Japan is in the grip of a ninja recruitment crisis caused by an increase in demand for ninja-themed tourist attractions coupled with tighter restrictions on migrant workers, who have traditionally made up much of the 'display' ninja workforce
In 2016, 235 people answered an advert for a one year contract with Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hattori Hanzo Ninja Squad – a display squad that perform at attractions to domestic and foreign tourists.
However, this year the famous squadron received just 22 applications – the lowest for three years – for the role which pays a handsome £1,524 ($2,000) a month.
"I feel there is a ninja shortage," squad manager Takatsugu Aoki told Asahi.com.
More than 200 of last year's applications had come from outside Japan. Would-be ninjas from around 40 countries had pinned their hopes on stepping into the shoes of the fabled warriors.
Successful applicants are enrolled in undergo combat and acrobatic training, including weapon skills, before being sent to perform across Japan.
"With the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan on the increase, the value of ninja as tourism content has increased. And there are more employment choices while ninja shows held across the country have become popular, not to mention other attractions," said Aoki.
This year, however, new requirements for foreign workers to be proficient Japanese speakers has radically curtailed the number of applicants leading to a shortage exacerbated by increased demand from Japan's burgeoning tourist industry.
"The domestic ninja market is definitely expanding," said Kunihiro Tateishi, secretary-general of the Japan Ninja Council – a government aligned organisation.