5 Great Ways to Experience Culture of Samurai, Ninja & Medieval War in Japan
Are you interested in old Japanese culture, such as samurai and ninja?
As samurai and ninja enjoy strong popularity abroad, I bet many people are hoping to get related experience at least once while traveling Japan.
But I suspect many of you don’t know where to go to get such an experience.
Thus, this time I am introducing 2 facilities in Tokyo where you can easily get such an experience and 3 events that offer quite extraordinary experience. Title photo by kabukicho.or.jp
1. Shinjuku: Samurai Museum
Photo by chokomasu.jp
This amusement facility is focused on samurai, and it is in Kabuki-cho of Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo.
The facility was established with foreign tourists in mind and its service is offered in English, Chinese & Korean, too.
Approximately 70 artifacts are displayed in the museum, including replicas of famous warlords’ armor or authentic swords and samurai armors, which were used in the past.
Although the facility is called a museum, it puts more emphasis on explaining Bushido, the guiding philosophy of samurai.
Photo by ninjatokyojapan.blog.shinobi.jp
Apart from displaying antiques, the facility holds many events offering various Japanese culture experience including calligraphy lessons, performances to show samurai’s swordsmanship and courses to explain history and details of Japanese swords, and so on.
You can also take commemorative photos by combining armor, kimono and others as you like.
For the photo session, you can select elaborate replicas that allow you to feel the actual weight of armor besides light-weight replicas made specifically for shooting.
However, please note that rental charge for elaborate replicas is expensive.
2. Shinjuku: Ninja Trick House
Photo by pass-me.jp
This facility is also in Shinjuku, like the Samurai Museum, and you can enjoy ninja experience here.
This facility reproduced a karakuri yashiki, a house in which tricks and traps are hidden in various places to attack enemies suddenly or to deceive them.
You can also experience combat training that ninja used to do, such as swordsmanship and throwing shuriken.
You cannot experience ninjutsu unfortunately, however, training using sword and shuriken will surely provide you realistic experience as ninja.
Photo by pass-me.jp
If you look around fast, you can view the facility in 10 or 20 minutes.
As the place does not require reservation, please casually drop by during your trip and enjoy ninja experience.
3. Kanagawa: Hojo Godai Matsuri Festival
This festival is meant to honor Hojo Family, which once ruled this area for about 100 years during the Sengoku period (1467-1590).
This event is not participatory, however a parade involving a total of 2000 people takes place around Odawara Castle, an actual castle.
During the parade, you can see groups of warriors dressed as samurai and gunners who are equipped with rifles used at the time.
Photo by odatan.odawara.ac.jp
A large number of samurai walk around in the Odawara Castle and its vicinity, and it looks as if they were just heading for a real battle.
This festival has many other great features, including artillery demonstration performed by gunners in the castle and a large unit of samurai gathered under the war banner.
I am Bushi! Become a Samurai Warlord at Odawara Castle in Kanagawa
4. Shirozeme (Castle Offense)
The last event was held in September 2016 at Matsue Castle in Shimane Prefecture, gathering about 600 participants.
Unfortunately, the next event venue and schedule has not been decided so far.
Photo by tyanbara.org
Participants are to prepare their own armor and wear it at the event.
In fact, you can join the event with something that can barely be called armor, like an armor made with corrugated cardboard.
The event of castle offense proceeds according to the actual procedure.
The participants are divided between the storming team and castle defenders. The attackers first hold a departing ceremony to raise soldiers’ morale, and rush to the main gate while dodging defenders’ arrows. They then break through the main gate using a battering ram and hand-to-hand combat ensues. Participants fight against each other with sponge-made swords till one strikes down a ball attached to the arm of the opponent. Official Website
5. Fukushima: Samurai Festival
Participants are divided between Soma and Date Domains, and many samurai warriors attack enemy encampment all at once.
As this event has an aspect of being a part of the city’s annual festival, many vendors gather to set up stalls.
Furthermore, you can enjoy experience of wearing armor, horseback riding, and performance of traditional song, sung when people tried to catch wild horses in the old days.
Photo by yumesoso.jp
Participation in the battle of Yanome is not accepted on individual basis; if you wish to join in, you should do so in a group of 3 people or more.
At the time of participation, you can rent armor and spear you use.
As sneakers are not allowed in the battle, please bring traditional zori footwear or rubber-soled socks. (You can purchase zori at 1000 yen at the venue.)
Did you find a facility you would like to visit or event that you are interested in participating?
They will get you really excited, so please add them to your to-do list!