ARRIVING IN NINJA COUNTRY
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.
A CYCLING EXPLORATION OF IGA HISTORY
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.
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.
HANDS ON EXPERIENCE MAKING IGA POTTERY
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
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.
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.
NIPPONIA: A HOTEL THAT BLENDS HISTORY AND LUXURY
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.