Post: Friday June 10, 2016
Ninjas (also known as shinobi) have gained an international reputation over the centuries, both in Japan and abroad. Ironically, the very traits of secrecy and stealth that characterised ninjas in the past are what make them so popular today. They practiced the arts of combat and inner harmony to take down enemies, and even their existence was meant to be unknown. These mysterious Japanese mercenaries and spies gained such notoriety and (eventual) admiration that they became the stuff of legend and folklore. Traditionally, the ninja clans were said to be from Iga and Koga, but now, even if you are in Tokyo, you can gain some insight into the arts of the shinobi. Whether you want to take a serious ninja class, eat at a Tokyo ninja restaurant or simply dress up like an ancient warrior, here are some Tokyo ninja experiences fit for all levels.
Ninja Class: Train like a Ninja
Ninja Training at Hanayashiki
Near Asakusa's Hanayashiki theme park is a ninja merchandise shop and inside this, in true ninja style, is a hidden dojo where you can learn the ancient secrets of Japan's erstwhile assassins. Take a one-hour class and you'll learn four basic, introductory techniques in weaponry and stealth: Sword technique, shuriken star throwing, walking silently to avoid detection and hiding in plain sight. This ninja class teaches fundamental shinobi skills in Japanese with some simple English, but as the lesson is mostly interactive it is easy for everyone to follow. While the swords are plastic the shuriken are real metal, so make sure to carefully follow all instructions for a fun and safe experience! Just 2000 yen per person and you get to keep your shinobi headband as a souvenir—proof of your cred as a Tokyo ninja!
Learn the location of the secret dojo at http://www.hanayashiki.net/e/ninjadojo.html
Train with the Musashi Ninja Clan
During this ninja class, the legacy of this proud family is passed on to students who are serious about learning ancient ways of Japan's silent warriors. They offer a range of programs with hands-on experiences. Ninja clothing and English interpretation are provided. You can spend up to two hours learning a thorough range of weaponry, meditation and self-defense techniques, from hand gestures that calm the mind to using a blowgun. Classes can be booked as a private one-on-one or for up to 10 people. For groups of up to 10 there is also the option of a one-hour seminar with three instructors that teaches the fundamental attitudes of shinobi and some combat techniques.
Boldly enroll in the Jidai Academy dojo at https://musashi.ninja/
Outdoor Ninja Training
This program is an intensive ninja class for three or more people that teaches the philosophy of harmony behind the shinobi arts and the Japanese way of thinking, as well as a series of techniques such as sword-fighting and shuriken star-throwing. The instructor, Jinkawa-san, studied ninjutsu at a classical martial arts school. Choose from either a two-hour course at the school's location or a more difficult four-hour course in the mountains, both of which utilize the natural outdoor environment. Classes are family-friendly and for 3-5 people. An interpreter can be booked for a group.
Dare to visit Jinkawa-san's dojo at http://www.yajin-ninja.jp/ (scroll down for English)
Ninja Eats: Dine like a Ninja
Photo by masochismtango on flickr
Ninja Restaurant Akasaka
Enter through a barely noticeable door and be led by a waiter dressed as a ninja through a winding interior of narrow corridors, stone stairs, and even a drawbridge—more like creeping through a fortress than entering a restaurant. Eventually you arrive at a ninja village where you walk through streets with wooden balconies and arrive at your table. The food is excellent and the meal full of surprises, from black food in mysterious black boxes (ninjas thought it gave them strength) to a magic show by an itinerant magician. This Tokyo ninja restaurant offers an immersive dinner experience with lots of fun extras and a range of meal courses available.
Sneak into the culinary den of the ninja at http://www.ninjaakasaka.com/
Tokyo Bay Ninja Cruise
For a view of the Tokyo skyline from the water, book a ride with the Tokyo Yakatabune Association (these are traditional cruising boats) and add a black-clad twist with their ninja-themed cruise. Like any yakatabune boat ride, the food is provided along with all-you-can drink, but this cruise is particularly interactive. Along with a large bento box featuring ninja-themed food, you'll be given your own black, ninja face cloth, compete in games based on ninja weaponry and techniques, and have the option to don a ninja outfit and have your photo taken in it. To add to the fun, any time you call out “ninja!” a waiter will appear. All of this proves that to be a ninja in Tokyo, it's not necessary to hone your physical or mental prowess—but you may have to practice your eating-while-cruising technique!
Make a lightning-quick reservation at http://www.yakatabune-kumiai.jp/en/ninja/
For those interested in displaying proudly their love of the ninja, there is no better place to go than Shinobiya, a ninja goods shop that can be found inside Asakusa Ekimise department store. They feature all kinds of original products such as swords, knives and even shuriken throwing stars, all fake, of course. There are also much tamer products for less hard core ninja fans including badges, mugs and t-shirts, all fantastically designed to help you (or your friends!) step out of the shadows in style. Give form to your inner ninja at http://www.shinobiya.com/ (Japanese only)
Tokyo Ninja Classes and Shows Just the Beginning
While it's fun to dine at a Tokyo ninja restaurant on water or land, recreate history or be introduced to the arts of ninja espionage, you don't have to time travel to enjoy the ancient warrior arts that shaped Japan. Martial arts are taught widely throughout Tokyo, and while ninjutsu classes may be a little harder to find, there are plenty of dojos teaching karate, judo and kendo, the three most popular martial arts. Whether you prefer high kicks, barrel rolls or swordplay, you can find something to get your blood pumping in Japan's capital city.
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