In Iga Castle Town, it is ALL about the Ninja

In Iga Castle Town, it is ALL about the Ninja

Ninja were a covert agent mysterious class of martial artists, spys and secret messengers in feudal and samurai era Japan, they prided themselves on being invisible and hiding in plain site, but in the castle town of Iga, in Mie prefecture you can see and discover the Ninja everywhere. I had so much fun learning about their history and even “becoming” a ninja myself.

Written by Lauren Shannon

Iga Ueno castle high on the hill looking down over the surrounding area, is picturesque and can be visited by exploring a gorgeous park with lush green trees, charming museums and… a secret Ninja house. Though the castle is rich in it’s own history, I came to the Iga area to find out all about the mysterious Ninja. I was not disappointed. In the charming small city I learned about ninja history, enjoyed discovering ninja secrets and even tried my hand at using a ninja weapon! For anyone interested in finding out more about these legendary figures, Iga is a MUST see on your Japan travel list.

Iga Ueno Castle, high on the hill over this Ninja City

For a bit of background, a ninja was a mercenary, spy, and master of unconventional warfare in feudal Japan. The functions of a ninja included espionage, deception, and surprise attacks. It school or training of Ninja in the Iga area became known as Iga-ryū. Throughout my time in Iga-Ueno I learned about the amazing training and skills it took to become a Ninja and had a chance to try the clothing and weaponry of ninja for myself. It was fascinating in every way.

Everywhere you turn you will find the signs, symbols, and evidence of the history and impact the Ninja made in this area. I loved the chance to walk in the footsteps of the most mysterious practitioners of this fascinating martial art and way of life! You can find them wherever you go. Looking up, down and all around! It became a fun game to try to spot as many Ninja as I could while touring the town and trying different activities and visiting different museums and local spots.

Adorable Castle and Ninja Manhole cover on the streets of iga ueno

I even had a coffee moment with some sneaky ninja hiding nearby (Hanamori Coffee)

Ninja restroom curtains

Ninja Spotting is a fun activity as you explore around Iga Ueno. I even found these Ninja guardians of the local facilities!

The very best place to start your Ninja adventure is at the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum. This is really 4 facilities all in one. Located in the same park as Iga Ueno castle, this location contains a great museum with a lot of very interesting items all with English explanations that will help ground your explorations in historically accurate knowledge.

Secret trap door spot for hiding treasure in the Ninja House

Finding out that ninja had many disguises in feudal Japan

Had so much fun learning from the museum ninja!

Also there is a Ninja house featuring all manner of hidden trap doors, secret hiding places and so much more. Watch the short show and discover all those hidden treasures with a guide. There is a stage where visitors can watch a show featuring tools that were actually used in the ninja era. Shuriken (throwing stars), swords, and the skills that Ninja are trained in are all used in this exciting theatrical display. And finally there is a great gift shop for all your favorite thematic souvenirs.

Museum view of the Ninja clothing

Now that I knew a bit more about the history and intense skills learned by the Iga Ninja I went to the Danjiri museum that is famous for displays about the important annual, local Tenjin festival

The Ueno Tenjin Festival, with a history of more than 400 years, has been registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage site as "Yama, Hoko, Yatai, float festivals in Japan"

Tenji Festival Display

learning to wear the clothing of the Ninja

This museum also has a “ninja costume experience.” Learn about the parts of ninja clothing and how to wear them. There is a method to dressing as a ninja to be properly camouflaged for spying and climbing the roofs at night. This was an exciting chance to get into the ninja spirit. I loved it.

In my Ninja Costume ready to sneak across the roof tops

Feeling pretty excited about my new Ninja knowledge it was time to try my weapon throwing skills and meet some local celebrities.

HIstoric Storefront in Iga and Mr. Murai the owner and friendliest man in town

Tourist attractions covered by this article