Back in the day, while my French brother-in-law drew page after page of soldiers in army combat, my older brother pitter-pattered upon rooftops playing ninja in Japan. Becoming a ninja involved donning the all-black outfit that covered everything but his eyes and carrying the requisite Bandai toy weaponry furnished by his adoring grandfather.
Five years his junior, I watched keenly as my grandfather documented the local hero on his state-of-the-art Cannon Super 8mm camera. I was intrigued by my granddad’s camera skills that stop motioned my brother’s ninja live-action, stopping the film roll as my brother leapt into the air then resumed for the mid-air landing onto our old tiled rooftop. Hands off health and safety then – clearly showing the world how a grandson’s ninja craft was more important!
My brother’s all-too-real ninja toy weapons would also probably fail the safety standards of today. In fact, shuriken metal throwing stars are currently illegal in some countries, such as in the Netherlands, Germany and Canada, and some states in the US, like California and New York. In Kansas, shuriken are illegal too, but open gun-carrying is legal without a permit or a license for anyone over 18 years of age. In Japan, shuriken, swords and firearms are controlled by Swords and Firearms Possession Control Law of 1958. Amended in 2018, the law allows possessions of blades under 6cm, making throwing stars legal.
Handguns, on the other hand, are categorically against the law in Japan, and ownership of a shotgun or air rifle doesn’t come easy, either. A battery of mental health and drug tests precede background checks of extended family members, followed by a compulsory all-day class and a test for which the pass rate is 95% or more. Preventive measures such as these not only deter shotgun ownership but also make Japan have one of the lowest gun crime rates in the world.
Prevention is at the heart of Japanese policing, too. Sometimes ridiculed for its lightweight tactics, says journalist, Anthony Berteaux: "What most Japanese police will do is get huge futons and essentially roll up a person who is being violent or drunk into a little burrito and carry them back to the station to calm them down." But what might be comical is the sobering reality that Japanese police prefer to de-escalate confrontation in the original spirit of ninja nonviolence, where, for example, shuriken throwing stars were used as a distraction while the ninja or female kunoichi made their getaway.
So on #NinjaDay this December 5th, sigh though you might that the day was thought up by the commercial interests of NinjaBurger, bring on your deepest intelligence and innermost ninja and pass on the word about crime prevention and legislate #guncontrol. Read more about #gunviolence in Amnesty International’s report on key facts here.