Ninja Village: A boyhood dream comes true

Trip Start May 13, 2007
Trip End Jul 07, 2008

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Flag of Japan  ,
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

  Awe, the first totally free day. The only schedule today would be the one we gave ourselves. The day started out with SATY like so many others before it. It wasn't yet ten before we were on a train headed towards the ninja village Stapp had spoken of a couple of days ago. Ei-Chan was nice enough to map out our route and give us some suggestions. Without Ei-Chan's help we probably would not have made it. Our ultimate destination was Iga, but we had to take several trains to get there. The most expensive part of the day ended up being the cost of transportation. At this point our rail passes had expired and we had to pay for each little train.
The train rides to the ninja village yielded a couple of pleasant surprises. I sincerely enjoyed seeing truly rural Japan and riding on some of the small trains that serviced the small farming communities in the Kansai area. We also met a couple of fellow North Americans who like us were on their way to the Ninja village. The first guy we met was an older Canadian that was in Japan for vacation. The second gaijin we met came from Cleveland Ohio where he was studying criminal justice. Oddly enough he was studying abroad in Osaka. We exchanged numbers and experiences and parted ways with both of our fellow gaijin at Iga station. Suspecting hunger would arise as soon as we found the ninja village, we ducked into a small restaurant next to the station. Small is perhaps not extreme enough. The place consisted of only one table, a bookshelf of neglected books and magazines, a TV with a film of cigarette smoke over it and a couple of cats. Honestly I was hesitant to eat at such an establishment, but the rest of the guys seemed alright with the situation. In any other Asian country I would have walked out. The food ended up being decent and cheap. The whole day I expected sickness to descend upon me, but to my benefit it never did.
Leaving the restaurant (if you want to call it that), we hit up one of the many vending machines on the street and caught a cab to the complex that contained the ninja village. I expected the ninja village to be the only attraction, but it ended up being one of three major attractions in this park type area. Blowing 1500yen we bought a big pass that would allow us into all the sights the park had to offer. The first stop and where we bought the tickets was at a small castle with a mot around its backside. The castle was rather small, but contained four floors. Each floor housed exhibits of pottery and samurai weapons and armor. We could never figure out the story of the castle given the fact everything was written in Japanese with the exception of a small caption next to a samurai helmet.
After the castle, we bumped into our gaijin friends again who had just came from the ninja village. They told us the next show at the village was to begin in fifteen so we hurriedly went about searching for the ninja village. Some how we managed to walk past the entrance to the village several times and lose our way a couple times. When we reached the ninja village area, we paid 200 yen and proceeded to enter the show area. The show featured demonstrations of several ninja weapons. The excitement was taken to a new level by the cheesy sound effects that corresponded with the performers' actions. The show was rather brief and followed by the opportunity to throw the ninja stars for a small price. Sensing the lightness of my wallet and knowing we were far from an available ATM, I decided to stay back and watch my comrades try their luck.
A trip through a ninja museum and a showing of a ninja house proceeded the ninja show. I found the ninja museum really interesting. Aided by the many English captions, I gained a greater knowledge of the true historical ninja and what he or she did. The museum had everything from weapons to a chart showing how ninjas could tell time by looking at the pupils of a cat. Tapping the small museum for all its worth, we headed to the ninja house where we were met by a mob of Korean tourists, but still managed to see all the sweet grappling hooks, weapons, and even shoes that helped ninjas walk on swampy terrain. Emerging from the second leg of the museum we stepped into the ninja house where we were greeted by our pink ninja clad tour guide. We were dazzled like school boys by the trap doors, false walls, and hidden staircases shown to us. I think the defining moment came when our guide quickly hit a floor board and a katana sprang up. At that point, I believe that everyone felt like their money had been well spent.
Giddy from the Ninja village, we decided to stop by the last attraction left on our master card before we headed back to the train station. Our last stop was a disappointment to say the least. The small museum housed a few relics, but its main feature was a series of manicans reenacting a Japanese festival. After spending a sum of eight minutes in the museum, we hailed a cab and returned to the train station. While we waited on the next train to come, we ventured into a small knick knack store next to the station that sold little American novelties. The rest of the guys seemed to really dig this place and to think it housed some little treasures. Personally, I was reminded of a garage sell and mostly just stuck around the entrance looking out on the train station and the rest of the city.
After making some purchases and allowing some time to go by, we headed back to the train station where we found the train that would take us back to Kameoka. On the train ride back this elderly Japanese man befriended us and ended up sharing a lot of little treats with us. He was a nice guy who seemed to want to practice his English. Before we stepped off the train we posed with him for several pictures and thanked he and his traveling companions for the snacks.
Back in Kameoka we rested and made joking references to our Ninja village experience. If I had the day to do over I still would have gone to the Ninja village. It corrected some myths that pop culture has perpetuated about ninjas and presented the ninja in its historical context. I guess what I learned to do all came from the ninjas of feudal Japan. Among other things I learned to sleep on my left side in case someone tries to stab me in the heart while I'm sleeping. I also learned that I can make smoke bombs out of a few simple ingredients and tell the time from the dilation of a cat's pupil.
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