I convinced my new friend Allison to join me. We met in Nagoya Station and then headed to Iga. It takes forever to get there. Because ninja were secret warriors their training centers were in the middle of nowhere. There are two areas in Japan known for their ninja training schools - one in Mie Prefecture (right next to Aichi where I live) and the other in Shikoku. We took three trains from Nagoya. The last one was a local train with a ninja theme painted on it. They even had some high school aged ninja reading off the stops.
The ninja train
In the train station. They were all over town though and honestly were a bit creepy.
When we finally arrived we were greeted by more ninja who gave us some mochi and if we could win at janken then we could have some sembei. My ninja kindly threw paper every time and let me play three times until I beat her and could get the sembei. Who said ninja aren't kind?
Adorable elementary school ninja!
After some wandering around we finally figured out what we were supposed to be doing - testing our ninja skills! For a small fee we got a piece of paper and a map. We went around town to different stations where they tested our skills. I sucked at most of them. But Allison was really good at throwing ninja stars. Remind me not to make her angry! There might have been some sort of prize at the end but we never did figure it out.
We had to blow out 10 candles with only 3 tries. Failed!
Throwing stars. Failed!
And shooting arrows. Also failed! I suck as a ninja. :-(
After lunch we headed to the ninja museum where we saw a ninja show and toured the ninja house and museum. In the show they showed several different weapons and methods of fighting. I was the most impressed with the way a ninja could fight a man with a sword with just a piece of long rope. The little boy sitting in front of us though seemed more interested in Allison and me than the ninja.
Demonstrating these scary looking weapons.
A fighting demonstration
Our new blue ninja friend.
The ninja house had lots of hiding places and secret places where they could see you but you couldn't see them. The museum portion explained that most ninja did not wear the bright blue or even black costumes we kept seeing around town but usually wore the clothing of a farmer so they could pass by unnoticed. The problem with a ninja costume is that then everyone knows you are a ninja!
A ninja house looks pretty normal.
But it has secret doors.
And secret hiding places.
Because Iga is so far away we couldn't stay as long as we wanted but had to catch the train back to Aichi. It took me over 3 hours one way but in the end it was definitely worth it.
Ninja Festival 2010!