“Please bring a pair of short leggings next week,” U-san writes. I buy one with Its-san on one of our long gym training days and wear them under my trousers the following Sunday.
Again, I meet U-san in her little car, and we drive off to Iga. On the way, as we pass green hills and forests, she tells me to observe every little thing. To make sure I use the time I have now to learn everything. The order of the weapons backstage. The way everybody moves, and the time they move. One day, Kashira will suddenly tell me to tidy up backstage, and I wont have the slightest inkling what goes where if I don’t open my eyes and learn things now. U-san always has things to tell me. If she isn’t giving me tons of useful advice of how to become a successful apprentice kunoichi, she teaches me new words, and new little details about people in
Then, the emergency text message, telling me not to quit my job, because we will run into lots of visa problems if I do. I assure them I will not quit my job if I am not absolutely sure of how to make a living afterwards. Kashira has done a lot of talking with his wife. “Being a ninja is not easy,” he sends me another text message. “In martial arts dojos, the teachers just want your money. You can buy everything, even your dan grades. Here, it is different. A true warrior has no thoughts, and no desire. I will teach you from the bottom up.” “So desu ne,” I agree with him, the universal agreement. This is not the place to tell him the various stories of my wonderful dojo acquaintances including teachers with firm ideals, and free of greed. Gambarimasu. I assure him.
This time, Kashira wants me to look like a real ninja. That’s why he makes me wear leggings. To be able to get changed in the same room as the men without stripping down to my knickers. The T-Shirt stays on anyway. I get given a bright blue ninja outfit with light blue ninja stars sewn onto the chest, and red borders. There are lots of ribbons to tie, and it is complicated to put on the trousers. First the short kimono, and an obi around it near the hip bones. Then the trousers. When you hold up the front part, the rest of them hangs down. You wrap the long belt around your waist twice and tie it in the back. Kashira is in the tent with me and helps me with my first ninja dressing routine. “Ah, it’s difficult,” he says. “If you’re doing it on somebody else, you don’t know how to hold the strings and where to tie them.” So he changes positions and stands behind me and pretends to be me when he wraps the belt around my waist and ties it together, squeezing my organs into my lungs. “This has to be quite tight, because it will become loose,” he explains as I struggle for air. It does loosen immediately. “You are all muscles,” says Kashira as he ties a bow in the back. “What a waste for you to be a school teacher!” Then, a plastic tongue sewn to the back of the trousers is stuck into the tied belt, and another belt tied in front above the first one, this time like a karate belt. Then its long ends are tied together in the back and hidden away, tucked up somewhere beneath the whole belt arrangement. Finally, the shin parts have to be tied. First, jika-tabi, ninja shoes. The shin parts of the trousers are split in two at the back of the lower legs. In front, two ribbons come out of the middle seam. The two sides are wrapped around the shin tight, inside to the inside of the leg, outside on top, then the ribbons are tied in front, loose ends tucked away just like those of the belt. Finished. Kashira hands me a hachimaki headband with a metal plate and a Naruto symbol on it. I have never read or seen Naruto, the famous ninja comic, and anime, but I know that it is famous and popular not only in
“This is really expensive, even in Japan.” Says Kashira. “When you go back to
But it is fun. Kashira tells me he wants me to talk to people, get sued to dealing with visitors. And this part, I have less trouble with than the complicated cleaning techniques I was taught on my first day. As I brush the dust out of all the eyes watching me from the spectator seats during the break, another eye catches me, and Kashira says: “You’ve become quite good at cleaning.” I bow and smile at the wooden eyes in front of me. The day passes quickly as I try to absorb the ticket selling routines. I assemble the thick, wooden tickets in the basket once the visitors are all seated. And watch the ninjas collect money in their black leather bags, saying Irasshaimase and Konnichiha degozaru. And dozo. I thank everybody who comes in and guide them inside with me dozo, this way please gestures. Smile and bow. Interpret during the show for an Indian Canadian young couple enthusiastic about ninjas. And pose for pictures. Next time, says Kashira, we will practise posing for pictures. In no time, the last show is over, and we scatter into the tent, where I empty the hot water dispenser and de-dust the foot mats in front of the door.
This time, I have brought some Ferrero Kuesschen chocolates from