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Once [ profile] thewronghands was done learning even more ninja badassery, we decamped our lovely business hotel in the Ayase district and headed off for the distant mountain town of Iga. If I remember correctly, this required about a million years on a train. The bullet train was quick and efficient, but we parted way with it and climbed aboard a local train winding down toward the coast. Slowly. With many stops. Many, many stops. It was getting pretty late by the time we hit the last train change, and fully dark when we boarded the ninja train up the mountain.

Seriously, the ninja train. This was our first clue that the birthplace of Ninjutsu was really, truly, a THING for the town. Oh, yeah. Actually, the first clue was the shuriken painted on all the light fixtures on the train. Subtle, but a lovely warm-up to the kitsch that awaited us.

Shuriken on the train

We got out at the train station in the dark and instantly fell silent at the ominous comical life-sized ninja figures stationed at the end of the walkway. I didn't get a good picture of them. We asked the station attendant how to find our hotel (TWH's Japanese works pretty well!) and trudged up the hill to check in. Even in the dark, you can't help but notice the ninja-kitsch everywhere.

The next morning, we headed up to see the Iga Ueno Castle and check out the ninja museum. I'm sure I haven't retained all the fascinating information about the history of the area and the ninjas, but trust me... it was fascinating. I encouraged TWH to go into lecture mode throughout the displays, and add in her personal knowledge and explanations. I'm embarrassed to say that the piece of information I retained the most clearly is that the black costume that I'm familiar with in stereotypical ninja-ness is a modern adaptation, and actually the way stagehands used to dress to avoid being seen. REAL ninjas mainly dressed like farmers, or other people with whom they mingled. They also kept to a strict diet not only to stay light, but to keep from smelling. Don't ask me why I remember that.

My brochure (retrieved from being crunched in my suitcase) reads: During the feudal period of Japan's history, civil war was rife. In this time, the Ninja were principally agents of espionage and stealth hired by warring factions to gain intelligence about the activities of their enemies. However, the Ninja were also called upon to disrupt and even assassinate enemies from time to time. A "Ninja" was the name applied to those who used the martial arts of Ninjutsu to achieve these aims. The art of Ninjutsu places it emphasis not upon the force of arms, but upon stealth and using intellectual solutions to combat. One area of Ninjutsu called upon divination, psychology and parapsychology to manipulate the enemy's perception, while other called upon disciplines such as astrology and medical horticulture to advance their standards of living. The art of Ninjutsu was far from limited to combat. Among the various schools of Ninjutsu that were developed throughout history, only two were ever considered to be leading in their field: Iga-ryu and Koga-ryu. The Koga-ryu, or Koga stle of Ninjutsu was developed in the Koga region of the Shiga prefecture, while the Iga-ryu was developed right here in Iga city, Mie prefecture.

Walking around in the early morning in Iga:

Random mural. A vet hospital?
Vet hospital?

An old catbus planter! I must be in Japan!
Catbus planter

Iga Castle
Iga Castle

Different armor families.
Different armor families

More armor
Ninja museum

Ninja rat, on the outside of the Ninja museum
Ninja rat

We went through the museums (Ninja and Iga Castle), and the demonstration Ninja house with all the typical booby traps. The residence was actually the real deal: "The Ninja Residence was moved to its present location in 1964 from its original site in the Takayama area of Ueno City. This particular residence was inhabited by a ninja named Taroujirou. Seen from outside, the residence looks just like a normal farmer's house, but the ninjas were spies and the house was adapted accordingly. In each r oom there are hidden devices in case the residence came under surprise attack. (They explained and showed each trap, which were revolving walls, trick doors, underground passages, a lookout place, and a safe compartment under the floorboards.

After the tour and the museum (I don't have any great pics of these), we saw the live demo, where a cheeky female practitioner of Ninjutsu kept kicking ass and flashing the peace sign. It was pretty adorable. I was enjoying it so much I didn't even think to take photos. Oops. Finally, there came the chance to test out our own shuriken-throwing abilities. Despite trying this when I was, like, 11 or so, I failed to throw with enough force to make them stick to the wall. TWH succeeded beautifully, but she has experience on her side. :)

We'd had a great meal of noodles earlier in the day, but TWH was still hungry, so we prowled around Iga looking for a restaurant. We eventually found one -- and was stuck in an endless horror of being brought far more food than we needed or wanted--but before we did, we stumbled across a sandal shop. Thus began a charming hour, as we were hosted by a lovely shoemaking couple, who fed us tea while they created a pair of sandals for TWH. It was a charming, wonderfully enjoyable time.

This is long enough, so I'll wrap it up here for now.
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canyonwren: (Default)
Jen Kleis

November 2014


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