A Japanese man has become the first person in the world to hold a master's degree in ninja studies, after completing a graduate course that involved learning basic martial arts and how to stealthily climb mountains.
Genichi Mitsuhashi, 45, spent two years studying the history, traditions and fighting techniques of ninjas -- the mysterious covert 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, assassination and guerrilla warfare dating back to at least the 14th century. Yet Mitsuhashi said ninjas were also independent farmers, and he moved to the mountainous province of Iga, 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 -- at his own dojo.
The master's degree course started in 2018, a year after Mie University established the International Ninja Research Center in Iga -- the first in the world dedicated to the ninja studies.
Apart from history, students also learn traditional fighting and survival skills, including basic martial arts and how to traverse mountainous areas while remaining undetected.
Ninja studies professor Yuji Yamada said Mitsuhashi was a "dedicated student."
"He literally (devotes) his life to ninja," he added.
Mitsuhashi, who wants to pursue a doctoral degree in ninja studies, said the course had taught him about the present, as well as the past.
"Living independently for your own survival and prosperity is important for modern Japan," he said. "The world for each of us is not global, but local. The era for globalism is over."