Iga-Ueno – 伊賀上野
Did you know? There is a place called “the Ninja Town” in Mie prefecture. This time we are introducing Iga-Ueno!
What’s special about Iga-Ueno?
Mie Prefecture’s Iga City was formerly called Ueno City: to distinguish it from Tōkyō’s Ueno district, Ueno City’s name was changed into Iga. Nowadays this city is known with the alias of Iga-Ueno.
Iga-Ueno is one of the two areas in Japan where Ninja culture developed; the other one is the famous Kōga, in Shiga prefecture.
Besides museums and Ninjustu shows, Iga-Ueno’s Ninja relevance can be seen in a beautiful castle.
Moreover, Iga-Ueno is the hometown of the famous Haiku poet Matsuo Bashō.
Ninjas were mainly active during the Sengoku period. Today they take place in many mangas and novels, but they still have an important role in Japanese culture.
But what kind of people were Ninjas exactly? During the Sengoku period they could use much clever technology, they were engaged in order to get information from the enemy. Today they would play the role of spies.
How to get to Iga-Ueno
Iga-Ueno is located between Ōsaka and Nagoya, it is reachable within 3 hours from both these cities. It is possible to visit Iga-Ueno on a day trip, but the public transportation is limited, so check in advance!
First, go to Nagoya Station by Shinkansen. Then, there are three ways to reach Iga-Ueno:
The first one is travelling on the JR Kansai Line. Departing from Nagoya Station, at Kameyama terminal take the train to Ōsaka or Kamo, and get off at Iga-Ueno Station. This journey is totally covered by the Japan Rail Pass, but remember that you cannot ride the Nozomi Shinkansen.
At Iga-Ueno Station transfer on the Iga Railway Line and get off at Ueno-shi Station.
The second way consists in using the private lines of Kintetsu Railways. You can get to Iga-Kanbe Station directly; depending on the case, you may have to transfer at Ise-Nakagawa Station. At Iga-Kanbe Station take the aforementioned Iga Railway Line and get off at Ueno-shi Station.
The third way is travelling by bus. There are 10 Mie Kōtsū buses per day heading to Iga-Ueno from Nagoya. Meitetsu Bus Center (where the bus leaves from) is close to Nagoya station.
(details here: http://tinyurl.com/k2mo422)
Arrived at Iga-Ueno Station, follow the directions as written before.
Mie Kōtsū also offers a direct night-bus from Tōkyō. The fare is around 7.500 yen, 13.500 yen for a round-trip.
There are three ways to reach Iga-Ueno from Ōsaka:
The first one is using the Kintetsu Railways. Get on the Limited Express heading to Ise-Nakagawa Station or Nagoya Station from Ōsaka-Nanba Station and get off at Iga-Kambe Station; the journey takes about 1 hour. Transfer then to the Iga Railway Line from Iga-Kambe Station and get off at Ueno-shi Station.
By taking a Kintesu-Ōsaka line’s Express train from Ōsaka Loop Line Tsuruhashi Station, the journey requires 1 hour and a half but the price decreases, as the train is not a Limited Express.
Another way consists in travelling on the JR lines, and this one is so covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
Form Ōsaka Station or Nanba Station, take the Yamatoji line heading to Kamo Station. Here transfer on the train heading to Kameyama and get off at Iga-Ueno Station, then take once again the Iga Railway Line to Ueda-shi Station.
A third route is the bus. There are six Mie Kōtsū buses per day leaving from Ōsaka. The journey takes 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The buses leave from Shin-Ōsaka (useful if you arrive in Osaka by Shinkansen) and Umeda Stations.
(details here: http://tinyurl.com/l4awgh8)
I reached Iga-Ueno from Nara. Kamo and Iga-Ueno stations don’t have station staff, so the atmosphere was a bit lonely. When I got to Ueno-shi Station a Ninja mascot welcomed me near the platform.
At Iga-Ueno I first visited the Ueno Castle: this castle is located on the top of a hill, and it was rebuilt in 1930. The original building dates back to the Edo period, but was destroyed by a storm. Generally, most of Japanese castles have been rebuilt by using concrete, but Ueno’s one has been rebuilt with wood. I could feel the traditional style of an old Japanese castle, and the view from the main keep was impressive.
The Ninja Museum is close to Ueno Castle. The admission fee was about 700 yen, and I could see the Ninjustu show by paying a 300 yen more. I could assist the shuriken throwing and the sword bamboo cutting. It was spectacular!
After the show I visited a Ninja house: hidden stairs and revolving doors, there are many tricks around the Ninja house.
(Iga Ninja Museum official site: http://www.iganinja.jp/museum.html)
People interested in Japanese history shouldn’t miss Iga-Ueno. Especially, if you’re interested in Ninja’s secrets, visit this place! Also, Iga-Ueno is close to Murō-ji and Hase-dera: if you visit them in combination with Iga-Ueno you will have a good time for sure!