The next morning, we meet for breakfast at 7.30 and leave for the ninja village. It is Golden Week, so visitors are already streaming into the ninja fortress at this early hour when we arrive.
We deposit our things in the tent. I am wearing my ninja soul, and my wrist bands, and get given a “
But today, the boss is easy on me. I am to watch S-san managing floods of visitors, dividing the long queue into two parts with ropes, to create a passage way that lets people into the museum, or House of Ninja Traditions. She is very professional, polite at the exactly appropriate level that makes visitors feel special, e with due humility and respect, but she does not create too big a distance between her and them, so they feel treated warmly, and truly welcome, at the same time. Yet another art I still have to master. She hands out little wooden tickets from a basket and gives change from a black leather bag. She sends me to get her 100 Yen coin change from Tomonosuke and new Iga brochures to hand out to people, to let them know what delicacies and other attractions can be enjoyed in the city at this high time of Japanese tourism. On a normal Sunday, there are six ninja shows a day, one every hour, followed by ninja star throwing for the audience. During Golden week, there are about ten shows, one every half hour, and the ninja star throwing is only for kids, and not carried out on stage, which in this case, needs to be prepared for the next show, but in the House of Ninja Traditions. And in this strange Golden Week world, the ninjas have the hardest time of the year, while everybody else takes time out. The joys of the entertainment business.
I get used to saying “Irasshaimase” (the obligatory welcome greeting used by people in any shop or other customer orientated establishment, accompanied by a bow), “Arigato gozaimasu” (thank you), and “dozo” (go ahead). I bow and hail my humble greetings on people who are passing me by, hardly noticing me, and that’s not because I’m such a good ninja. I am a shadow, watching the light to become part of it at some point, maybe.
For the rest of the time, once the people are inside, I get to watch the show. “Just enjoy yourself!” says the boss. There are a few foreign visitors, and I interpret for them before and during the show.
Finally, at around , the boss tells me I have seen enough for today, and can go home. I bow to him and thank him for everything. “So I will see you next Sunday then,” he says. “Yes.” I thank him again, and ask for more continued kindness, benevolence and teaching. I say a brief thank you and farewell to the busy S-san who is managing another hoard of holidaying Japanese buffaloes, and follow U-san, who
shows me how to ready the tent for the next day: sweep it, clean it, throw away the water in the kettle, tidy it up.
Once we are finished, I say good bye to her and, still in an incredulous daze, walk back to the station and make my way back to