As the 21st head of the Ban clan, a line of ninja that can be traced back 500 years and the only living person who learned all the skills that were directly handed down from ninja masters, Jinichi Kawakami is considered by many the last real ninja in all of Japan.
63-year-old Kawakami, a retired engineer, says he started practicing the art of Ninjutsu at the age of six. He was just a young boy when he began training under master Masazo Ishida, a man who dressed as a Buddhist monk, and didn’t even realize what he was learning until years later. He was required to endure extreme heat and cold, as well as pain and hunger. To improve his concentration, he would have to look at the wick of a candle until he got the feeling he was inside it, and practice hearing the sound of a needle falling on a wooden floor. He climbed walls, jumped from great heights, learned chemicals and making explosives and even studied weather and psychology. “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,” Jinichi told AFP. Just before turning 19, he inherited his master’s title, along with his old scrolls and tools. Although he doesn’t claim the title of “last ninja” for himself in order to avoid disputes with other claimants and doubters, he is recognized as Japan’s last real ninja master.