U.S.-born Chris O'Neill and other members of the ninja troupe Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hattori Hanzo Ninja Squad performs on a stage set up at Nagoya Castle in Nagoya on May 5. (Noboru Tomura)

NAGOYA--A ninja troupe recruited to promote tourism in Aichi Prefecture introduced its newest members at Nagoya Castle here on May 5, including its first and only hired mercenary from outside Japan.

Catching the eye of many in the audience was Chris O'Neill, 29, the only American member of the group.

Clad in black and his blond hair tied back with a headband, the blue-eyed ninja performed choreographed sword fights and back flips together with his fellow Japanese members of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hattori Hanzo Ninja Squad.

As the crowd watched in awe, the seven ninja bounded about on stage in front of the castle’s donjon in the event held on the national holiday.

Following overseas coverage of the Aichi prefectural government’s announcement in March on a search for new troupe members, some 200 people from 40 or so countries and regions applied. O'Neill was the only foreigner to be selected following auditions in Japan.

The band of ninja is scheduled to perform at the castle on weekends and national holidays, as well as pose for photographs with tourists on weekdays. Starting in early June, the group also plans to hold shows at the Chubu Airport in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, on weekends and national holidays.