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Iga ninja group makes scrolls to help kids endure coronavirus hardships

Hanzo Ukita, front left, and other members of the Ashura Ninja Group raise 33 scrolls they delivered to the city hall in Iga, Mie Prefecture, on April 27, 2020. (Mainichi/Yasuhiro Onishi)

IGA, Mie -- A ninja performance group in this western Japan city has delivered 33 scrolls of supportive messages for local day care and kindergarten children and others enduring difficulties amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Ashura Ninja Group, which does stage performances at the Ninja Museum of Igaryu in Iga, Mie Prefecture, and serves as the city's official ambassadors for tourism, delivered the scrolls to the city government on April 27.

Ashura head Hanzo Ukita said he believes "kids here can get through this because they are the children of the land of shinobi," as the Chinese kanji character for shinobi, or ninja, means "to endure."

Ashura is run by Uki Production Co. Its head Mikiyo Ukita wrote all of the scrolls. Day care centers, kindergartens and certified child care facilities in Iga will each receive one scroll. The scrolls ask children if they are washing their hands and going to bed and waking up early. It also states, "Children like you who can follow these rules can defeat coronavirus. We ninja will also give you power for you to stay healthy. Nin nin!"

Letters of appreciation for child care facility workers are also attached, and say, "We understand that you care for the children with a selflessness that exceeds our imagination."

Five members of Ashura including Ukita handed over the scrolls to Mayor Sakae Okamoto, who thanked them for doing what "can only be done in Iga." Besides city-run establishments, the Iga city government will distribute the scrolls to social welfare corporations running private institutions.

Ashura members say they are training on their own as the museum remains closed, and are using social media to reveal the secrets of how ninjas train.

According to the Iga government, parents and guardians are asked to keep their children from going to private and public day care centers if possible, and kindergartens are mostly shut. About 700 of the roughly 2,300 children enrolled at day care are apparently staying at home.

(Japanese original by Yasuhiro Onishi, Iga Resident Bureau)

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