What would you do if you happened to be the last ninja living on Earth? For this self-acclaimed Japanese ninja, he’d rather take his centuries-old skills down to his grave.


Engineer Jinichi Kawakami, 63, is said to be the 21st leader of the Ban clan, a family line in Japan with a 500-year history of training spies to covertly practice espionage and assassination.

Mr. Kawakami said that part of his training included disappearing in thick smoke, hearing needles drop from a distance as far as the next room, and slashing a victim’s throat by thrusting a two-inch blade known as the “death star.” But despite these lethal skills, Mr. Kawakami decided not to teach any apprentices the secrets of the clan, which means taking the ancient art with him when he dies.

For Kawakami, the modern age has left no room to put all those deadly skills into practice, one of which is concocting a poison and, worse, testing its potency on humans.

During his childhood days, there was nothing in his training that made any sense to his official profession as an engineer. At age six, he started training in the martial art of ninjutsu under the watchful eyes of master Masazo Ishida.

Then he would channel his concentration toward listening to a needle dropping on a wooden floor in an adjacent room. He’d also climb walls, make dangerous jumps, expose himself to temperature extremes, and deprive his body of food and water for days.

Today, however, Mr. Kawakami spends most of his time running the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum, located more than 200 miles southwest of Tokyo, Japan.


With his declaration not to continue the legacy of the ninja, perhaps the best reference the world has to rely on are the Hollywood studios that throw harnessed actors slinging high up into the air, with special effects that recreate the deadly power of the ninja — powers that now have faded into Japan’s history.