Step into Ninja Sites
With extraordinary athletic ability and sharp senses, ninjas were active during the samurai period (especially the Warring States period from the 15th to 17th centuries) as spies and such. Ninjas have superpowers like jumping from tree to tree, running around the forest really fast, hiding without being noticed, swimming underwater for a long time, and seeing clearly in the dark. In modern Western culture ninjas are thought to be a type of superhero, but they actually were real humans who acquired superpowers through strict training. In Japan, there are sites where you can learn more about real ninjas.
Just a two-hour train ride from Tokyo, Edo Wonderland (Nikko Edomura) in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture, is an upscale theme park recreating life during the Edo period (1603-1868) that instantly takes you back to the samurai era. Two of its most popular attractions are the ninja shows, Grand Ninja Theatre and Ninja Karasu Yashiki, both action packed, dramatic performances full of ninja tricks. Also, children ages 5-12 can enjoy a program for learning the ninja experience. Participating children can master basic ninja skills such as shuriken (star-shaped metal knife) throwing, concealment and ninja running techniques.
Another amusement park offering extensive ninja attractions is Chibikko Ninja-Mura located in the Togakushi region of Nagano Prefecture. Togakushi was the home of Togakushi-ryu ninjas and was established in the early 12th century. Ninja-Mura is solely devoted to ninja activities, including shuriken throwing and fukiya (blowing arrows) shooting, a ninja museum, and athletic-style ninja experiences in the woods. Open from late April to late November, this park amuses both children and grown ups alike. Just 10 minutes from there by car are the Togakushi Folk Museum and the Ninja House, where you can explore more about the Togakushi ninjas.
To explore more, head west. The Iga region of Mie Prefecture, mecca for Iga-ryu ninjas, has numerous ninja-related historical remains but the first stop should be the Ninja Museum of Iga-ryu. It houses an extensive collection of ninja tools, archival documents, films and related readings, allowing you to learn about real Iga-ryu ninjas. It is also equipped with a ninja house and mini theater, and offers ninja performances.
Another must-visit place in Iga is Ninja no Mori (Ninja Forest). Located in the Akame Shijuhachitaki valley, it offers a year-round shugyo (training) program to people 5-years old and above. During the 90-minute long shugyo, participants dressed in ninja costume can try more than 10 ninja shugyo attractions, such as shuriken throwing and rope walking. At the end of the shugyo, participants will receive a certificate for an Iga Akame-ryu ninja license.
Not far from Iga, another ninja home existed in Shiga Prefecture’s Koka. Koka-ryu ninjas, established in the 15th century, were known as rivals to Iga-ryu ninjas as they served different masters. Koka no Sato: Ninjutsu no Mura (Village of Koka Ninjutsu) is an upscale recreation site built on the foot of Suzuka Mountain. The village includes the Koka Ninjutsu Museum, Ninja House and Shinobi Shrine, as well as sites for ninja and shuriken training.The museum building was made by renovating a real ninja-related house, and it displays ninja firearms and tools and precious archival documents.
While in Koka, don’t forget to visit a truly authentic ninja house, Koka-ryu Ninjutsu Yashiki. This 300 year-old mansion was built by Mochizuki Izumo-no-kami, the head of the Koka-ryu ninja group. The building features ninja tricks that were actually used back in the day.
During the ninja performance offered in the Ninja Museum of Igaryu, visitors can not only watch the action packed show but also learn how ninja actually used their weapons.Photo courtesy of Ninja Museum of Iga-ryu
Hiking into a Ninja Experience at Akame Shijuhachitaki Valley
Located in Nabari City in southern Iga, Akame Shijuhachitaki Valley is known for its past as a training site for Iga-ryu ninjas. The valley’s name means “Red Eye, 48 Waterfalls,” and its geographical features offered an ideal setting for ninjas to practice skills such as walking on slippery rocks, hiding behind waterfalls, and climbing up rocks. In modern times, the valley’s hiking course allows visitors to appreciate its amazing waterfalls. The fall foliage season is particularly beautiful.
© Nabari Tourist Information