• Kyodo


An annual ninja test from Shiga Prefecture will be held at a Tokyo temple for the first time this October, putting the town of Koka, home to a famous clan of the shadowy feudal warriors, in the tourism spotlight.

Zojoji Temple, the temple of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868), will host the exam measuring knowledge of the Koka clan, which was closely tied to the founder of the shogunate, according to Koka’s tourism association, which organizes the test. Due to a mispronunciation, the name of the clan is better known as Koga overseas.

The test has been held in Koka every year since 2008. Zojoji Temple was chosen as the site this year as Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the shogunate, is said to have escaped from Kyoto with ninja help in 1582.

After the Honnoji Incident in Kyoto that year, which resulted in the death of warlord Oda Nobunaga, Ieyasu fled from Osaka to his home in Mikawa, Aichi Prefecture, by traveling through mountainous areas in Iga, Mie Prefecture, in a matter of a few days with the help of ninja from the Koka and Iga clans.

In the Honnoji Incident, Nobunaga was forced to take his own life after his subordinate, Akechi Mitsuhide, launched an attack on Honnoji Temple, dashing the warlord’s hopes of consolidating power under his authority.

Ninja were known to employ covert techniques called ninjutsu, which involved espionage, sabotage and assassination.

This year’s Koka clan test will have 50 entry-level multiple-choice questions and include an assessment of shuriken (throwing star) skills.

According to the tourism association, the exam will cover the activities of the Koka ninja from the late 15th century to the late 16th century, as well as authors of ninja-related novels and comics.

Sitting the exam in ninja attire boosts one’s score. Those who pass will be awarded a scroll certifying their success, according to the organizer.

Following the Oct. 22 test at the temple, which is in Minato Ward, Toshinobu Watanabe, a Koka ninja descendent, and Naoya Inoue, a ninja researcher, are scheduled to hold a talk.

The tourism association is accepting applications for the exam by email and fax, and will accept the first 200 applicants. The fee is ¥3,000.

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