One to Grow On

November 9, 2009

A Visit to the Ninja House, or, Going off the Lonely Planet Path in Japan

Filed under: Uncategorized — midway2go @ 7:49 pm

190130196182157              All my research (okay, one google search) lead to one magical, 8th birthday place, the Ninja House of Iga-Ueno City, Mie Prefecture.  It was just what the birthday boy asked for, an original house, relocated from the countryside, complete with ninja to demonstrate trick doors and throwing stars and to do mock battle.  Only, no mention of Iga-Ueno in the trusty guidebook, 10th edition.  A quick search in a 4th edition Lonely Planet Japan did include Iga-Ueno, with a write-up of the Ninja House  [“…wooden”], but with no information about sleeping or eating, merely suggestions about using the left luggage service at the train station.  Hmmm… not encouraging.  I wonder at what point it was cut?   Still, I’d brave a dozen underdocumented, dull Japanese towns and their tourtist trap shows rather than dissappoint Rory on his birthday.  So off we went.  The trip there was long, with 3 changes of train in stations that lacked escalators between platforms or even those funny little mini-conveyor belts we used in Germany.   It ’twere many a trip up and down stairs, one bag at a time, all the while worrying slightly about where we would spend the night.  Alas, we pulled into Iga-Ueno to find a perfectly serviceable city filled with folks who went out of their way to see that we were settled.  From the train station a woman took us to the right bus, arranged our fare with the driver, told us where to get off, drew us a map to a hotel, and then, at the other end, got off the bus and walked us most of the way to the hotel, before she ran back to the bus to continue her own journey.  The hotel was fine, with a great bathroom but also a great number of mosquitos in the room.  Poor Rory woke up swollen from bites, with a puffy eye and 4 bites on one cheek.  But, hark, this was the day to visit the Ninja House, and nothing could dampen his enthusiasm! 

              The Ninja House was everything he hoped for, plus the bonus of an opportunity to throw 5 shuriken (throwing stars), supervised by a Real Ninja.  He was thrilled.  All five of his throws stuck in the door, much to his credit.  Nora had a go, too, and got one of hers almost fully embedded within 2 rings of bullseye.  Brandon, what have you been teaching them?  As we walked around we saw lots of kids in full Ninja regalia (at a whopping 7900yen in the giftshop- almost $85!)  as well as at least 10 adults.  Looked like fun.  I did have occasion to wonder about all the celebration of ninjutsu, the art of ninja.  Okay, let’s think about this.  Ninja were sought after for their ability to assasain and commit espionage.  They used stealth to accomplish their goals, dressing in one of 7 disguises as farmers or laborers to pass through the country undetected, and wearing farmers’ clothes dyed navy blue to conduct their business of breaking and entering on moonless nights.   I’m not sure if they’re the forerunners of the CIA or terrorists, but either way I’d choose another fixation for my kid.   Something healthy, like Pokemon or Star Wars.  Oh, dear, he’s ruined…

              We mosied down the hill, back into town, with the bright idea to stop by a market before we got our train to Kyoto.  Oh, did I say train?  I mean, our 3 trains, with 6 bags, and that’s before I went overboard in the supermarket and bought enough groceries for 2 days.  Sigh…  as my friend Cindy used to say, if you’re going to be stupid at least be strong.  I would add, and well fed.



manhole cover, ninja-style




  1. Happy birthday to Rory! It sounds like a perfect birthday for a ninja lover. Thanks for keeping us up to date on your travels. It’s so fun to see where you’ve been and learn about where you are going. Love, Jill

    Comment by Jill — November 10, 2009 @ 8:33 am

  2. Which of the cool ninjas is Rory? Apparently Nora learned something as well considering her defense stance.

    Comment by Papa — November 10, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  3. Hi guys! Looks like you are having a fantastic trip! Chrislyn, you are a brave woman! The blog is such a great idea — it’s really nice to be able to follow your travels. We hope you have lots of amazing adventures and we can’t wait to read all about them! Be safe and have lots of fun! We are keeping you all and Brandon in our prayers.
    Take care, Melanie and Dan

    Comment by Melanie and Dan — November 11, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

  4. Otanjou-bi Omedetou Gozaimasu! Rory!
    I’m soooo jealous, wish we’d made it to Japan now. It’s hard work blogging when it’s just you doing it, keep it up hon it’s fantastic xx

    Comment by Lucy & Thomas — November 14, 2009 @ 6:30 am

  5. I am soo enjoying your blog. And I am jealous. Japan looks awesome.


    Comment by Claudia — November 17, 2009 @ 12:01 am

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