5. Jidai Academy Dojo (Tabata, Tokyo)
If your goal is to experience a taste of the rigorous training required of ninja, look no further than the Jidai Academy Dojo, located right in Tokyo. It's a small establishment operated by members of the Musashi Clan, which boasts over 400 years of history, 250 of which they served under the Tokugawa Shogunate.
For a premium of about ¥15,000 per person, you can participate in a two-hour “day in the life of” crash course, which includes fitting and changing into a gi (the preferred wardrobe of those practicing martial arts), several hands-on demonstrations of traditional ninja weapons, and lessons in meditation. For an up-charge (starting around ¥30,000) you can even partake in the ninja and samurai certification course!
4. Odawara Castle (Odawara, Kanagawa)
Located in Odawara City, Kanagawa, Odawara Castle is the magnificent ancestral home of the Hojo, a powerful clan that controlled much of Kanagawa Prefecture after rising to power during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). The Hojo were eventually defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his historic siege of the castle in 1590.
The Fuma were a clan of ninja that served the Hojo faithfully for many years. They specialized in horseback guerrilla warfare and naval espionage, and clan leaders each took the given name Kotaro. After the fall of the Hojo, however, they were reduced to acting as brigands around the Tokyo area, then known as Edo.
While they may be long gone, you can still enjoy Fuma ninja culture at Odawara Castle during the last weekend in August each year, when the Odawara Fuma Ninja Festival gives you a chance to wear a ninja costume and try throwing knives, blow darts, bows and arrows and even horseback riding! Information on this and other ninja-related events can be found at the Odawara-shi Tourist Association website.
3. Edo Wonderland (Nikko, Tochigi)
A true ninja finds time to step away from Nikko’s many national treasures and UNESCO World Heritage sites to visit Edo Wonderland, a theme park in Tochigi Prefecture that offers a traditional blast from the past. Edo Wonderland is an amusement park unlike any other, offering all the ambiance and entertainment you would expect if you visited Japan in the Edo Period (1603-1868).
This, of course, includes a course on the art of the ninja. The theme park offers courses that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults, teaching you how to throw shuriken (ninja throwing stars) as well as ninja movement and concealing techniques. After striking down your enemies from the shadows, be sure to visit one of the many dining venues or catch a period-appropriate performance!
2. Bujinkan Dojo (Noda City, Chiba)
The Bujinkan dojo, based in Chiba Prefecture, is the home base for the International Bujinkan Dojo Association, which is dedicated to the rigorous study of nine different martial arts, including ninpo, more commonly known as ninjutsu. While previous entries on this list offer one-off experiences, the Bujinkan offers a highly regimented means of mastering the art of the ninja that's very foreigner-friendly.
Although the website looks as ancient as the martial arts the organization practices, Bujinkan is the real deal. Founder Masaaki Hatsumi has dedicated his life to the proliferation of Japanese martial arts (and worked as a martial arts consultant for the movie biz!), and the classes on offer are expertly organized. Ninja hopefuls must rise through the ranks by mastering the basics before earning their belts. Check out the website for information on where to enroll (and the associated costs), as well as alternate education options if there isn't a dojo in your area.
1. Ninja Akasaka (Akasaka, Tokyo)
Tokyo is home to an incredible breadth of themed restaurants, but none of them hold a candle to Ninja Akasaka, the preferred eatery of a true shinobi. The exterior is designed to resemble a traditional ninja house, complete with dark rooms, winding staircases and mysterious corridors.
When you arrive inside, you’ll be greeted by a master of the shadowy arts who will show you to your seats and give you a brief overview of the menu. While the à-la-carte dishes range in price from ¥600 to ¥10,000, the restaurant also offers course menus for parties of various sizes. Most of the fare is appropriately kitschy, and between the eats and the entertainment, you'll be sure to get your fill of all things ninja!