Japan university awards first-ever ninja studies degree

Genichi Mitsuhashi, above, became the first student ever to graduate from a Japanese university with a master’s degree in ninja studies. (Courtesy of Genichi Mitsuhashi/AFP)
Updated 26 June 2020

Japan university awards first-ever ninja studies degree

  • Mie University set up the world’s first research center devoted to the ninja in 2017

TOKYO: Japan has produced its first ninja studies graduate after Genichi Mitsuhashi spent two years honing his martial arts skills and absorbing the finer traditions of the feudal martial arts agents.
The 45-year-old completed the master’s course at Mie University in central Japan, the region considered the home of the ninja.
In addition to researching historical documents, Mitsuhashi said he took the practical aspect of being a ninja to heart.
“I read that ninjas worked as farmers in the morning and trained in martial arts in the afternoon,” he said.
So Mitsuhashi grew vegetables and worked on his martial arts techniques, in addition to copious ninja study in the classroom.
“With this combination, I thought I could learn about the real ninja,” he said.
Better known as black-clad assassins famous for secrecy and stealth, ninjas also had “comprehensive survival skills,” he added.
Mitsuhashi, who has also learned kung fu and a Japanese martial art known as Shorinji Kempo, teaches ninja skills at his own dojo and runs a local inn while pursuing his PhD.
The Mie University set up the world’s first research center devoted to the ninja in 2017 and opened a graduate course a year later.
It is located in Iga — 350 kilometers southwest of Tokyo — a mountain-shrouded city once home to many ninjas.
Yuji Yamada, a professor of Japanese history at the university in charge of the ninja center, was surprised at Mitsuhashi’s devotion to the task.
“We provide historical classes and courses on ninja skills. But I didn’t expect him to engage to this extent” like a real living ninja, Yamada said.
To enroll, students have to take an exam on Japanese history and a reading test on historical ninja documents.
“About three students enroll every year. I think there’s demand,” the professor said.
“We get many inquiries from overseas but I have to say one thing: This is a course to learn about the ninja, not to become one.”


‘Hello you’: Israeli-UAE joint song a YouTube hit

Updated 18 October 2020

‘Hello you’: Israeli-UAE joint song a YouTube hit

  • Marziano and Aljasim had collaborated over the Zoom video-conferencing service
  • The duet has clocked more than 1.1 million YouTube views since it was posted on September 30

JERUSALEM: The scene cuts from Dubai to Tel Aviv, the lyrics switch from Arabic to Hebrew to English and the song is a slightly kitsch electro-pop duet by artists who, for now, remain apart.
The normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has produced its first musical collaboration: “Ahlan Bik,” or “Hello you” in Arabic.
“This is a historic moment,” said Israeli singer Elkana Marziano, whose duet with Emirati artist Walid Aljasim has clocked more than 1.1 million YouTube views since it was posted on September 30.
Marziano, 28, is a former winner of Israel’s version of The Voice, a singing competition TV show, and an Arabic speaker influenced by the Mizrahi culture of Jews from the Arab world.
He told AFP that he and Aljasim had collaborated over the Zoom video-conferencing service, with some parts of the song recorded in Dubai and others in Israel.
“The understanding was immediate,” Marziano said of the partnership.
One online commentator, who posted under the name Shaked Sharon, said: “With this song, you feel the new Middle East.”
In August, Israel and the UAE announced that they had reached a US-brokered deal to normalize ties, following years of discreet economic and security cooperation.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, approved the UAE deal on Thursday.
Bahrain ultimately joined the pact known as the Abraham Accords signed at the White House last month, making it and the UAE the third a fourth Arab states to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel.
Israel signed a peace agreement with neighboring Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has boasted that the Gulf deals highlight shifting priorities in the region.
The right-winger has insisted that more Arab states want ties with Israel even though its conflict with the Palestinians remains unresolved.
The UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has said the pact “opens the way to a new era of cooperation.”
Palestinian leaders have condemned the deals and called on the Arab world to withhold establishing ties with Israel until it reaches a viable peace with the Palestinians.
While some YouTube commenters have celebrated “Ahlan Bik,” others have condemned the song and Israeli-Emirati normalization, while calling for the creation of a Palestinian state.


The song was written by Doron Medalie, who also wrote “Toy,” which won the 2018 Eurovision contest in Israel.
The chorus — “I hear you friend far away, far away” — is repeated in the three languages, while the music video’s action pivots from Marziano dancing with friends in Israel to Aljasim in Dubai.
Marziano said that peace was a common theme in Israeli music, which has regularly been in conflict with its neighbors since its founding in 1948.
He said it was a “personal victory” to see young Israelis and Emiratis interacting online to discuss the song on his YouTube page, adding that he is planning a live concert with Aljasim when the coronavirus pandemic ends.
“I am very moved by the idea of singing this song, and others, on the same stage (with Aljasim),” Marziano told AFP.