Two Ninja Villages are Honoured as Japanese Cultural Heritage Sites

On April 28, the Cultural Affairs Agency recognized 17 new Japanese cultural heritage sites. The sites recognized are for historical properties, traditional culture and traditional craftsmanship. Japan Heritage sites are recognized by the Cultural Affairs Agency as exemplary of Japanese culture and its physical and intangible physical heritage.

Today we will introduce the two cities recognized as “Ninja Villages”, namely, Iga and Koka. The Koka and Iga ninja clans were the main Japanese ninja groups, with Iga in Mie Prefecture and Koka in Shiga Prefecture. These two cities are nearby, and were once close allies. However, the two clans eventually separated became enemies.

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In “The Kouga Ninja Scrolls”, a historical fantasy novel written by the Japanese author Futaro Yamada, these two ninja clans are described as bitter rivals and played out numerous scenes of emotionally charged battles.

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Even to the present, these two hometowns continue to express their unique culture with their own unique characteristics, while never giving in to the other sides style or approach.

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What is “ Ninja Day ”?

To introduce and unveil the mysterious “Ninja culture” and heritage traditions to the world, Japan has established the “Japan Ninja Council” to undertake “Ninja Studies”. The Council has established February 22nd as “Ninja Day”, and February 2nd through 22nd as “Ninja Month”, promoting “Ninja theme activities and events” all across Japan .

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The Council has determined to celebrate every February 22 as “Ninja Day”, and February 2nd through 22nd as “Ninja Month”, promoting “Ninja theme activities and events” all across Japan during these periods.

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Kiko City has decided to celebrate this status with an event starting from February 20th to 24th , where the Kiko municipal Tourism Planning and Promotion Division employees dress as Ninjas for work. This year, the Business Policy Section and Public Relations Section staff have also joined in. During television reports, the staff remarked: “as descendants of the Ninjas clans, it is natural that our work is much more enjoyable this way!”

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During “Ninja Month” those dressed as Ninjas also include the Library staff. The Koka Library joined the Ninjas on February 4th and 5th, and even set up a dedicated Ninja display of books and book corner promoting the “Ninja culture”.

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Not only are the local municipal staff dressing as Ninjas, the railways are, too! On February 25th of this year, the JR Jusatsu line connecting Kiko and Iga celebrated the inauguration of a new train, with a Ninja-themed “Shinobi-Train” officially entering service.

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This line also includes the Kibukawa Station, which is fully decorated with cute Ninja cartoon character images.  Even the stairwells aren’t left untouched, with Japanese language characters saying: “Welcome to Koka, the hometown of the Ninja!”.

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Iga has participated in celebrating “Ninja Day” activities. This year’s “Ninja Day”, Iga hosted a “Ninja City Council” meeting, with the Iga Mayor Sakae Okamoto dressed as a Ninja, and all the City Councillors in attendance (all appearing in traditional Ninja attire) unanimously approved the “Ninja Proclamation”, intending to celebrate the glorious traditions of Iga’s “Ninja culture”.

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Iga annually celebrates the “Iga Ueno Ninja Festival”, which is now in its 15th anniversary year.

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Participation in the “Ninja Festival” begins with a visit to the “Ninja Changing Room”, where one can dress in authentic Ninja attire to become a Ninja. Then they can participate in numerous activities such as Ninja martial art challenges, or Ninja cosplay events.

It is also possible to ride on the “Ninja Train”, designed by the animator, Leiji Matsumoto, who also created the“Milky Way Railway 999”comic for the Iga Railway Line, beginning back in 1997 and continuing to the present.

If you would like to learn more about the “Iga Ninja”, visit the Iga Municipal “Iga Ninja Museum”.  You  can also visit the “Ninja Manor” with female Ninjas guides.

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Damien McMahon,Flickr CC License. https://www.flickr.com/photos/damien_m_in_japan/4875669781/
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John Gillespie,Flickr CC License. https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnji/7188538311/

In the “Ninja Experience Hall”, you can have fun trying to throw the Ninjas traditional weapon, the “Shuriken”.  While in the “Ninja Traditions Hall” you can learn contemporary Ninjas techniques,  and in the “Ninja Experiential Square” you can witness up close how Ninjas use authentic weapons during “Ninja combat performances”!

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As these two ancient “Ninja hometowns” compete to promote their own “Ninja cultures”, one would think that they might have competed for the sole honor of recognition as the ancient “Ninja capital”! But naturally, Ninjas do not follow the well-worn path, and instead Iga and Koka worked hand in hand to apply for mutual recognition as the cultural heritage sites for the “Hometowns of the Ninja”. Their synergy was rewarded with success!

Following this success, the two Mayors naturally decided to dress as Ninjas, to celebrate the recognition of their Cities!

Left: Iga Mayor Sakae Okamoto, Center: Koka Mayor Hiroki Iwanaga, Right: Shiga Prefecture Governor Taizo Mikazuki

After this lengthy introduction, do you want to visit Koka or or Iga? Well they are both close by, so why not just board the “Ninja Train”, and visit both Ninjas clans for an unforgettable experience?

日本国驻华大使馆 japanembassy Weixin
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