Andra Vachente

Ninja Experience: A Day's Journey to Nindo Mastery in Historic Higashiagatsuma, Gunma

I am a firm believer that the most effective way to understand a country’s culture and civilization is to venture off the beaten path and engage with local people. Through these interactions, we can immerse ourselves in their stories and gain a deeper understanding of their way of life. Since relocating to Japan a year ago, I have made it a point to seek out authentic experiences, and this trip stands out as one of the best so far.

The following story is about how I obtained a Nindo In-nin 3 Kyu certification in Higashiagatsuma (within a single day) !

Discovering Historic Higashiagatsuma (Higashi-Agatsuma)

My journey to Historic Higashiagatsuma (Higashi-Agatsuma city, 東吾妻) commenced upon our arrival at JR Takasaki station (Takasaki City), a one-hour Shinkansen ride away from Tokyo station.

From there, we embarked on a private bus ride that lasted an additional hour and thirty minutes, ultimately leading us to Higashiagatsuma, the site of the Iwabitsu castle ruins.

Our arrival was met with a warm welcome from ninja master Iyoku, a descendant of the Sanada Ninja clan spanning fourteen generations, as well as his two interpreters, one from the US and the other from Australia. They provided us with a comprehensive history of the area, highlighting its significance as a fortress for ninjas four centuries ago and as a base for the Sanada ninja clan.

The privilege of being present in such a secretive world of ninjutsu was a great feeling. After introductions, we embraced the opportunity to dress in authentic ninja costumes and commence our field training.

Unveiling the Essence of Ninjutsu

After our morning training and well-deserved lunch, we embarked on a guided hike through the grounds of the Iwabitsu castle. During the hike, we not only admired the landscape but also learned about how ninjas protected the area and fought against enemies. The hike was enjoyable and relatively easy, but solving the riddle proved to be more challenging than expected, necessitating a collective effort to solve it.

Once we were done, we were surprised with handwritten certifications from Japan’s esteemed Ninja Council, validating our accomplishments of that day.

Exploring Ninpaku Ninja Museum and the Ninja station.

The trip concluded with a visit to the Ninpaku Ninja Museum (also called the Ninja Station), which is right in front of Gunma-Haramachi station on the JR Agatsuma Line with a direct connection to JR Takasaki Station.

The museum boasts a collection of approximately 300 genuine ninja assets, making it the largest collection of ninja weapons in Japan (and probably the world). Visitors can touch most of the weapons, adding to the interactive experience. Adjacent to the museum, replicas of samurai armor can be admired, and there is also a VR experience where visitors can engage in a virtual fight with Sanada Yukimura, Japan’s strongest military commander. Other activities include a laser trap and laser shuriken shooting, providing a fun way to end the trip, especially for children.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the authenticity of this experience. Being on the same grounds as the Iwabitsu castle, training with a real ninja, and hearing his stories is a unique opportunity not found elsewhere in Japan. It is even more rewarding knowing that I supported a local business and contributed to minimizing over-tourism in Japan.

I definitely recommend visiting this hidden gem if you are planning to drive through the northern part of Gunma or Kusatsu Onsen.

For further information, see their official page and Tripadvisor page.

Did you find this article useful?

I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.

Contributor:  Andra Vachente

Andra moved to Tokyo a year ago and enjoys traveling around Japan and discovering new cultural experiences. Her main goal is to promote off-the-beaten-path destinations and overcome over-tourism in Japan. You can follow her adventures on Instagram at @livininjapan.

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