Meet the Japanese man who holds the world's only ninja studies degree

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Genichi Mitsuhashi, 45, spent two years studying the history, traditions, and fighting techniques of ninjas, the mysterious undercover agents of feudal Japan, at the country's Mie University.

Known for their secrecy and high levels of skill, ninjas were masters of espionage, sabotage, murder, and guerrilla warfare dating back to at least the 14th century. However, Mitsuhashi said the ninjas were also independent farmers, and moved to the mountainous Iga province, 220 miles from the Japanese capital, Tokyo, to better understand how they lived.

"Iga is where Ninja used to live. The climate of this area created the very nature of ninja," he said.

Mitsuhashi grows his own rice and vegetables in Iga, where he runs a local inn. He also teaches martial arts and ninjutsu, the art of the ninja, in his own dojo.

The master course started in 2018, a year after Mie University established the International Ninja Research Center in Iga, the first in the world dedicated to ninja studies.

In addition to history, students also learn traditional fighting and survival skills, including basic martial arts and how to traverse mountainous areas undetected.

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Ninja studies professor Yuji Yamada said Mitsuhashi was a "dedicated student".

"He literally (dedicates) his life to the ninja," he added.

Mitsuhashi, who wants to earn a doctorate in ninja studies, said the course had taught him about the present and the past.

"Living independently for your own survival and prosperity is important to modern Japan," he said. "The world for each of us is not global, but local. The era of globalism is over."

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