Japanese University Awards the First Ninja Studies Degree in New Program

Ninja Studies Degree

Photo: Stock Photos from VARAVIN88/Shutterstock

Being a ninja is about more than just swinging swords and throwing ninja stars. Popular culture fantasies of ninjas present only one facet of the complex history of these legendary warriors. In feudal Japan, ninjas were highly trained and distinct from higher-class samurai; among a ninja's duties were espionage, assassinations, and other covert operations. While the last major conflict to involve ninjas was in 1637, a Japanese university attracted media attention when it began offering a ninja studies degree in 2018. The first graduate of this course—Genichi Mitsuhashi—was recently awarded his masters in ninja studies.

The masters degree program is run by the International Ninja Research Center at Mei University, founded in 2017. For those interested in ninja studies, a deep knowledge of Japanese history is required. Professor Yuji Yamada, who directs the Ninja Research Center, told the The Japan Times, “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.” The art of the ninja—ninjutsu—is a focus for scholarship and respect.

As one of their earliest students, Mitsuhashi had to pass examinations in Japanese history and reading tests in ninja documents for admission. The course of study is primarily historical, although strategies of stealth and survival are also taught. Students are not required to be ninjas, but Mitsuhashi has devoted his life to the study and practice of the ancient art. While he hopes to complete his PhD in ninja studies, he lives the day-to-day life of many past ninjas. In the morning, he farms, followed by training and martial arts in the afternoon. He also runs a local inn using the produce he grows.

If you would like to learn more about the history of ninjas, International Ninja Research Center provides a number of online resources. And for more quick snippets of ninja history, ThoughtCo wrote an informative piece on famous ninjas (including women) who made history.

A Japanese university just awarded the first ever ninja studies degree to graduate Genichi Mitsuhashi.

The program is intensive and focuses on the history of Japanese ninjas and their craft. Graduates do not have to physically train, but Mitsuhashi has embraced the ninja way of life.

To enter the ninja studies degree program, prospective students must pass exams in Japanese history and historical ninja documents.

Ninja and Prince Assassination Plot

A ninja and Prince Hikaru Genji, woodblock print on paper by Utagawa Kunisada, 1853. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

Covert, trained warriors have a long tradition in Japan. Ninjas served as spies and assassins beginning in the 15th century.

Ninja, woodblock print on paper by Katsushika Hokusai, 1817. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

Many professional ninjas historically came from the Iga and Kōga clans. They are distinct from samurai in training and status.

The plains of Iga, where many professional ninjas trained as members of the Iga clan. (Photo: Outside147~commonswiki via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

h/t: [UNILAD, The Japan Times]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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