Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Iga Ueno

The device of awesome-making
Wednesday the 4th of April was the first of several field trips that are offered, and it was to Iga Ueno - the home of a famous Ninja House and museum. Our first stop was to a silk braiding museum and shop. How is this related, you might ask? Well, silk braided rope and chords were often used by the ninja. We were given the opportunity to not only try braiding silk ourselves, but braiding ourselves a keychain or bracelet. I personally chose to do the bracelet, but many chose the keychain.

My group working hard for perfection
First, we were required to take our shoes off at the door before stepping up into the braiding room. Then, we chose a seat where we sat on cushions before a large spindle-looking device that has silk hanging from small spindles over the edge then tethered onto a sack of weights through the center. The method is to maintain this X pattern in front of you and to weave the silk thread by pulling opposite sides of thread from top and bottom all the way around in a 180 (but stopping just before your second line of thread in that spot), doing the same motion with the thread on either side, then repeating until the desired length. Though leaning over toward the large spool was a bit tasking on my back, it truly was a blast. I wish I had the material to do it at home on a regular basis.

When we were finished we were allowed to wander around the museum exhibit and the gift shop a little before we left for lunch. The name of the place we stopped, I do not remember, but I can say that I had the best bowl of udon of my life. I had never truly thought that udon was that great in the U.S. to begin with, but now that I have had it in Japan...nothing will ever compare. It's like having girl scout cookies then trying to eat a knock off brand. It may taste good, but it is not the same!

Kunoichi Guide (She's so cuuute!)
Finally, we headed to the Ninjayashiki (Ninja Museum). It is not an original building, naturally, but it is still boundlessly interesting and fun to see. After arrival we were first shown through the Ninja house by a kunoichi. The name of kunoichi is really fun to think about. In the brochure for our trip we were given it explained it as 「く+ノ+一 = 女」. For those of you who do not know any Japanese, this first symbol is hiragana for the sound 'ku', the second is katakana for 'no', and the third is kanji for 'ichi' (the number 1). Together, when you combine the three symbols, they make 'onna', which is the kanji for woman. This pattern of writing onna is also the correct stroke order. So, it just makes sense.

Showing a hidden door to a hiding place
In the Ninja house we were shown many different types of secret features of the building. There were revolving walls which led to scalable walls in hidden closet like spaces, which we were allowed to try. Several other secret doors led to either small areas for someone to hide in or to simply escape from the building entirely. There were hiding places beneath specially crafted floorboards where secret scrolls or weapons could be stowed away. Lastly, there were peep holes of sorts where one could observe trespassers while they hid.

Balancing a cushion while twirling the umbrella

 Following the tour, we were lead through an underground passageway filled with displayed weapons and information before finally arriving at the performance area. There, we were shown the many uses of various things that might not otherwise have been thought as a weapon. For instance, a rope attached to the end of a sword. They also used a straight blade which was more ideal for stabbing, but also rather helping where it came to scaling walls. One would stab the sheathed weapon in the ground, grab the rope with their teeth, use the hilt as a step, then use momentum as their tool the rest of the way up the wall before finally pulling up the tethered blade.

Demonstration using a rope in Ninjutsu

Further demonstration

The whole event was well worth it. I quite honestly did not think I would be learning so much about ninjas while in Japan. It had not crossed my mind once.


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