KYOTO--“Kunoichi” female ninja stunt double Chihiro Tanaka is one of only a few dozen professional women in Japan who perform dangerous action sequences and stage combat, an essential ingredient in TV dramas and movies.

Tanaka, 36, is a veteran daredevil who has been playing kunoichi and other roles in TV and stage shows for 15 years, but now, the leading expert is taking matters into her own hands to promote Japanese culture and samurai dramas overseas.

“While I play it by ear every day, I take pride in never saying no to any challenge and making everything a success,” Tanaka said.

One day on a film set at Toei Studios Kyoto in the Uzumasa district of the city’s Ukyo Ward, where the “Mito Komon” period drama series was being filmed, Tanaka was seen dressed in all black as a kunoichi.

She broke into a sprint as soon as she heard the echoing sound of the clapperboard snapping following a voice that called out, “Ready ... action!”

The ninja bounced on a trampoline to jump high into the air and throw a sharply pointed “kunai” blade for a dynamic scene against a backdrop of the sky.

Tanaka plays the stunt double for Mariko Shinoda, an ex-member of all-girl idol group AKB48, who portrays kunoichi Shino in the samurai series.

Tanaka initially trained under the tutelage of legendary stunt performer Daizen Shishido. In addition to doing stunts for samurai and suspense drama shows, she has also appeared in ninja shows at the Toei Kyoto Studio Park theme park and elsewhere.

Her typical routine includes running on a rooftop, jumping into a pool covered with ice and becoming a fireball.

She set foot in the stunt industry at age 20 when she was a two-year college student. Tanaka, who was working as a part-time gymnastics instructor at the time, was approached for a job by the film studio.

She was interviewed by none other than Shishido himself.

“I didn’t even get to introduce myself and just did forward and backward rolls, and then he told me, ‘I get it, come back tomorrow,’” she recalled.

As soon as she visited the studio the next day, Tanaka was made to change into a costume. Before she knew it, she made her debut in “Mito Komon” as a stunt double for Kaoru Yumi, who was playing the role of Hayate no Oen (Oen the swift wind).

Tanaka had been appearing in a ninja show at Toei Kyoto Studio Park until January. Performed three times a day, the show is also a hit among foreign visitors.

While the stuntwoman has grown increasingly worried about the future of period dramas, she is confident that ninja culture has won the hearts of foreign fans.

She is currently learning English and deepening her understanding about ninja, while she has also appeared in ninja shows outside Japan.

“I think it is a mission for my future self to promote the charms of period dramas and Japanese culture,” Tanaka said.