From Kyoto to Kusatsu, and from Kusatsu to Tsuge, then from Tsuge to Iga-Ueno, and finally from Iga-ueno to Uenoshi. Roughly two hours to get to the city. On the train ride there I got the chance to see some of the most beautiful mountains I’d ever witnessed, with clouds literally rolling down them. We also got a view of the ocean and it was a little unsettling to be so close to both the ocean and the mountains. We could look out one window and see the ocean spread as far as the eye can see, then turn around and right outside the other window would be the foothills rising up to mountains that pierced through the clouds.
After getting off our final train it was just a short walk through the Iga Park grounds to get to the ninja museum. The scenery was once again absolutely beautiful and I could tell that the trip was already starting to pay off. We passed by the souvenir shop filled with allsorts of ninja related trinkets, none of which were actually very impressive.
Once in the museum we were taken on a tour of all the different kinds of secret passageways and hidden chambers the ninjas would use to escape from invading samurai. One of the more common ones was a simple wall panel that had a pole down the middle and could quickly rotate around. Our guide asked for volunteers and I happily obliged her. I attempted to whizz through the hidden passage, but as the top of the door frame only went up to my shoulders there was much more crashing and stumbling involved then what I would have liked.
After the tour of the ninja house we next got to travel around the actual ninja museum and try on some Mizugumo (special shoes used to cross the swampy moats of castles) as well as chain mail armor that they used for training up their muscles and jumping ability. The museum also held a large assortment of tools that the ninja would use. These ranged from the well known items like shuriken and the Ninjato, or ninja sword, to less well known ones such as a sort of bullet proof vest and special tools used to jam sliding doors so that they might prevent their targets from escaping. You could also learn some interesting facts that popular culture tends to smudge up, like how ninja’s actually wore dark navy blue instead of black so that even on nights where it wasn’t completely dark they could still blend in to the shadows.
When we finished the Museum we got to see a weapons demonstration where our two masters showed us how different tools and weapons were used by the ninja. This ranged from how well a Ninjato can cut through objects, to using the sheath and string attached as a sort of radar for finding people in the dark so that you can have the drop on them. We also got to see how a kurasagama and shuriken worked. The Shuriken were quite impressive. Especially since when looking at the matt he threw them at the shuriken seemed to magically appear imbedded within it.
After that we headed back through the souvenirs shop and had dinner at small bar with a ninja corgi on the sign. The food was good and the barkeep gave us a menu in English, which was appreciated. I was tired at this point and didn’t feel like working out the kanji. We caught the five o’clock bus back and got to enjoy the scenery once again, but this time with a sunset backdrop. It was even more gorgeous then when we head up. All in all it was a good day and well worth the trip.