Japan is having a ninja crisis.
The small city of Iga, famed as the birthplace of the ninja, can’t find enough martial artists to perform for tourists during its annual festival, according to an episode of “Planet Money” on NPR.
Professional ninjas in Iga can make up to $85,000 per year, the report said, but a high salary isn’t enough to combat the central Japan city’s depopulation problem.
In order for ninja shows to thrive, Iga needs to attract more young people willing to go through the intensive training. With the Japanese unemployment rate at just 2.5 percent, towns like Iga have trouble finding people willing to take the job. Iga, a rural city, is also losing young people to larger cities like Tokyo, the podcast explains.
As Japan’s population is diminishing, the country is also seeing a 20 percent surge in tourism, Business Insider reports.
Iga has a population of 100,000 and attracts 30,000 tourists per year for its ninja festival alone. Iga mayor Sakae Okamoto hopes the town can do even more to attract tourists year round.
While a budget is not disclosed, the Japanese government funds ninjas and there are plans to add a second ninja museum in Iga in an attempt to draw more visitors, Herships explained.