Photo/IllutrationIga Mayor Sakae Okamoto appears in ninja costume on the Planet Money show on the website of National Public Radio. (Captured from website)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

IGA, Mie Prefecture—A stunned Iga mayor announced some bad news for international spies and assassins: Contrary to a widespread report, the city has no lucrative job offers for ninja.

The central Japanese city, famed as the home of the powerful Iga ninja clan, received more than 100 inquiries from around the world after a U.S. radio show on July 16 wrongly reported about a “ninja shortage” here.

Planet Money, a show on economics broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR) of the United States, fueled the job-seeking frenzy by saying ninja performers in Iga can earn between $23,000 and $85,000 (2.55 million yen and 9.45 million yen) a year.

Iga Mayor Sakae Okamoto hastily called a news conference on July 24 to deny the report. The announcement was also published on the city’s official website in Japanese and in four other languages the same day.

Okamoto was interviewed by a Planet Money reporter at the city government office on July 5.

The mayor explained that the city was trying to revitalize its economy through ninja promotions and combat the shrinking population of young people.

When the show aired, the presenters, for some unknown reason, said Iga needed more ninja performers and was willing to pay between $23,000 and $85,000 a year.

The inaccurate job opportunities spread on social networking websites.

After the Iga city office became inundated with inquiries about ninja job openings, a city official translated the broadcasted show and found the error.

By July 23, the city government and the Iga-Ueno Tourist Association had received more than 115 e-mails and phone calls from at least 14 countries, including the United States, Italy, India, Ecuador and Japan. Apparently, Spain has a big ninja population, with 16 inquiries coming from the Iberian nation.

Private companies have offered ninja shows in Iga for many years, and the tourist association operates the Ninja Museum of Igaryu (Iga-style ninja art).

But the city government itself does not employ ninja performers or actual ninja.

“We were once again surprised by how permeative and attracting ninja are,” Okamoto said at the news conference.

An official from the tourist association said an annual salary of $85,000 is “unrealistic,” and that ninja performers in Iga do not make that much money.