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Iga Ueno 伊賀上野

Iga Ueno Castle with cherry blossoms in Spring (© masaaki67 - Fotolia.com)
Iga Ueno Castle with cherry blossoms in Spring

The small castle town of Ueno (pop. 60,000) in Mie prefecture is well-known for being the birthplace of Japan's most famous haiku poet, Matsuo Bashō. The region is known as Iga, and the city is often called Iga Ueno to differentiate it from other Ueno in Japan.

Iga has also given birth to the Iga-ryu Ninja sect in the 12th century, and ninja used to train in Ueno. In the late 16th and early 17th century, the rebellion of Tenshō Iga against one of Oda Nobunaga's sons saw the near anihilation of the Iga ninja.

The main sightseeing places are Ueno Castle and the Ninja Yashiki Museum. The castle was built in 1608 by lord Todo Takatora, but the present structure is a 1935 reconstruction. The 30m high surrounding walls are said to be the highest in Japan.

The Ninja Yashiki Museum (admission ¥700) is one of the most interesting place in Japan for people interested in ninja. It is divided in four sections : Ninja Residence, House of the Ninja's Art, the Demonstration Zone, and the House of the Ninja Tradition.

Iga-ueno castle
Ninja Yashiki Museum, Iga-ueno
'mizu-gumo' wooden shoes and wall-climbing shoes on the right, Ninja Yashiki Museum, Iga-ueno

The museum has various ninja equipment, weaponry and clothing in display and visitors can try themselves at shuriken throwing. The 'mizu-gumo' wooden shoes to walk on water and wall-climbing shoes are particularly interesting.

The Demonstration Zone (additional ¥200) has a 15-minute mock combat show with music and sound-effects.

The House of the Ninja Tradition describes the typical ninja lifestyle, including their diet and education in such fields as astronomy (to predict the weather).

How to get there

Iga Ueno being a small isolated town, it is not so easy to reach by public transport. The easiest way is from Nara, which has direct trains on the JR Kasuga line (¥650, 40 minutes), or from Nagoya on the same line (¥1,620, 90 minutes).

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