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Iga: Ninja Village and Museum

Written on: Sunday April 25th, 2010

A journal entry from: Mie Prefecture

Overall I was really impressed with the tourist aspects of Iga City. I had actually been expecting a more disney-style approach to the topic of Ninja. But was pleasantly surprised to find it honest to fun but educational. 

The village is actually a small area with a traditional house, museum and a few other small buildings. 

Just a quick re-cap. As mentioned during a previous blog entry ninja were actually regular villagers who would use stealth tactics to protect their homes from thieves and other dangerous invaders. However, over time they perfected the techniques and marketed them out to lords around Japan. 

Interesting side note: Tokugawa-san (the leader from Okazaki who took over full leadership of Japan - see the Aichi Blog for more details) was actually well connected with the ninja community. When their land was under attack from another lord they fled to Aichi-ken were Takugawa-san took them in and provided assistance. Because of this good dead later they repaid the favor many times over by providing secrets and services.  

About the traditional ninja residence: It was moved from its original location in the mountains to this new spot in the city as a demonstration of the community's ingenuity. From the outside it looks like a regular 1 floor dwelling however actually has two hidden floors along with an underground path that would be used as an escape route. Combined with secret doors and storage areas the family would be ready for any threat. 

Next is the ninja demonstration area where for ¥200 you can see trained staff demonstrate various weapons in an Enbu (combat exhibition). Everything from a typical sword, shikuken, rope and even bola sickles. We were really lucky since the staff's trainer was available and talked about the history in detail. Interesting thing.... most ninjas would only have a couple of shikuen with them. They were not as common a weapon as portrayed in the movies and were dipped in poison. Our teacher translated the key points of presentation and after we had the chance to try throwing shikuen. Yeah. It was made official that I will never be a kunoichi (female ninja).... I hit the ground 2 times and didn't even come close to the target. Then again often the women were not the fighters... instead they would get a job at a lord's castle and sneak important information they overheard out to the ninja community. Who in turn would sell it for money. 

The museums were really well prepared with both Japanese and English resources, historical items and short movies. As well as the chance to try on some ninja armor... little heavy for regular day to day wear. 

Finally at the festival museum on the second floor was a place to rent a ninja outfit and take pictures. Lots of fun as we had a girls vrs guys battle (girls won), then tried to do the sneak walk (with hands under feet) and even played a game of hide and seek. Hum, I think the Japanese visitors thought that we were a little crazy... nah very crazy. :)  But, all in good fun.

The main website is http://iganinja.jp for more information.