Translated by Lester Somera
Shadowy Spies And Where To Find Them - A Modern Ninja Village!
The ninja and their mysterious ways are intensely fascinating to visitors from abroad. In this article we explain what ninjas are, introducing the features of historical ninja, then we talk about where to find modern-day ninjas in Japan.
Written by Sawada Tomomi
What Are Ninjas?
When they hear “Japan,” many people may picture ninjas in their heads. There are probably also people who wonder “What do ninjas do? What are their usual duties?”
Known not just in Japan, but all over the world, the ninja used to be intelligence-gathering agents who were active in Japan from the 10th to the 18th century.
While normally ninjas engaged in work as farmers, craftsmen and the like, they would continue to train in the shadows until they received orders from a dispatcher. They would then begin their covert activities. The ninja also performed “grass” infiltration missions, where they would completely transform themselves into residents of the enemy areas, then wait for several years or even decades before carrying out acts of sabotage and other spy actions.
On the battlefield, the ninja would disguise themselves to gather intelligence on enemy armies, destroy facilities, use infiltration tactics, and serve as assassins.
What Do The Ninja Do? What Techniques Do They Use?
In modern-day terms, the ninja are spies. They have to be able to walk stealthily and dash quickly without being detected. Ninjas also possess a unique set of skills necessary for spying. These special techniques are called “ninjutsu” (ninja techniques).
For example, the ninja use a technique known as “silent steps” to walk without making sounds. This technique involves moving the limbs in concert, in order to match the rhythm of the legs with the body. Apparently, because there is almost no lower back movement, this technique makes it possible to walk for long distances without getting tired.
The ninja have characteristic grace and agility, with no wasted motion. For that reason, they are clad in stealth costumes that are excellent for spying. The ninja outfit is made to offer wind resistance when sprinting, and its coloring allows the wearer to easily blend into the dark of night for missions.
Do Ninjas Exist Even Now?
Some people might think that ninjas still exist in Japan, but that is incorrect. In modern times, the absence of domestic conflicts means that ninjas no longer have a reason to be active.
However, there are still a few people who continue to pass down the traditions of the ninja, even in the 21st century. While they might not be the same as the ninja of olden days, they are still ninja in name, teaching ninjutsu at schools or working to preserve ninja culture.
This might be a disappointment for people who wanted to see real ninjas in Japan, but there are still places where you can meet real life ninjas, and experience the world of the modern ninja for yourself, so by all means, pay them a visit. This time we’ll introduce two of MATCHA’s recommended ninja spots.
Meet Modern-Day Ninjas! Ninja Villages Across Japan
The Ninja Village in Ureshino, Saga Prefecture
Famous for onsen and Japanese tea, Ureshino city in Saga Prefecture is also home to the Ganso Ninja-mura (Pioneering Ninja Village) at Ureshino Onsen’s Hizen Yume Kaido, a popular spot where visitors can experience the world of the ninja. At this ninja village, you can watch a thrilling ninja show, and at the shuriken dojo hall, you can try ninja training with shuriken and blowguns. Slip into the shadowy world of the ninja at Ganso Ninja-mura.
A Ninja-Themed Capsule Hotel
In Yokohama there is a capsule hotel which has ninja capsules with a ninja motif. Step into the lodging space and you will find rows of box-style beds in tatami rooms, draped with noren curtains. The walls are adorned with ninja and cherry blossom kanji characters, and even the insides of the capsules are also painted with ninja figures. You get the impression that this is certainly what some travelers picture in their minds when they think of Japan. Naturally, we recommend this facility to people who want to try staying in a capsule hotel, and it’s also particularly good for people looking for reasonably priced accommodation, as well as for those who wish to enjoy the world of the ninja. Currently the capsule hotel is a male-only facility.