Ninja, Ninja, Yashiki

In Ueno City which is about half way between Nagoya and Osaka there is a town called Iga which is famous for it’s rice and sake, but also, for it’s history as a major Ninja training site. IGA-RYU NINJA!

According to my calculations… 60% of people start studying Japanese in order to understand manga. The remaining 39.5% study because they want to become a Ninja themselves. The remaining 0.5% are in the discussion forums on this site. Ninja are a very important factor in the Japan loving community.

I expected this Ninja Yashiki (Old Ninja House), the to be a really cheesy kids show, and while there were certainly a lot of kids there… it was still actually pretty cool! The main attractions are the Ninja Yashiki, Iga Ninja Sect Museum, and the Ninja Show.

The Ninja Yashiki is filled with authentic hidden spinning walls, trick floors, and hidden passages that are all skillfully demonstrated by the staff. The demonstration of the revolving walls which allow the ninja to disappear and escape through underground passages to the outside was really impressive.

The museum has real weapons and tools used by the ninja. This isn’t just your basic shuriken, swords, and masks either. For example, they have the shoes that allowed the ninja to walk on water called “mizugumo”.

I didn’t see any smoke bombs (煙玉) though… Ninja vaporware?

Also, did you know that ninja’s were very cautions of B.O. So why is there so little effective deodorant in Japan!? I need my Speed Stick.

I wasn’t expecting much of the Ninja show either, but cool! They demonstrated how a variety of tools were used back in the day, and the show was done with authentic weapons. They were throwing a variety of shuriken, swinging around sickles, bursting balloons with blow guns disguised as flutes… Good stuff. They say the show features different weapons and techniques every day so it’s possible to visit more than once.

One of the more interesting demonstrations was the basic ninja sword. They explain how the sword is straight, because it is built for stabbing, puncturing armor. Since the armor of the time was build to protect against the slashing of samurai swords, this was a weakness the ninja would exploit. Also, the scabbard (sheath?) for the Ninja sword is pointed, and has a long rope attached.

The reason the sheath is pointed, is so that it can be stuck in the ground easily, and also be used as a semi-threatening weapon if necessary. The guard on the sword is square shaped, unlike the samurai sword, reason being so that the ninja can use it as a step to reach higher places. The rope then can be used to retrieve the sword after climbing. Nice テクニック!

Also, when sneaking in the dark when they knew an enemy was near they would put the sheath on the end of the sword to extend it’s length, and keep it extended by holding the rope on the sheath in their teeth. When the extended tip of the sheath bumped into an enemy, the ninja would be able to prepare before they were within the enemies striking distance.

After the show you can also pay 200 yen to throw some real shuriken at a target yourself. Great stress relief.

Anyway, the actors were really great, and the members of this ninja camp were used in the promotion of the recent film NINxNIN. Professionals!

This is also one of the most English capable tourists sites I have ever visited in Japan. The pamphlets and signs i the museum are all bilingual, and the English is even pretty natural.

All the souvineers in the area are Ninja related. Ninja Senbei. Ninja KeyChains…

And Ninja Hello Kitty.

About 1.5 hours from Osaka, or 2 hours from Nagoya via JR or Kintetsu Railway.
Also accessible by bus. Contact for details.

Tel: 0595-26-7788

Ninja Museum of the Iga Sect
Tel: 0595-23-0311

Okinawa Dance… in Osaka

During that same trip to Minoo in North Osaka, I went to see some Okinawian Dance.

It’s tough for me to write this update because I know very little about traditional Japanese dance… Especially Okinawaian dance!

She knows MORE.

So, enjoy the pretty pictures.

Okinawa dance is known as Ryuukyuubuyou (琉球). Another way to say Okinawa in Japanese, is Ryuukyuu (or so I hear).

There are many styles of Okinawian Dance, the most traditional is called (古典舞踊) kotenbuyou. Another is called hamachidori (浜千鳥), in which the hand movements are especially feminine and gentle.

In another comedy type of dance a lady pulled out a
(柄杓 )hisyaku (one of those long scoop type tools you use to get water. You see them out in front of temples to get water to wash your hands.) and pretended to splash water on her dancing partner. Fun for everyone!

One thing I can say with confidence is that I heard that the red make-up is meant to keep evil spirits from getting in through the holes in your face. So around the eyes, ears, and mouth it’s red, while the rest of the face is the usual Japanese white.

One thing that surprised me was that even the male shamisen player had bright red lipstick, and a white face… Looks very feminine.

Yes. That is what I know.

ありがとうございます。 (申し訳ない!)

Does anyone here know anything about Okinawian Dance??

Help me out I’m dyin’ here!


Minoo – Leaf Tempura

I went to Minoo in North Osaka a while ago. Minoo has an Onsen, and hiking, especialy when the maple leaves are red and changing colors.

Hey! Looks like Canada!

One of the famous Japanese foods in Minoo is called Momiji Tempura. As you probably know Tempura is a way of ultra deep frying lightly breaded foods so that when they are done they have a light brown crust of tasty around them. Basically, you can tempura anything. Usual choice items to tempura include mostly vegetables, but you can also tempura squid, bananas, and I have even seen tempura ice cream!

In Minoo, they push tempura to the limits and throw their pesky maple leaves into the mix. Maybe they have too many and are trying to control the population? Beats raking them I guess.

The Momiji Tempura just kinda tastes like an extra crunchy tempura snack though. You can’t really taste the leaves… And the Tempura coating is more crunchy than the usual tempura you get with meals. You can pop ’em like potato chips.

Hey did you guys know that the kanji for TEMPURA is really tough? Tough like “soy sauce” and “rose” are tough. Japanese usually write the PURA in Hiragana. 天麩羅!!! Learn to write this, and dazzle your friends next time you go out for tempura.

On another note of randomness… Apparently momiji trees are normally red, and then when fall comes they turn green. Opposite of most trees. This explains why I could have red momiji leaf tempura in April… Can anyone confirm this?


– Harvey