Ninja, party of one. For 63-year-old ‘Last Ninja Standing’ Jinichi Kawakami of Japan, it’s a lonely life, knowing he is the last true master of his art to ever grace the earth.
Kawakami, whose talents include the ability to vanish into black smoke and use a Death Star to cut his victim’s throat without being anywhere near them, says there’s just not much call for the kind of espionage and hitman services that ninjas traditionally employed in Japan for the last five centuries.
The “dark arts” scion has a real, modern life job as well: as an engineer. But it will be bittersweet to lay down his sword for the last time, coming as he does from the Ban Dynasty, who for centuries spied and took down enemies à la Bond. Especially since Kawakami has been practicing for the elite profession since the tender age of six.
Years and years of concentration mastery went into making him the ‘Last Ninja.’ With a strict Buddhist monk watching over him, Kawakami had to learn to hear the sound of a pin being dropped from another room. The discipline has served him well.
“Training was made to be part of my life,” he says now matter-of-factly of his extensive prowess.
You could say he is the last in a line of very fancy hitmen, a trade that’s harder to get away with these days. When times were less particular, the ninja skills of scaling castle walls silently and making bombs had more practical applications.
Historically, ninjas were most in demand during times of civil unrest, when their cunning and stealth capabilities put them in good stead with warlords intent on moving in for the kill, so to speak. But advances in civilization, modern weaponry, and highly trained military experts along the lines of Navy SEALS have made the once-honored profession somewhat antiquated.
“Ninjas proper no longer exist,” Jinichi says, wistfully.
It wasn’t easy to make the decision to put an end to the family business, either. But five years ago, Kawakami decided the ninja didn’t really have a future, and thus chose not to select anyone to take over the title of Ninja Grandmaster after he’s gone.
All will not be lost, however. Kawakami plans to impart his secret agent knowledge at an unnamed Japanese university, where the ‘Art of the Ninja’ will be memorialized via a research center devoted to capturing this soon-to-be-extinct profession’s secrets.
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