Ninjas emerged in response to the growing power of the warrior classes in the late 11th century. Garbed all in black, they specialized in gathering information about the enemy and conducting various acts of espionage and sabotage using their physical abilities and special ninjutsu skills. The Iga School of ninjutsu (art of stealth), based in Iga Ueno, was one of Japan’s leading ninja schools, along with the Koka School in neighboring Shiga Prefecture.
The Iga-ryu Ninja Museum has reconstructed a special dwelling filled with tricks and contraptions, known as the ninja-yashiki (or “ninja mansion”). Press on what you thought was a simple wall and the door to a small secret room opens up. Watch as a section of floor opens to reveal a hidden sword. Here you can get a feeling for how the ninja clan undergoes day-to-day special training.
The museum houses an exhibition of over 400 ninja-related items, including ninja tools, gadgets, costumes and weapons. They also inform about the ninja way of life and practical techniques used by the ninjas. Exhibits come with explanatory signs in both Japanese and English.
The ninja show features authentic ninja skills and real weapons, including a splendid demonstration of using throwing stars. Although the shows are held in only Japanese, but they are still extremely entertaining even for the non-Japanese visitors, as most of the actions speak for itself.
One popular course offers a tour of the ninja mansion, guided by the female ninjas known as kunoichi. The compelling ninja show performed by the special Iga ninja group Ashura is very popular too. Since performances are suspended on some days, be sure to check the schedule before visiting the museum.