Written by Cody Simpson, (University of Kansas), Student Correspondent for CET Japan, Summer 2022
Shrine leading up to Iga
When you hear the word Japan, one of the things that may come to mind is the Samurai. The Samurai warrior existed for centuries and they were known for not only being extremely loyal to their lords but also for being exceptional warriors. However, another notable warrior that existed during the same time period within Japan’s history is the elusive Ninja. Ninjas were trained in espionage to carry out important missions for their lords. For example, a Ninja could have a simple mission to deliver orders or in some cases they were ordered to assassinate rivals. Through the CET program I was fortunate enough to be able to learn more about the Ninja as well as visit a beautiful castle, constructed some 400 years ago.
Iga Castle view
The trip was a day trip that had us riding in a bus for over two hours from Osaka to the city of Iga in Mie prefecture. When we arrived in Iga, we went to Ueno Park where we were able to visit the Iga Ueno Castle. What is so interesting about Japanese castles is that they are built on the top of a hill and surrounded by a moat. I did not realize this at first but when I decided to take a personal detour to investigate some enchanting greenery, I stumbled upon what I at first thought was a lake but turned out to be a moat. The castle was three stories tall and inside of it there were sets of samurai armor, swords, ceremonial outfits, and various other historical objects.
Iga Castle Moat
After visiting the Iga castle, we all got back on the bus and went to a local restaurant where we had a delicious set meal. This meal consisted of soba noodles (plain noodles you dip in a sauce before eating), tempura (fried shrimp and vegetables), chicken, fish, rice, and other things. Because there were so many students gathered, we ate in a large gathering room. Before we entered this room, we had to take off our shoes and when we got into the room, we sat on cushions placed on the floor. I decided to try and sit in the traditional Japanese Seiza style where you sit on your knees. I did my best but unfortunately could not endure the whole meal. Unlike the Japanese student sitting next to me.
Iga samurai house
Once we finished our delicious meal, we went to a Ninja Museum. The first thing we experienced at this museum was a Ninja house. This house was interesting because we were shown various hidden doors and passages that a Ninja would use if he had to quickly evade from his house. Under a hidden floorboard, the most important things that a Ninja kept were of course money and secondly the Ninja’s orders. Next, we ventured down into a basement where we saw the various disguises a Ninja would use when conducting espionage, these included a monk, musician, farmer, and various other disguises. Finally, we were able to see a live performance of trained Ninjas. During this performance we were shown the various weapons a Ninja would use. Of course, these weapons had hidden weapons inside of them too. After this eventful day I was left thinking that I would want to be a Ninja.
Iga’s supposed lake