Learn About the Ninja Spirit with a Visit to the Ninja City of Iga in Mie Prefecture

Learn About the Ninja Spirit with a Visit to the Ninja City of Iga in Mie Prefecture

Iga is known as the birthplace of the Iga-ryu ninja, one of the leading schools of ninjutsu (art of stealth) in Japan. Iga-ryu was a renowned group of ninja warriors known for their skills in the dark arts of espionage, stealth, and shadow warfare during Japan’s feudal period (1192-1600). Iga, with its quiet location in the western part of Mie Prefecture surrounded by mountains, was the perfect place for this deadly art form to develop in secrecy. Prior to the Edo Period (1603-1868), ninja were involved mainly in espionage activities, where they would infiltrate enemy territory and bring back information. Those days might be long gone, but ninjutsu is alive and well in Iga, making it an ideal place to delve into the ways of the ninja and learn about their culture and history.

Written by John Asano 

-Table of Contents-

・Iga Ninja Everywhere 

・The Iga-ryu Ninja Museum 

・The Ashura Ninja Group 

・Interviewing a Ninja 

・A Ninja in the Modern World 

・Wrap Up 

・How to Get There 

Iga Ninja Everywhere

Everywhere you look, you will find traces of ninja in Iga. From the cool manhole covers on the ground to ninja umbrella holders outside restaurants.  

Ninja manhole cover in Iga 

Outside the Nikaku Shokudo restaurant in Iga 

You can even spot ninja-themed food in some of the restaurants around the ninja city. 

Entering the Nikaku Shokudo ninja restaurant 

Ninja udon at Nikaku Shokudo 

You may even spot some ninja roaming around town in their easily identifiable ninja costume. Don’t worry! They are mostly likely not real but visitors enjoying a day of sightseeing in Iga. You too can dress as a ninja with a quick visit to the Danjiri Museum located near Ueno ParkHere visitors can change into a ninja costume for ¥1500. I had a blast learning all about ninja and even becoming a ninja for the day.  

Visitors can find the real ninja in Iga 

The Iga-ryu Ninja Museum

The best place to start and learn all about ninja is the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum. This informative museum is located in the forested Ueno Park, a short 5–10-minute walk from Uenoshi Station. It was established in 1964 to inform and educate visitors about ninja and the art of ninjutsu.  

About to enter the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum 

The museum’s impressive collection includes ninjutsu weapons and ancient ninja writings. Over 400 ninja tools and weapons are on display including shuriken throwing stars used by real ninja.  

Inside the Ninja Museum 

The ninja trick house, which looks like a simple farm dwelling, allows visitors to discover some of the secrets of the ninja including fake hallways, traps for enemies, hidden doors, ingenious escape routes, and secret compartments for storing weapons and important items.  

The ninja trick house is an authentic farmhouse relocated to the museum 

Trying to figure out the secrets to the trick doors 

Ninja’s guide visitors through each part of the house carefully revealing and demonstrating each trap or trick.   

My ninja guide showing me around the house 

My ninja guide for the day 

The ninja show held at the Ninja Experience Plaza of the museum is an exciting and entertaining performance that allows visitors to see actual ninja tools and weapons that were used in the heyday of the ninja. It is a great way to see how the items displayed in the museum such as swords, shuriken, and gunpowder were actually used by the ninja.  

The all-action ninja show 

Checking out some real ninja weapons after the show 

The Ashura Ninja Group

The ninja show is performed by the ninja group “Ashura”, named after Ashura, the God of War. I was very lucky during my visit to be able to interview Tomonosuke, who has studied the ancient art of ninjutsu since the age of 5 under the guidance of his father Hanzo Ukita, the founder and leader of Ashura.  

Studying the ancient art of ninjutsu with Tomonosuke

Interviewing a Ninja

The purpose of my interview was to find out more about the mysterious ninja and learn more about their spirit, philosophy, and everyday life.  

Here is a brief snippet of the interview. 

John: What does Iga-ryu ninja mean to you? 

Tomonosuke: Iga can be said to be the birthplace and origin of ninjutsu. This is where Japanese ninja and ninjutsu were born over 500 years ago. Various schools of ninjutsu were created throughout Japan based on the Iga style of ninjutsu.  

John: Do you practice ninjutsu every day? 

Tomonosuke: Yes, it is a routine or habit just like brushing my teeth. I train and workout to build my body and train my mind to avoid injury and illness.  

John: Do you eat any special food? 

Tomonosuke: In the past, ninja did not eat meat before going on a mission to avoid smelling and being noticed by the target. There are no special regulations, but I eat bananas and yogurt every morning.  

John: Tell us about the daily life of a ninja. 

Tomonosuke: In the past, ninja were mostly farmers who could disguise themselves and become someone else when on a mission. Today, we are just like you. We live a regular life.  

John: What is the spiritual aspect of ninja? 

Tomonosuke: The ninja follow the principles of benevolence, justice, loyalty, and fidelity. The ninja had a compassionate heart and would do what was right, without lying, and serve their lord with sincerity. The first thing my father taught me was benevolence and loyalty. Be considerate to others and do not lie. Do what is right and follow the path you believe in. That is the way to be a ninja.  

John: Do you have a message to foreigners who are interested in ninja? 

Tomonosuke: Please come to Iga and experience real ninja and ninjutsu. Ninja are alive and well here.  

Interviewing Tomonosuke 

Tourist attractions covered by this article