Earlier this month I had the chance to travel back to Japan on home leave. My youngest son is very keen about Ninjas and on his insistence we went to Ninja Mura (= Ninja Village) in central Japan. Though initially I went along as the chauffer, but gradually I became more and more engaged as a learner in this beautiful journey.
It seems there are a couple of Ninja Muras in central Japan. The one we went to was in Iga city in Mie Prefecture, known more for its beef than Ninjas. It is less than two hours’ drive from Nagoya, the home of Toyota and Mitsubishi’s manufacturing.
Ninja and ninjutsu (the art of the ninja, which is not a martial art)have become a part of the English lexicon. Appearing all the time on TV, in movies and cartoons, they are an established part of Japanese imagery now. I realized how little I knew about this element of Japan, and now I am able to share much more.
The Ninja Mura is a museum about the ninjas, with live demonstrations of their art, ninjutsu. The Ninja were agents of espionage and stealth hired by warring factions to gain intelligence about the activities of their enemies, and sometimes to assassinate them.
The interesting thing for me though was the fact that apparently ninjutsu originated in India. Yes, that is right. According to the museum, “those roots are found in the art of warfare that began around 4000 B.C. in Indian culture, was passed to the Chinese mainland, and around the 6th century, passed through the Korean peninsula and crossed over to Japan.”
The other interesting fact about the ninjas that also corroborates this India origin theory is the fact that ninjas were vegetarian. Yes, they were the vegetarian exceptions in the land of exceptional beef. For health, ninja avoided meat, fish, dairy foods and sugars in favor of a diet centered on whole-grain rice and vegetables. It seems they avoided meat and other foods that might lead to body odor to avoid being detected when sneaking or hiding.
There are so many more interesting pieces of information that are far better experienced than reduced to the written world, for example, my sons enjoyed throwing the shurikens (ninja stars). The younger one dressed up as a ninja and was even inspired to design his own ninja house once he grows up! We also saw revolving walls, trick doors, safe compartments, etc.
The inspirational Ninja Mura can be enjoyed as a day trip from Nagoya or Osaka, though from Tokyo, I would combine it on a journey on the way to Kyoto, etc.