From 1989-1990 I travelled to Japan to train in Ninjutsu and look around the areas of that country where the art had developed. I had been training in Ninpo, as the art is more commonly known today since the early ‘80s at various Dojo (training halls) in the South of the UK and wanted to go deeper into the spiritual side of the art. This was, and is, not as stressed as the combat side, especially in the West.
However, while I had an offer of accommodation in Tokyo, the only place that any of the senior grades knew there was a training hall in the Grandmasters’ home town of Chiba some 25 miles to the north of the capital. I knew there had to be a Dojo in Tokyo as it was the capital city of Japan. Fortunately, I had read about a man who had trained at a Tokyo Dojo in one of the many magazines about Ninjutsu popular at the time. Re-reading the magazine again I found it mentioned he worked in the US Embassy in Tokyo which was not that hard to get to from where I was staying.
Part of me did wonder how my reception at the embassy would go, particularly in light of being an Englishman, on US soil, asking to speak to a Japanese local about Ninja training. At that time most people in the US perceived Ninjutsu with the same suspicion as Witchcraft, both arts having yet to demonstrate what their practitioners really did “Oh well” I thought “I’ll take the magazine, my passport, and I know the Head of Security for the British Embassy will vouch for me. Let’s see how it goes.”
The day after I landed in Japan I went to the US Embassy. I arrived early to avoid the usual large queue that forms outside the majority of US Embassies in the world as soon as they open for business most mornings. This was a good idea, so good in fact that 70+ people had decided to do the same thing -only earlier than me. I wandered along to the head of the line to get an idea of the waiting time. The signs were not promising; most of the people in the line were holding documents, small babies, and passports. This meant visa applications, birth registrations, and other official business, all of which would take time. Things went downhill even further when I came to the head of the queue and the entrance to reception. It was a double-layered security lobby complete with Marine guards, only one or two people were allowed in at a time, and they were staying 3 – 5 minutes on average before leaving or being allowed in.
“Maybe I could telephone?” I thought turning back the way I had come. Then I realized two things: 1/ I had come up the inside of the line to avoid looking like I was going to push in, and 2/ I was inside the embassy boundary fence. Before I was fully aware of what I was doing I had blended with the energies of the surrounding environment as I moved away from the queue and into the embassy grounds. The queue screened this action from the guards and any cameras sited at the main entrance, and I couldn’t see or sense either along the way I was going.
The cameras I did spot were all aimed at the boundary fence, so I stayed close to the building. My aim was to find a staff entrance and see if I could ask someone to let the person I wanted to meet know I was there and why. Then I came to an inconspicuous door with lots of cigarette ends around it, I picked one up and examined it. It had been smoked in the American manner, leaving about a quarter of an inch between the stubbed out end and the filter. Suddenly I realised this was a smoking door, the Embassy was a federal building with no smoking allowed inside and they didn’t want the front of the Embassy full of people smoking because of the impression it would give. So, to allow smokers to indulge their habit they had a door at the side of the building out of view of the passing and queuing public.
Just as I reasoned this out, the door opened and a Japanese member of staff popped out, lighting his cigarette as he did. I neatly caught the door, said “Thanks” in the best approximation of a Mid – Atlantic drawl I could do, and stepped into the Embassy allowing the door to shut behind me.
What I had learned from studying and being shown the basics of Saiminjutsu at various Ninja gatherings kicked in: Become invisible by having people see you as what they expect to see. Fortunately I had dressed in jacket, tie, flannel trousers, and well-shined shoes to project the image of a respectable Brit making a reasonable request re the Ninja training. This outfit worked equally well to make me look like an American member of the Embassy staff. As I walked down the corridor I made up a fictional but functional personality and background. Not so much to tell anyone I met, but that I could infuse into my body language and aura to help me blend in.
The corridor opened up into an open plan office full of local Japanese staff. I spotted a rubbish bin with a sheaf of papers in it and scooped them out without breaking stride. I immediately felt a lot more comfortable in the situation. An unknown man wandering around a secure area is likely to look suspicious, an unknown man carrying papers could easily be a new member of staff who got lost – that’s if anybody even notices them at all.
“Sumimasen (name of the person I was looking for) doko deska?”