Cycling & Pottery in Iga: New Ways of Experiencing the Ninja Capital of Japan

Cycling & Pottery in Iga: New Ways of Experiencing the Ninja Capital of Japan

Iga, in Mie Prefecture is the undisputed home of the Ninja. The Castle above town and many of the landmarks pay respect to the Ninja and their history, culture and heritage. In my time in Iga I had many chances to learn more about this interesting topic but I also had to try other new and exciting things that Iga is famous for. Two amazing experiences I enjoyed on my first day in town included a wonderful cycling course and a chance to make my own handcrafted pottery. Iga has an amazing range of things to see and do.

Written by Lauren Shannon



Entrance to the Ninja Train Line

The fun and intrigue began right at my arrival. I came into Iga City on the Iga Tetsudo train line better known as “the Ninja Train” what a fun way to immerse yourself in the pride of the local area right at the start.

One of several decorated Ninja Trains in famous Anime style


Over my time in Iga I would be able to learn a lot about the Ninja but I was also so excited to find out other amazing things to see and do in the area. For cycling enthusiasts there is a new (60KM ?) cycling course around the surrounding district, outside of the main downtown. Of course you can also enjoy sightseeing around town.

lots of bikes to choose from when renting from this local shop

We started in the center of town and rented bikes to get started on our adventure. The local cycle shop had different types of bicycles including electric-assist bikes to make hills easy to tackle.

Ready to explore the history of Iga by Bicycle.

The new historic course is great for advanced cyclists or you can choose sections of the course if you prefer a shorter route. Either way you will have a chance to see the area from a different perspective.

Helpful landmark signs to mark your cycle tour progress

Visiting castle ruins by bicycle

There are helpful historic signposts along the way and it is a wonderful way to learn more about this district over the centuries. Slowing down a bit and seeing local temples, nature and famous locations will really give you a sense of the Iga stories stretching back through time.


After cycling through history it was time to experience another famous part of Iga culture. In addition to Ninja, Iga has been famous for centuries for the amazing handmade pottery that is created and sold here.

Local Iga Pottery

Iga ware was first established during the medieval era in the ancient province of Iga. The area was rich in ceramic supplies—both clay and red pine for fuel. The surface texture and colors of Iga pottery comes largely from the long firing times at very high temperatures. The ashes from the burning wood fall on the pots and turn a glassy green. Features such as ash glaze, black scorching, and crackling can all be seen as natural effects of the firing process.

Distinctive ash firing create this lovely green glaze

I had a chance to visit a very famous and historic kiln that was used to fire pottery and ceramic works in the area. This Climbing Kiln (noborigama) in Nagatanien, which was used from the 1800’s until the mid-1960’s.

Noborigama Historic 15 step kiln

Of course looking at gorgeous regional arts and crafts is fun but what is even more enjoyable is learning from local experts and trying yourself. We toured a local kiln and shop that has a pottery studio which is open for visitors, students and people in the area. I was very excited to try throwing on a potter’s wheel and had a chance to make 5 pieces of my own. The system is easy and un-intimidating and it is so fun to feel the clay in your hands and create something unique to remember your time in Iga.

learning how to use the potter’s wheel

The artist- teacher showed us the basics of using a potter’s wheel and then asked us what we would like to make. He next helped each step along the way making my vision or idea of a piece into something real.

Throwing my first piece, a small sake cup

Throwing my first piece, a small sake cup

You cannot take home your newly formed pieces right away but the studio takes care of that for you. They will fire your pieces when they are fully dried and ready in the local style Iga Kilns and mail you the finished work approximately one month after your class.

My five creations made in the Iga pottery studio

Take a chance and get a surprise pottery piece for 500 yen

One of the charming extras that I loved in the pottery studio was a special Gachapon (Japanese toy and souvenir vending machine) that was outfitted to dispense surprise pottery items for just 500 yen!

So thrilled with the finished pieces mailed to me one month later

This was so much fun and was probably one of my favorite experiences in all my adventures in Iga and in Mie prefecture as a whole. It was amazing to be able to make a few different items. The hardest part was waiting to see how they would look when they arrived at my home one month later.


There is so much to see and do around Iga and the surrounding district that it is a great idea to spend at least one night in town to give yourself more time to explore. There are many different types of accommodation available but one special place is the “NIPPONIA Igaueno Castle Town Hotel.”

Entrance to The Nipponia Hotel

The Nipponia hotel project mission is to create luxury accommodation in historical buildings blending stories of the past with modern design and amenities. The hotel opened in late 2020 restoring heritage properties in Iga from the Edo period (1603–1867) and the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa eras (1868–1989). Nipponia Hotel project has restored three buildings so far, creating ten gorgeous guest rooms around Iga’s downtown historical district. Touring the hotel garden and soaking in the atmosphere really takes you on a trip through time. The details are stunning.

There is an on premise restaurant Le Un, serving Japanese and French fusion dishes that feature local produce grown here and iingredients produced around the area. As part of the hotel’s collaborative mission, the local people of Iga were consulted about typical regional dishes and flavors, and menu was created to honor those culinary traditions.

Tourist attractions covered by this article