just as impactful for those chasing dreams that don't really exist anymore. For instance, you're not likely to see many employers seeking ninjas nowadays.

But while that's still true, we can now at least say that one university out there is offering a program that gives us a sense of the ways of the ninja. It seems that's as close as we're likely to get to being one.

As far back as the 14th century, the Japanese province of Iga was home to many ninja.

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As CNN reported, the climate in this area provided favorable conditions for these spies, saboteurs, and assassins as they lived their double lives.

Nowadays, Iga is a city in the nation's Mie prefecture and ever since 2017, it has been the site of the International Ninja Research Center established by Mie University. Through this center, interested students can now pursue a degree in ninja studies.

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While this graduate program is about as physically demanding as one might expect, it also has a heavy emphasis on studying the history of the ninja.

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As Japan Times reported, prospective students must complete an exam on Japanese history and a reading test involving historical ninja texts before they can even enroll in the program.

As the professor in charge of the ninja program Yuji Yamada said, about three students make it through these requirements every year.

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But yes, those who enter this program will find themselves training in martial arts and survival techniques.

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According to CNN, this more physical curriculum doesn't just involve fighting and surprising the enemy with ninjutsu techniques as a ninja would but also scaling mountainous terrain without being detected.

The obstacle course that you see here has more to do with that second aspect of the training.

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But while it may be easy to get carried away with this part of the program, Yamada made sure to clarify what a prospective student's expectations should be going in.

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As he said, "We get many inquiries from overseas but I have to say one thing: This is a course to learn about the ninja, not to become one."

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Nonetheless, the program's only graduate so far seems to be adhering to the ninja lifestyle as closely as he can.

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As Japan Times reported, Genichi Mitsuhashi spent two years earning his degree and is now passing on what he learned at his own dojo in Iga while also running an inn.

In addition to ninjutsu and the martial arts he picked up through the program, he has also independently studied kung fu and a Japanese martial art called Shorinji Kempo.

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And there's one aspect of the ninja life that Mitsuhashi seems particularly keen on pursuing as he works on his Ph.D in ninja studies.

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As he said, "I read that ninjas worked as farmers in the morning and trained in martial arts in the afternoon."

So in addition to everything else he has going on right now, he also grows his own rice and vegetables.

Yamada said that even he didn't expect Mitsuhashi to engage with the program to the extent that he did as he has essentially devoted his life to the ways of the ninja.

And until we see more people earn degrees in ninja studies, it'll be unclear as to whether this just speaks to the dedication required to pass the program. It may not be intended to turn people into ninjas but it seems that this depends on what being a ninja actually means to them.

h/t: Japan Times, CNN

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