When pressed to name something Japanese, near the top of many Westerners' lists
are ninjas. The stealthy covert agents have become immensely popular over the
years due to their seeming omnipresence in film, print and video games involving
the East. Travelers heading to Japan can get a first-hand education on all
things ninja in the Japanese city of Iga.
Also known as Iga-Ueno, Iga is
a recently incorporated city in Japan's Mie province. The city has become
synonymous with ninjas thanks to one of its most famous residents Hattori Hanzo.
Hanzo was a Samurai warrior noted for his fighting skills and continued success
on the battlefield, who is widely considered to be the father of ninjutsu.
Several sites around the city celebrate this storied heritage including
the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum, which includes ancient writings, ninja tools and
weapons, and Iga Ueno Castle, a frequent target of ninja assassins and
The city also hosts the annual Iga Ueno Ninja Festa, a
five-week festival beginning in April that features ninjutsu performances,
competitions and educational workshops.
Travelers seeking a full
education on ninjas might also enjoy visiting Iga's ninja rivals in the city of
Koka in the Shiga prefecture.