Sorry, Everyone: Japan's Not Hiring Ninjas For $85,000 A Year

The mayor of Iga had to call a press conference to deny the reports of a lucrative job opening.

Last week, NPR's podcast The Indicator by Planet Money released an episode about depopulation in Japan and how the city of Iga, which calls itself the birthplace of the ninja, is planning on battling the issue.

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Every year, Iga, a small city in Mie prefecture, hosts a ninja festival. It also has a ninja museum, where tourists can watch ninja shows.

The episode, which was titled "Japan's Ninja Shortage," featured an interview with the mayor of Ige, Sakae Okamoto, who said through an interpreter that the city was planning on building a second ninja museum to help promote tourism.

Podcast host Stacey Vanek Smith and journalist Sally Herships then had the following exchange:

The news was immediately picked up by other media.

Several outlets reported that ninjas could earn up to $85,000 a year.

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It quickly spread on social media, and people immediately announced they were applying.

Japan currently has a shortage of ninjas and a ninjas yearly salary is $85,000. So y’all catch me out here...

Japan is hiring ninjas for 85,000 see you fucks later I found my calling

It went so viral that on Tuesday, Okamoto had to call a press conference to deny reports that the city was hiring ninjas.

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"I explained to NPR that we are using ninja as a key concept for our city’s tourism promotion, but I never said we are lacking ninjas or anything about salary," Okamoto said, local outlet Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

By Monday, a week after the episode had first aired, the city had received more than 115 inquiries from people in at least 14 countries, according to Japanese paper the Asahi Shimbun.

Some of these countries included the United States, Italy, India, Ecuador, Japan, and Spain, which had the highest number of inquiries at 16.

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

The city even released a statement in several languages on its official website, telling people to "please be careful about fake news."

The Japanese statement said that the information currently circulating online regarding Iga's shortage of ninjas and their yearly income were not released by the city.

It stressed that the city was not recruiting ninjas.

An official from the tourist association also told the Asahi Shimbun that the annual salary of $85,000 is "unrealistic," and that ninja performers in Iga do not make that much money.

"I never expected this ninja news would be reported to the world like this," Okamoto said. "But I hope people will visit Iga because of this."

NPR has since issued a correction on the podcast episode's page, saying that the podcast summary was incorrect.

According to the correction, NPR had obtained the salary numbers from the Foreign Press Center of Japan, and the $85,000 figure was "an illustrative example and does not reflect any instance in Iga itself."

It said that the story noted that "while many cities and towns are hoping to increase tourism through ninja-themed attractions such as performances and museums, there are not necessarily immediate vacancies for ninjas to be filled."

BuzzFeed News has reached out to NPR for comment.