Ninjas: they're not just the stuff of violent video games and ironic hipster t-shirts.
An AFP story about 63-year-old Jinichi Kawakami, a former engineer who calls himself Japan's last Ninja, has been making the rounds on the Internet this weekend.
Kawakami calls himself the last head of the ancient Ban clan, a lineage of Ninjas that reportedly goes back 5,000 years, and feels he's the last to be trained in the ancient, sneaky Japanese art.
He says he gained the title of master at the age of 19 - and that he is reluctant to the claim the title of "last Ninja," as there is apparently quite a bit of debate regarding who that actually is.
As "Ninjas don't fit in the modern day," Kawakami isn't taking on any apprentices. You should probably get a refund for that plane ticket.
There are a considerable number of aspirant female ninjas in Iran who might contest Kawakami's claim about the death of the martial art as well. The Iranian ninjas recently sued Reuters for reporting that they were "assassins," resulting in Reuters staff being forced to give up their press cards in the country.
There's a lot of myths and falsehoods about ninjas out there, and this Listverse article does a good job of sorting through the confusing cultural mish-mash that surrounds the mysterious ninja. Chief among them: they probably didn't wear masks all the time.
If you want to find out more about Shuriken-do, the ancient Japanes art of blade-throwing-ala-ninja, this website provides a good primer.
This excellent video shows the "flying guillotine," a portable head-removal device allegedly used by ninjas. It turns out that it probably wasn't all that good for throwing, but would work reasonably well if the victim was stationary.
Here's another modern-day ninja demonstrating how to avoid an oncoming sword, which is the kind of thing that comes up often in 2012.